Franz Ferdinand is one of the smartest bands to come from England’s mid 2000’s post-punk revival. They are known for their distinctive use of guitar, played by Nick McCarthy. In July of 2016 when the band announced McCarthy would be leaving in order to concentrate on his family and other musical endeavors. Always Ascending is their first studio album with McCarthy’s replacement, Julian Corrie, an English keyboardist/guitarist. More well known as Miaoux Miaoux, his music career started when he recorded and produced an album by himself. Titled Light of the North, the pop-synth piece was nominated for the Scottish Album of the Year Award in 2013.
Accordingly, Always Ascending is more influenced by disco and electronic music than their other pieces, which have been more focused on the sharp guitar style of McCarthy. The backbone of the album instead comes from synthesizers, even though their trademark style of guitar does show up occasionally. “Feel the Love Go” utilizes yielding synthesizers, soft saxophone and crisp hi-hats to create a song to dance to. The band isn’t afraid of taking risks either, like in their song “Huck & Jim”, which references to the differences between U.K. and American politics. The song’s verses are ominous, and driven by tense bass lines and a dull keyboard vibe.
The album also goes deeper, with “Louis Lane,” a song about the dangers of prioritizing work over having a personal life. It starts out as a bright, 80s pop type piece that talks of religious self-sacrifice, but takes a drastic turn in the last verse, where it turns into a darker, more punk influenced song. Replacing the sincere optimism the band now gripes over “over-thirties singles night” and how “it’s bleak, it’s bleak, it’s bleak.”
Despite a solid first album with their new lineup, Franz Ferdinand is still finding their place with their new addition of Corrie. Their speedier tempos of previous albums can sometimes change to somber repetition and sluggish cadences, but this is a small criticism. While many of their peers have had trouble adapting to new eras and new ideals, Franz Ferdinand has still been able to succeed in finding fresh, meaningful things to say in Always Ascending