Franz Ferdinand’s ‘Always Ascending’ descends to mediocrity
Carlos De Loera | Thursday, February 22, 2018
Growing up, I liked waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown. To an eight-year-old version of myself, this program was the hub of my music world. 2004 proved to be a very impressionable year for me with this program. This was the year that Maroon Five came out with “This Love” and “She Will Be Loved,” Hoobastank (remember them?) released the embarrassingly catchy “The Reason” and Jet (whatever happened to them?) kicked out “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”
But, in 2004, three videos really stuck with me. The first one was Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” because it was a great song that introduced me to the lovely sounds of R&B (a younger version of me had a big crush on Alicia Keys that still carries on to present-day). The other two were videos for “Take Me Out” and “This Fire” by Scottish indie band Franz Ferdinand. These videos stood out because of their visual prowess and a sound much unlike anything else I had heard before. I was particularly taken by the guitar work on these two songs. While not amazingly intricate, it did manage to catch my ear. Watching lead singer and guitarist Alex Kapranos strum on his black Telecaster made me think: “That looks cool, I want to play guitar.” I eventually did get a guitar, and I still play to this day. And so I will forever be thankful to Franz Ferdinand for, in part, inspiring me to take on something that has made my life significantly better. It is for this reason that it pains me to say that I did not very much like Franz Ferdinand’s latest release, “Always Ascending.”
The album opens up with the titular track “Always Ascending,” which sets a good tone for the album. It has a lot of the elements of a classic Franz Ferdinand song: four on the floor drum beat, pulsing bass line, sleek guitar riffs, and somewhat nonsensical lyrics — everything a boy could want from a band. But the second song, “Lazy Boy,” felt, like most of the other songs on this album, lazy. Gone are the days of my wide-eye wonder and in are the days of my closed-eye sleepiness. Songs like “The Academy Award” and “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow” seem to drag on for much too long as Kapranos’ vampiric voice sucks the interest out of my ears. On the track “Feel the Love Go,” I could hear traces of the sound that I used to enjoy so much, but it feels a bit over-produced and overly synthy. What made this band great for me was the controlled rawness of their work, which the new album lacks.
That said, there are a couple songs on the album that I did enjoy outside of the opening track. “Paper Cages” and “Finally” have some catchy riffs, abstractly captivating themes and compelling piano parts. I don’t know if I have merely grown out of Franz Ferdinand’s music or if they have grown out of my musical likings, but, either way, this album left me wanting more and hoping for the Franz Ferdinand of old. Listen to their debut album instead.
Artist: Franz Ferdinand
Album: “Always Ascending”
Favorite Track: “Paper Cages”
If you like: Arctic Monkeys, Blur, The Bravery, The Strokes
Shamrocks: 2 out of 5