Forget everything you think you know about Franz Ferdinand. ‘Always Ascending’ is nothing short of a rebirth. The album’s ten songs are a triumphant recasting of one of our favourite groups, bursting with fresh ideas and vigorous sonic experimentation.
There have been substitutions, but the team is playing stronger than ever. In case you missed the announcement last year, Nick McCarthy (guitar) left to raise his family and Julian Corrie, a much-loved figure in the Glasgow music scene, joined core members Alex Kapranos, Bob Hardy and Paul Thomson.
With reclusive producer Philippe Zdar (Cassius, Phoenix, Beastie Boys), FF have taken a knife to their old canvas, creating an album that is so foreign in its familiarity it could only be current.
“We loved working with Philippe. He understands that what is essential is the emotion: the emotion that inspired the song and the emotion that the song inspires in you on hearing it. It’s all that matters. Everything comes from that: the sound, performance, tempo, instrumentation, how far you stand from the mic… everything.”
Other characters appear in this story. Dino Bardot (the greatest rockstar Glasgow ever produced) has joined the line-up since they started touring again and Sam Potter, late of Late Of The Pier, hung out with the band in the early stages of the LP.
“So many nights, I couldn't sleep because there were too many ideas flooding each other. Kapranos recalls “I felt like a decapitated gorgon, growing two heads where there had been one. That's why it was so great to work with Julian, Philippe and Sam. Each an extra head to the gorgon. An extra mind. An extra set of snakes spitting venom.”
These ambitious visions can be heard throughout ‘Always Ascending’: from the title track’s Penrose Stairs aural illusion constantly rising chord progression, to the “Trap Sabbath via Slackers” of 'Huck and Jim'; the barely-glimpsed backstory that could have been from a William Trevor story in ‘Lois Lane’, to the Tehching Hsieh-inspired 'Paper Cages', the five to the floor odd-count dance beat of ‘Lazy Boy’, to the heartbreaking ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’.
For all its philosophical conceits, however, it is a visceral experience. It’s intended to hit you in the heart before the brain. These are the sounds of the Parisian night, the exhilaration of an Italian car racing down the autobahn; a feeling of euphoria so pure it could only exist on a knife’s edge, occasionally gliding into euphoric heartcreak.
They wanted this record to sound like no other you’ve heard, never mind any other Franz Ferdinand record. Here it is. Stick it on. Think “What the fuck is that… I LOVE it!