Franz Ferdinand's first album in in five years — not counting 2015's excellent Sparks collaboration, FFS — finds the suave pop band exploring the new possibilities that arrive with a lineup shift.
It's the Glasgow band's first release after founding guitarist Nick McCarthy's departure; that crunchy guitar sound you associate with, say, "Take Me Out," is largely absent here. Instead, Always Ascending finds Franz playing to their synthier, rhythmic side, and the strengths of new members Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie. Bass, keys and drums lock in around Alex Kapranos's musings, with six-string relegated to moments of flourish and texture. It's not an unwelcome shift: if 2013's Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action felt archetypical of the Franz Ferdinand sound, this proves a sturdy new take, if one that has yet to be fully realized.
The album's opening salvo works particularly well: the perpetual updraft of "Always Ascending" kicks things off on a high, leading smoothly into the kinetic, bass-led "Lazy Boy." Not everything lands with the same emphasis as the album's opening moments, but there are enough quality moments across ten tracks — how "Lois Lane" frames the horrors of the "over 30 singles night" at its chorus, the disco drive of "Glimpse of Love," the mid-song sax run of "Feel the Love Go"— to suggest this transformation in sound has yet to reach its peak. (Domino)