BOTTOM LINE The Scottish new new-wavers evolve one more time.
Franz Ferdinand’s new album, “Always Ascending” (Domino), its first in five years, is practically bursting with new ideas.
Sometimes the Scottish band sounds like it’s rewriting Yaz’s “Situation.” The first single, “Lazy Boy,” sounds like Giorgio Moroder mixed with Pink Floyd guitar riffs. And on “Huck and Jim,” singer Alex Kapranos raps. So yeah, this isn’t “Take Me Out (Part 2).”
All this change makes sense considering everything the band has gone through since the last album. Guitarist Nick McCarthy, who co-founded the band, left in 2016 to focus on his family. The band’s previous project was to form supergroup FFS with new wave pioneers Sparks. And now, Franz Ferdinand includes The 1990s’ guitarist Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie, better known as producer Miaoux Miaoux, on keyboards.
“Huck and Jim” shows how well all the experimentation works. Not only does Kapranos rap over a trap hip-hop beat, but the rock chorus is a clever political statement about the need for universal health care that references the characters from Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
On “The Academy Award,” Kapranos croons dramatically in a ballad about how regular life has now become as much of a fictional production thanks to social media, even dropping the internet error message “404 Gateway Not Found” casually into the lyrics. In “Lois Lane,” Kapranos delves into the life of a journalist and the reasons for the choices she has made in her life over a sprightly synthesizer riff, before describing the “over-30 singles night” by repeating “It’s bleak” like a mantra.
Nothing is simple here. Even “Lazy Boy” — ostensibly about a boy who is, well, lazy — twists into something complex. But there is a unifying theme: The struggles of everyday life are unavoidable, but Franz Ferdinand believes they can be overcome by dance-driven hopefulness and the mindset that life is “Always Ascending.”
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