Scottish indie rockers Franz Ferdinand released their fifth album, Always Ascending, in February, fourteen years to the day after the release of their self-titled debut album and nearly five years after their previous record, 2013’s Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. The album represents the band’s first recordings after two significant changes to their long-time lineup – the departure of founding guitarist Nick McCarthy, and the addition of keyboardist Julian Corrie (another new member, guitarist Dino Bardot, was added to the band after the recording was completed). Despite these significant changes, the album doesn’t seem like a jarring shift in direction so much as an evolution – the synths are a bit more prominent than in the past, but it still sounds unmistakably like a Franz Ferdinand record.
The band had previewed a few of the new tracks in their show at Rams Head Live in Baltimore last summer, but this time for their sold-out show at the 9:30 Club they were all-in, focusing nearly half of the setlist on it. They started the night with the album’s titular opening track “Always Ascending,” and then mixed new songs with old throughout the nigh eventually playing all but two of them. In between, they showed just how many of their songs have already become classics of the genre, from “The Dark of the Matinee,” to “Do You Want To,” “Darts of Pleasure” to “Ulysses.” Singer Alex Kapranos was the living embodiment of the music’s energy, running around the stage, jumping and high kicking while the band kept the groove going. The tightly packed audience did their best to dance along.
A decade and a half after starting out, Franz Ferdinand remains a musical force, still going strong long after many of their dance-punk peers from the early 2000s have disappeared, and still packing in crowds. Hopefully they won’t make us wait quite so long for their next return, but it’s almost certain that when they do come back it will be well worthwhile. In the meantime, if you can’t wait to see them again, they’ll be playing at The National in Richmond on August 11th.
Brooklyn art-rockers Bodega opened the show. Their debut album, Endless Scroll, comes out on June 1st.