All of the pre-release fuss is declaring 2013’s ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ as a line in the sand, a bookend to the first phase of Franz. One might be forgiven for interpreting such talk as meaning that ‘Always Ascending’ is the start of a bold new direction. It’s not. Instead, it feels more like the logical follow-up to 2009’s ‘Tonight’.
There’s a similarly electronic focus, even if the production is much improved here. The problem, ultimately, is a lack of memorable hooks. Alex Kapranos’ unmistakable vocal presence dominates, but on tracks like ‘Huck And Jim’, despite an intriguing lyrical conceit built on Tom Sawyer’s characters, there’s a fine line between sounding inventive and dicking around in ‘ironic’ fashion. Add in the mild nausea from the Kasabian-esque transitions on the title track and it’s hard not to see this as a confusing, incoherent record.
There are clearly some strong moments - ‘Lois Lane’ has some neat synth, ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’ concludes the album in sparse, balladic form, and emphatic highlight ‘Feel The Love Go’ has a gloriously energetic riff plus a full-on sax break - but this doesn’t add up to a decisive and revised mission statement. A frustratingly inconsistent return.
Words: Gareth James
Dig it? Dig deeper: XTC, Kasabian, LCD Soundsystem
- - -
- - -
Join us on Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.