Franz Ferdinand, Joan as Policewoman releases superb new album and another music veteran is bowing out . .   

Gigs of the week 

Franz Ferdinand - Leisureland, Galway, February 10 and Olympia Theatre, Dublin, February 11

Let's Franz

Always a cracking live act, the Glasgow band - now expanded to a fivepiece following the departure of guitarist Nick McCarthy - arrive in Ireland armed with a fresh arsenal of tunes in the shape of new album Always Ascending (review below). New tracks like Lazy Boy and Lois Lane may not yet quite ascend to the heady heights of early classics Take Me Out and Darts of Pleasure but give them time.

Saturday, February 10

Newton Faulkner, Cyprus Avenue, Cork

Eddi Reader

Eddi Reader with Ultan Conlon, National Opera House, Wexford

Sunday, February 11

Anvil, The Limelight 2, Belfast

Joe Henry, The Grand Social, Dublin

Monday, February 12

Wellah!

Paul Weller, Olympia Theatre, Dublin. On the back of his splendid album A Kinder RevolutionWeller takes on a three-night stand in the relatively intimate surroundings of The Olympia Theatre. Expect a giddy blues, funk and soul explosion.

Tuesday, February 13

Paul Weller, Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Wednesday, February 14

Paul Weller, Olympia Theatre, Dublin

Iron & Wine - The Helix, Dublin

Following last year’s release of new album Beast Epic on Sub Pop, Sam Beam returns to Ireland for a show in the rarefied atmosphere of The Helix to play songs from his impressive eight-album back catalogue.

February 15

Jake Bugg, Whelans, Dublin

Jake Bugg 

Wild Beasts, Olympia Theatre, Dublin. The Cumbrian band are one of the best acts of the last decade and sadly they are disbanding after their current tour. You’d do well to bid a fond farewell at what looks like their last ever Irish date. Go along and convince them otherwise . . . 

February 16

Jake Bugg, Whelans, Dublin

This week’s new album releases  

Franz Ferdinand

Always Ascending

(Domino)

Franz are on the up

Franz Ferdinand’s 2015 collaboration with LA glam pop weird brains Sparks on the FFS project may have rubbed off on the Glasgow indiellectuals. Now beefed up to a five piece following the departure of founding member guitarist Nick McCarthy and the addition of two new members, Always Ascending is the quirkiest and zestiest thing Franz have done in years.

"Futuristic naturalistic" is the typically Alex Kapranos term Alex Kapranos is using to describe this latest collection and with Philippe Zdar (one half of French duo Cassius) producing, it certainly has a more electronic feel than the joyously spiky guitar of their first few albums.

Franz Ferdinand used to be all cool surfaces and angular poses - these days they pulsate where they used to jerk and glide where they used to skip. There’s also a new warmth to that trademark disco bass. The synth stabs on Lois Lane have the slightly deranged feel of Sparks and the frenetic scramble of Lazy Boy and the strutting Paper Cages also jump out of the speakers.

The wiry, slightly wired Kapranos remains as suavely detached and deadpan as ever as he delivers dry lines about over thirties singles nights and the self-obsession of social media on the witty The Academy Award. They’ve re-bottled some of their early magic on this limber return to form. ****

MGMT - Little Dark Age (Columbia)

The fourth album from the wayward Connecticut duo was produced by the band and Patrick Wimberly (Chairlift, Kelela, Blood Orange) and long time collaborator David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Tame Impala). 

Joan as Police Woman - Damned Deovtion (PIAS)

Joan Wasser: as arresting as ever 

Joan Wasser’s superb new album sees a return to the languid and moody atmospheres and sounds of her early work. It's a nocturnal affair with melodies that Insinuate, combining slow funk jams and juddering tribal beats on the likes of Steed (For Jean Genet) and fragmented piano, electronic modulations and propulsive percussion on The Silence. Deeply personal, there are songs about her late father and on recent single Tell Me, she makes a plea for openness and intimacy. Seductive lush and intimate, Wasser is as utterly absorbing as ever and who doesn’t want to hear an album which features a song called Valid Jagger? ****

Re-release of the week

Fleetwood Mac – Fleetwood Mac (Reprise)

I'd rather Mac

First released in 1975, two years before the planet-straddling monster that was (and is) Rumours, Fleetwood Mac’s tenth album was the first featuring the dream team of Lindsey Buckingham on guitar and Stevie Nicks on vocals - the bridge between the band's original folk leanings and their more well-known pop rock sheen. It's packed full of early signs of the unmistakable brand of FM rock that would turn them into the final word in AOR. Not to mention inter-band warfare, Class As and bitter but melodic recrimination. You’ll know Rhiannon and Say You Love Me but this re-issue also contains an extra disc featuring early versions of the album tracks and live takes from "the Warner Bros Sound Stage." Polished to the max, this is the sound that launched countless pretenders.

Also out:

Son Lux - Brighter Wounds (City Slang)

Ezra Furman - Transangelic Exodus (Bella Union)

Wild Child Expectations

David DuchovnyEvery Third Thought

Brian Fallon - Sleepwalkers

Clare Maguire - All of Nothing Love

The Wombats - The Beautiful People Will Run Your Life

Sound off

After releasing a dud album in the shape of Man of The Woods, Justin Timberlake went the whole hog and delivered a dud Superbowl half-time performance too. His homage to Prince during his set backfired in every way. We're reminded of Lady Gaga's well-meaning but utterly pants Bowie tribute at the Grammys in 2016. 

Retiring 

Well, if it’s good enough for Elton . . . 76-year-old Paul Simon, who wrote the pithy and sardonic Old for his 2000 album You’re The One, has announced that he is retiring from touring. The good news is that he’s bringing his Homeward Bound Farewell Tour to the RDS on Friday, July 13 with support from James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt.

Tickets go on sale on Monday, February 12 at 9.00am from usual outlets. In a lengthy statement on Twitter, Simon told fans of his decision to stop touring, describing it as "a little unsettling, a touch exhilarating and something of a relief."

Simon first played in the RDS in 1982, returning in 2004 as part of Simon & Garfunkel, and his concert here in July will be the second last stop on his Farewell Tour.

He last performed in Dublin in November 2016 at the 3Arena as part of his Stranger to Stranger tour. Over the course of his career, Simon has played in Ireland numerous times, also putting on shows in The Marquee, Cork and Nolan Park, Kilkenny.

Whisper it but legendary rock show the Old Grey Whistle Test is returning to the BBC, with the laid back Bob Harris once again introducing the bands. The show originally aired from 1971 to 1988 and was commissioned by then BBC controller David Attenborough as a  more serious late-night show for rock bands during the album era. Whistle Test will return for a "one night only" special later this year.

Le Galaxie, now with former Fight Like Apes singer May Kay as a full-time member, are set to release their third album Pleasure on n US Label Red River April 6 and there’s a new single, Day Of The Child, on February 23.

J.Cole, Sampha, Cardi B and Solange are among the first acts to be announced for this year’s Longitude Festival in Dublin’s Marlay Park from July 13 to 15. Migos, Post Malone and Diplo are also on the bill of the dance, hip-hop and r`n’b weekender. 

Music on TV

Show of The Week

The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E Smith, Saturday BBC Four, 10.30pm

Mark E Smith

Taking its title from the seventh album by The Fall, released in October 1984, this one-hour documentary is given a timely repeat following the recent death of irascible maverick Mark E Smith. The Beeb doc follows the Manchester band - who notoriously had 60 members over their 40-year history - as they record their final Session for the John Peel Show in 2004. Featuring John Peel, Stewart Lee, Marc 'Lard' Riley alongside The Fall themselves but mostly Mark E Smith.

Friday, February 9

Rock `n’ Roll Guns for Hire: The Story of the Sideman, BBC Four, 10.00pm

David Bowie’s sideman of 40 years Earl Slick (Slicky) is our guide through this documentary that looks at the men and women behind some of the greatest songs of the 20th and 21st century. The Sidemen are often the forgotten ‘guns for hire’ that changed musical history. Through Slicky we will witness an alternative and unique view of rock and pop history with unprecedented interviews with some of the world’s most successful and famous frontmen, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Billy Joel as well as the sidemen past and present for Prince, David Bowie, John Lennon, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones and Beyoncé.

Freddie Mercury: The great Pretender, Sky Arts, 10.00pm 

King Freddie of Mercury

A welcome repeat of this Emmy/Rose d'Or award winning 2012 feature-length documentary about the Queen frontman’s attempt to forge a solo career. The extensive archive footage is drawn from rare interviews with Mercury, concerts, video shoots and personal material. There’s also outtakes from the video shoots for I Want to Break Free, One Vision, These Are the Days of Our Lives and I Want It All.

Saturday, February 10

Fairport Convention: Folk Heroes, Sky Arts, 10.45pm

An hour and a half documentary about the 50-year history of seminal English folkies whose evolving and revolving membership included Richard Thompson, Sandy Denny and Dave Swarbrick

Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off The Wall, BBC Four, 9.00pm

This 2016 Spike Lee documentary chronicles the rise of Jackson through his early years at Motown Records to the creation of his 1979 landmark solo album, Off the Wall (sooo much better than Thriller). A cast of thousands take part including Jackie, Marlon, Joe and Katherine Jackson, Pharrell Williams, Questlove, David Byrne and The Weeknd. It’s actually the second Michael Jackson-focused documentary Lee has made, after 2012’s Bad 25. Followed at 10.30pm by Michael Jackson Top of The Pops 2 Tribute.

Ireland’s Top 10 albums

Cheers! Second week at No. 1

1 (Last Week) 1 (This Week) The Greatest Showman - Motion Picture Cast Recording (Atlantic) 

2 2 Divide - Ed Sheeran (Asylum)

New 3 Man Of The Woods - Justin Timberlake (RCA)

5 4 Picture This - Picture This (Warner Music Ireland)

4 5 Camila - Camila Cabello (Syco Music)

9 6 Tales From The Backseat - The Academic (Room 6)

19 7 Damn. - Kendrick Lamar (Interscope)

3 8 Dreams: The Collection - The Cranberries (Spectrum Music) 

11 9 x - Ed Sheeran (Asylum)

8 10 Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa (Warner Bros)

Ireland’s Top 10 Singles

Drake

1 (last week) 1 (this week) God's Plan - Drake

2 2 Idgaf - Dua Lipa

10 3 These Days - Rudimental/Glynne/Macklemore

5 4 Breathe - Jax Jones Ft Ina Wroldsen

3 5 River - Eminem Ft Ed Sheeran

8 6 Finesse - Bruno Mars & Cardi B

4 7 Perfect - Ed Sheeran

7 8 Never Be The Same - Camila Cabello

6 9 I Miss You - Clean Bandit Ft Julia Michaels

9 10 Havana - Camila Cabello Ft Young Thug

Chart courtesy of IRMA

Alan Corr @corralan