Always Ascending — From energetic and jagged post-punk riffage to synthetic beats, the Scottish-rockers Franz Ferdinand helped pioneer a vibrant revival in the 2000s and are finding ways to remain relevant with their latest record. Photo: Cara Robbins

In 2004, a then-Scottish quartet named Franz Ferdinand bursted into the mainstream with their signature anthem, “Take Me Out.” It was blasted through airwaves, sporting events, video games and commercials — their “Seven Nation Army.” The post-punk and garage rock style the Strokes brought to New York City, Franz helped bring to the UK with a more intelligent and angular dance-punk force, evocative of Gang of Four and Wire.

After five studio albums, Franz proved how consistent and natural they can really be. In honor of Franz’s latest release ‘Always Ascending,’ released last Friday, we ranked all five studio albums from worst to greatest (‘FFS’ will be excluded).

5.) ‘Always Ascending’ (2018)

Domino Records

The latest LP from Franz proves the band has not yet lost their edge in guitar music and are one of the last great remaining acts from their generation. ‘Always Ascending’ is an artistic reinvention for the band, after guitarist Nick McCarthy left in 2016. McCarthy was replaced by Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie (aka Miaoux Miaoux), both bringing an impressive and rich range of explorative soundscapes to the band’s signature style that’s much more polished now. Even though they’re leaping in a different direction, Franz still mesh their signature angular riffs and stomping rhythms to tracks like “Lazy Boy” and “Huck and Jim.” The experimental and electropop approach from 2009’s ‘Tonight’ is eminent and tremendously emphasized on “Lois Lane” and “Glimpse of Love” —  both sounding like leftovers from the previous album. The disco-inspired grooves on “Feel the Love Go” whirl you to the dance floor — the most classic sounding Franz track here. Even if this all sounds like some triumphant return, there are some flaws on this record that you’ve gotten from previous albums. Some of the arrangements on the slower tracks that reach towards Franz’s classic romanticism (“Academy Award” and “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow”) are a bit awkward and misplaced, whereas the electronics are a bit too spacey and drag on. Nonetheless, this is still a vital and inventive moment in Franz’s career and might be just a transition towards something even greater.

Rating: 7/10 

4.) ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ (2013)

Domino Records

Similar to their 2009 LP ‘Tonight,’ ‘Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action’ focused highly on a dance-oriented style, but seemed more like a back-to-the-basics type of record — dance rock emphasized by monstrous riffs and “that girls can dance to.” Every song here craves another “Take Me Out” and some do sound like guitar anthems for the 2010s, especially the glammy “Love Illumination.” It’s a comeback album with a lot of swagger that’s remindful of the romanticism the band brought on their earlier releases. “Evil Eye,” one of the band’s most unique tracks, creates an edgy and eerie vibe with grooves reminiscent of The Clash, whereas the choppy and dreamy “Stand on the Horizon” recalls the band’s earlier style. However in the second half, the tone shifts towards somewhere darker and more experimental. The synths and keyboards are more focused and upfront, but still blended with the heavy array of guitar riffs, especially on “Treason! Animals.” The song sounds entirely sounds like the band melding stoner rock with disco, which fortunately works very well here. Frontman Alex Kaprano’s vocals are more sinister too, especially during the song’s bridge. On the final track “Goodbye Lovers and Friends, ” you’re hit with a gloomy fast-paced rhythm section, similar to Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk.” It includes Kapranos declaring in the album’s final seconds, “But this really is the end” — suspecting that at the time, the group’s comeback record could be very well their last. Along with Arctic Monkeys’ ‘AM,’ ‘Right Thoughts’ proved that they were still making an impact in rock music in the 2010s.

Rating: 8/10

3.) ‘Tonight: Franz Ferdinand’ (2009)

Domino Records

‘Tonight’ could very well be Franz’s first comeback record, released four years after the band’s second album ‘You Could Have It So Much Better.’ It was the first album showing Franz flirting more with electronics, which are definitely at the forefront here. This meant McCarthy went from balancing his jagged riffs with some keyboards besides him, going back-and-forth to both playing live. It’s also the band’s first conceptual album, focusing on elements going out at night, carousing and encountering the effects of the drugs you took while you were at the club. The opening track “Ulysses” contains a lot more bass and synths, sounding like the music you’d hear in a nightclub. Things get even better on the possessive and tight “Turn It On” and the addictive and lustful “Send Him Away.” Even though the band experimented more on this one, they still managed to blend their signature style with the electronics, particularly on the The tempting “No You Girls” and the bitter and spiteful “Bite Hard.” However, it’s the electronics that make this album, like on the exploratory “Twilight Omens” and the monstrous retro-electro twist “Lucid Dreams” — with the freak out guitars and touch of techno, this is the band at their best here. Not only is ‘Tonight’ Franz’s most ambitious album, but it showed the band moving forward with a new sound that was almost as if James Murphy was behind the soundboard.

Rating: 9/10 

2.) ‘Franz Ferdinand’ (2004)

Domino Records

During the climax of the garage rock and post-punk revival in the 2000s, Franz reached the Billboard Hot 100 and Modern Rock Tracks chart, with their anthem, “Take Me Out.” And probably every song on their self-titled debut could’ve done the same as well. From the first track to the last, Franz’s debut is filled with loads of energy and charm that showed the band sounding way too cocky, but rightfully so. The seducing opener “Jacqueline” starts out gentle, but once Bob Hardy’s steady bass and McCarthy’s creeping guitar kick in, all hell breaks loose for the remainder 36 minutes. There’s even some quirkiness to the romanticism like on deep cuts “Tell Her Tonight” and “Cheating on You.” The foot-stomping “The Dark of the Matinée” and the homoerotic “Michael” are just as worthy of being anthems as “Take Me Out.” There’s just so much rock ‘n’ roll to these songs, even on the more picturesque ones: the choppy “Come on Home,” the unrequited, Pulp-esque “Auf Achse” and the closer “40′” all become so intense and powerful. There’s not one bad song here and it’s surely one of the best debuts of all time.

Rating: 10/10 

1.) ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ (2005)

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Domino Records

Like the Strokes did on ‘Room on Fire,’ Franz became more emotionally mature with their writing on their sophomore release. But unlike the Strokes, Franz dug deeper with their compositions. ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ still carries the raw sound of their debut, but emphasizes a rougher and even versatile side to the band. The fast-paced, darting riffs on the charging and ultra-violent “The Fallen,” shows the band at their most aggressive, while the giddy and seductive “Do You Want To” replaces “Take Me Out” as the band’s anthem in 2005. After the spiraling “This Boy,” Franz shows their delicate and romantic side with the beautiful “Walk Away” and Kinks-esque “Elanor Put Your Boots On.” The dreamlike “Fade Together” also sounds like a classic ’60s psychedelic-pop song. As mature and intelligent ‘You Could Have It’ is, there’s still plenty of punchy dance-punk songs besides “The Fallen” like the spiraling title track and “You’re the Reason I’m Leaving,” which sounds like the companion piece to “Cheating on You.” Even though their debut album has tremendous energy and consistency, their sophomore release is just as vibrant, but more charming and profound in the end.

Rating: 10/10