In 2004, a then-Scottish quartet named Franz Ferdinand broke into the mainstream with their signature anthem, “Take Me Out.” It was blasted through airwaves, sporting events, video games and commercials—later, deeming the band as a “one-hit wonder.” However, they were only seen as that to people who were too lazy and simpleminded to listen to one of their full-length albums—especially the first one, which is a classic. But of course, they were overshadowed by some of their contemporaries during that time such as the Strokes and LCD Soundsystem. However, unlike those bands, Franz has been able to change and still release music that sounds fresh fourteen years later, avoiding the novelty tag. The group upstaged U2 when opening for them back in 2005, where rebel frontman, Alex Kapranos, walked onto Bono’s ego-ramp (a catwalk extending into the audience) during their own performance. Also, in Scotland, they’re practically adored like they’re the Beatles or something of that nature. And not one of their albums are bad or even mediocre—they’re all super-fantastic.
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. And before anybody criticizes, FFS will be excluded from the ranking since it was a collaborative effort alongside glam rock darlings Sparks.
5.) Always Ascending (2018)
The most recent from the Scottish-rockers proves that Franz has not yet lost their edge in contemporary music and are still one of the greatest rock bands to come out of the 2000’s. Always Ascending is a fresh start for the group, after founding member, Nick McCarthy, left the band in 2016. McCarthy was replaced by Dino Bardot and Julian Corrie (aka Miaoux Miaoux), who contribute greatly to the modernized dance-rock sound, especially on the titled track. Even though the band is polishing their music and lost their lead guitarist, they have not yet lost their sound with their signature jagged guitar riff style (“Lazy Boy,” “Huck and Jim”). The experimental and electropop approach from Tonight (2009) is eminent and tremendously emphasized (“Always Ascending,” “Lois Lane”), but not as effective. “Glimpse of Love” is attched with a Talking Heads-esque aesthetic. “Feel the Love Go” sends you on a disco whirl—one that lasts forever on the dance-floor—with a synthy sax riff and solo from the great Terry Edwards, but once played live with James Chance. However, as the group captures you with a sensual vocal approach from Kapranos and has you dance until there is no more groove box—this is their most inconsistent arrangement. There are some awkward transitions, slow tracks that are out of touch and misplaced (“Academy Award,” “Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow”), and overly booming synths and keys louder than the vocals. But still, this late in their career they managed to release a fine album.
4.) Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action (2013)
Similar to their 2009 album Tonight, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action focused highly on a dance-oriented style, but it’s also a back-to-the-basics type album—dance rock emphasized by monstrous riffs. From the beginning of the record, you can hear the band craving another “Take Me Out”—every song ranging from “Right Action” to “Bullet” sounds like a worthy single, waiting to crack the Billboard charts. It’s a comeback album with a lot of swagger. “Evil Eye” creates an edgy vibe and has grooves nostalgic to the Clash’s London Calling (1979). “Love Illumination” has a classic dance riff, which could’ve been a huge glam rock hit in the seventies. “Stand on the Horizon” includes a choppy Talking Heads-esque guitar riff, with an uplifting groovy bassline. “Bullet” is classic post-punk Franz, which could’ve fit well on either of the first two albums. But the later tracks are completely different in style. They switch out the heavy guitar riffs with some keyboards and synths. The noticeable blend of this arrangement is on the standout “Treason! Animals,” which sounds like stoner rock mixed with disco. Kaprano’s vocals are sinister, as he sings “I’m in love with a narcissist / I’m in love with my nemesis.” 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 final seconds of the album, “But this really is the end”—and it did at the time feel like it could’ve been their final album together. Along with Arctic Monkeys’ AM, RTRWRA proved rock music was still prominent in 2013.
3.) Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (2009)
Tonight is the true Franz comeback record, released in 2009, four years after their second album You Could Have It So Much Better. It’s the first time Franz flirts with experimentation, with electronics at the forefront. This meant McCarthy went from working on his jagged guitar work to keyboards—but his known guitar style is still notable. And it’s the first conceptual record released by the group, where the album focuses on elements of going out at night, while carousing and encountering the effects of you know what. “Ulysses” is the opening track, as it contains a lot of bass and keyboards—the sounds of a nightclub. Named after the Greek hero from Homer’s Odyssey, this track leads to the anticipation about how something big’s about to happen and there is so much excitement, you’re carefree about the future, as the song contains the lyrics, “you’re never going home.” Even though the band is experimenting, their classic sound has not been abandoned. You hear this on two key tracks—the tempting “No You Girls” and the bitter and spiteful “Bite Hard.” Also, the band still makes your hips move with the dance floor single, “Can’t Stop Feeling.” But tracks like “Twilight Omens,” “Live Alone” and the electronic monster, “Lucid Dreams” are ahead of their time, even in the age of electronic dance music. This album hits you on first listen, which is surprising for an exploratory concept record—which usually sometimes takes time to resonate and sink in. However, Tonight pushed the limits for Franz and of course in the fading post-punk revival scene.
2.) Franz Ferdinand (2004)
During the climax of the garage rock/post-punk revival in the 2000s, a Glasgow band reached the Billboard Hot 100 and Modern Rock Tracks chart, with their anthem, “Take Me Out.” From the first track to the last, on their debut album, Franz is loaded with tons f energy and riffs that defines what they are all about—seductive punk with a lot of cockiness. The opener, “Jacqueline,” starts out soft, but when McCarthy’s fast-paced guitar creeps in, all hell breaks lose. The album gets out of control as it descends to the quirky and catchy garage rock number “Tell Her Tonight.” The signature tracks just keep coming too, from the foot-stomping “The Dark of the Matinée” to the homoerotic full of eyeliner “Michael.” Deeper cuts such as “Cheating on You” and “40′” shows Franz’s cleverness and are indeed two of the best produced tracks on the album. There are so many songs here including “This Fire” and “Darts of Pleasure” that should have been as big as “Take Me Out,” but at least this album has been recognized as one of pioneering albums for the post-punk revival scene.
1.) You Could Have It So Much Better (2005)
Franz could’ve played it safe like the Strokes did for their follow-up album to their debut, but they decided to dig deeper. Franz’s sophomore effort is the group at their best. It’s lyrically intelligent, rough, and versatile. The stomping opener, “The Fallen,” showcases how aggressive and heavier the band is from their debut. The “Take Me Out” here is “Do You Want To,”—a giddy keyboard dance hit, which got ruined by a certain anime. After the loopy “This Boy,” Franz records their most beautiful and soothing tracks—Walk Away” and “Elanor Put Your Boots On.” “Well That Was Easy” feels like a classic Paul McCartney song, which isn’t surprising. The group pays respect to their influences on this album—sort of like an ode for their success. They dig deeper into relationships with a lot of Scottish-soul on “You’re the Reason I’m Leaving” and especially the album’s titled track—where Kaprano’s roaring and pushy vocals steal the spotlight. The aesthetic “Fade Together” is dream-like—reminiscent to what the Kinks released in the late sixties. Even though their debut album has tremendous energy and is more consistent, You Could Have It So Much Better is just more intelligent, mature and profound. Franz didn’t slouch on their sophomore release, they peaked.