Franz Ferdinand have taken their stylish brand of angular art-rock all over the world on tour, sold millions of records, and were responsible for the definitive anthem of the summer of 2004 in Take Me Out. They became the biggest Scottish band of that decade, but in its first few years, things hadn’t been going so well.
“Paul [Thomson, drummer], Nick [McCarthy, guitarist] and I had all been playing in other bands for over ten years before Franz Ferdinand had any success” singer Alex Kapranos told The Skinny. There were years of travelling up and down the M6 in a transit van, playing to fifty people in some pub in Camden. When we wrote the songs on our first album, we thought we’d maybe find an independent label that would put out 500 copies, and if we sold 500 copies and we didn’t still have some left under our bed, then we’d be really fuckin’ chuffed.”
Along with bassist Bob Hardy, the band played in abandoned warehouses and at parties around the Glasgow School of Art scene, building a buzz that was recognised by indie label Domino Records, who released their 2003 debut EP Darts of Pleasure. For all the low-level excitement about the band, expectations were blown away by the release of second single Take Me Out. With a 55-second post-punk verse introducing a stomping funk groove for the rest of the song, it showed how the tiring post-punk revival, led by The Strokes three years prior, could be reinvigorated by dance.
Franz were widely quoted as saying they wanted to make “music for girls to dance to”, but Take Me Out was irresistible to any wallflower, girl or boy. It almost went to No.1 in the UK charts, stormed the US Billboard 200, and was voted single of the year by hundreds of critics. Both Q and NME rank it as an all-time indie anthem, and Rolling Stone included it in their latest Greatest Songs of All Time poll. Its success was astonishing for a new band, and its legacy has dwarfed all their output since.
The debut album to accompany it, Franz Ferdinand (2004), was also a huge success, winning the Mercury Prize and breeding further hit singles Michael and The Dark Of The Matinee. But Franz Ferdinand, by their nature, are not really an albums band; nobody dances to albums. You Could Have it So Much Better (2005) was preceded by single Do You Want To, which almost matched Take Me Out’s chart success, hitting No.4 in the UK and No.76 in the US, eventually going gold Stateside.
Ulysses and No You Girls did well from third album Tonight (2009), by which stage Franz were trying to work out how to remain fresh with their retro style within an ever-morphing music scene. One option tried was Blood (2009), a remix album of Tonight in a dub-reggae style, followed eventually by fourth LP Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions (2013), which was well-received and charted highly, without ruffling many feathers.
Since 2014 the band have been working with eccentric Californian duo Sparks, who’ve been active since the early 1970s, under a new venture titled FFS. An album of the same name was released in June 2015, which The Skinny said “combines idiosyncrasies from each [group] to create something fresh and distinct”.