More about: Franz Ferdinand
In Lizzy Goodman’s Meet Me in The Bathroom (2017), an oral history of the rock‘n’roll revivalism in New York City between 2001 and 2011, it’s telling that the only chapter dedicated to a British band is that of Franz Ferdinand. With only fleeting mentions of The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys and Doves, it was the early-noughties industry buzz around the Glaswegian art-rockers that drew most attention from these shores. The reason for this is simple. They carried a style, class and charisma that demanded universal attention and, in Alex Kapranos, possessed a semi-ironic, enigmatic showman you couldn’t take your eyes off.
Carrying the legacy of Britpop and influenced by their home city’s love of dance music, Franz Ferdinand’s mission statement to “make records that girls can dance to and…cut through postured crap” simply demanded the UK guitar scene—at this point dominated by American bands—take notice.
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With Domino founder Laurence Bell reportedly re-mortgaging his house to sign them, debut single ‘Darts of Pleasure’—in all its addictive “Ich heiße Superfantastisch!” refrain glory—got the wheels in motion in September 2003. Then, in January 2004, ‘Take Me Out’ was released and everything went crazy. With its unique build up introduction, killer riff and tale of defeatist romance, it put them firmly on the global map, simultaneously leading a new wave of radio-friendly British indie bands.
Suddenly Franz Ferdinand tunes were everywhere. UK top 10 hits followed and, later, their self-titled debut album would take home the coveted 2004 Mercury Music Prize. In the same week they’d be nominated for three Grammys, they’d take home British Group and British Rock Act at the 2005 BRIT Awards. This was even more impressive considering they were a group of guys several years older than their contemporaries (Alex Kapranos was in his early thirties on the release of Franz Ferdinand).
Seventeen years and four albums later, and Franz Ferdinand are written into British music legend. In recognition of their legacy they’ve released a Greatest Hits compilation. “It's the same as writing a set-list for a festival” said frontman Alex Kapranos, justifying the process behind track selection. “You want to play the songs you know people want to hear. The hits: Bring the hits to the head. The heart. The feet.”
Hits to the Head does exactly that, a twenty track chronological journey through Franz Ferdinand’s career to date. It effortlessly runs through early singles, beginning with the above-mentioned hype-starters and reminding us of their dancefloor appeal with cult classics ‘Michael’ and ‘This Fire’ standing out as forgotten indie bangers.
Four tunes, including re-recorded versions of ‘Walk Away’ and ‘The Fallen’, make the cut from 2005’s You Could Have It So Much Better, a record which may not possess the same iconic capital as their debut, but scored them their first UK number one. Ominous second album closer ‘Outsiders’ sounds as fresh as ever halfway through this collection, a track synonymous with their legendary set encores.
As we move through the latter three albums worth of music, there's the inevitable lull due to their best work being found on their first two albums. Admittedly, 'Ulysees' and 'No You Girls' from 2009's Tonight hold up well considering it marked a time when many early fans had jumped ship during the three year gap between second and third records.
To have four tunes feature from 2013's Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action does seem a misstep considering it's their weakest record. That it’s an equal number of songs to those featured from You Could Have It So Much Better and only one less than from Franz Ferdinand, suggests the band hold the album in higher esteem than their fan base. In contrast, 2018 single ‘Always Ascending’ rightfully takes its place, providing a darker, psychedelic change of tone to temper any staleness from their former album.
Positioned as tracks 19 and 20, Franz Ferdinand whet our appetites with new music in the form of ‘Curious’ and ‘Billy Goodbye’. These two funky, toe-tapping tracks don’t exactly break the band’s mould, but instead remind us of their enduring hunger to produce pop hits even if their Radio 1 appeal has long gone.
“I have friends who believe you’re somehow not a ‘real’ fan if you own a ‘best of…’ rather than a discography…I disagree” defiantly proclaims frontman Alex Kapranos, stating that such compilations were an entrance point to many of his favourite bands. Perhaps Hits to the Head will have the same effect to those who missed the boat first time round, or perhaps, in an age of streaming where their back catalogue is already easily available, it will have little impact.
Either way, Franz Ferdinand’s Hits to the Head is a perfect reminder of their lasting importance and a celebration of feel-good outsider indie anthems.
Hits to the Head arrives 11 March via Domino.
Grab your copy of the Gigwise print magazine here.
More about: Franz Ferdinand