Thursday, September 1, 2005

Records In Review: The Futureheads--The Futureheads

I knew that if I just waited around long enough, people would start making the kind of music that I like again. I'm sure it's the music that's changing, not me. No siree, Robert.

The Futureheads are a Sunderland foursome (which I think is actually the title of a porno that my wife and I rented a couple of months back) who, as cited by many others, wear their post-punky influences on their sleeves; most particularly, Gang of Four (Andy Gill produced a portion of the record) and early XTC. I see a lot more of the latter, especially in terms of songwriting approach, but the former's sonics and guitar sounds are certainly evident as well. I hear much more XTC here than here, all told--much more evident at the micro-level.

The Futureheads has been stuck in my car and home cd decks for a few weeks now, only recently being displaced by an even better album about which I'll write later, if you're all very, very good boys and girls. I hope I haven't killed this baby by overlistening, but it's really contagious stuff. The songs go along at breakneck pace with lots of stop-starts, sudden changes and striking vocal interjections. The songwriting's deceptively naive and moments of banality are few and far between.

The Gang Of Four influences are most prominent in songs like "The City Is Here For You To Use," which has that kind of pounding restraint in the rhythm section that was particular to Hugo Burnham and Dave Allen. In general, though, The Futureheads, although looser, are energetic, clever and jagged in the XTC style, with an additional dose of hell-for-leather that makes the sound their own. The interlaced staccato guitar on the excellent "Alms" is very Andy Partridge and co., but "Carnival Kids" is much punkier. Singer Barry Hyde's vocal approach is very figure-it-out-as-it-goes-along: sometimes, like in "Meantime," he's directly riffing on Mr. Partridge, sometimes even down to his predecessor's whole-tone attack point wobble (as on "He Knows"), but when he relaxes he can sound a bit Spiritualized ("Danger Of The Water"). The allmusic reviewer calls the vocal harmonies here British Invasion-sounding, but to my mind, that's like saying that most bread tastes like wheat. My favourite tracks are "Le Garage," "A To B," "Alms," "The City..." and "He Knows," but there's nothing here that calls for the fast-forward button. The interesting cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds Of Love" doesn't exactly blend in with the rest of the album--sounds rather like The Housemartins turned rabid.

The production on the album--I couldn't really tell between the Gill-produced tracks and the others--is decent, but a bit thunderous and undefined in places; e.g., the opener "Le Garage" would probably have benefitted from a more refined approach. Well, you have to have somewhere to go on your second album...which I enthusiastically look forward to hearing.