Brand new? You’re retro. Never has a band name been so ironically misleading. The Futureheads are anything but futuristic, harking back to the grimy days of ’80s post-punk, angular haircuts and shoulder pads. Seeing as how recycling is not only environmentally friendly these days, this is not just an Ocean Colour Scene exercise in futility. Sunderland’s throwbacks take their all-too-obvious influences and rub your face in them with an unrestrained glee.
The band number amongst their influences Devo, Queen, Fugazi and Kate Bush (unfortunately their version of Hounds of Love was not included on this promo) but despite this, make hasty and abrasive music that bears no resemblance to these four except in their wayward, and resolutely unfashionable pursuit of their own goals. Closer in musical spirit would be the new-wave awkwardness of XTC, the driving force of the early Jam and any other spiky four piece guitar gang with an agenda to grind.
The temptation to write them off as style over content would do them a disservice, as these jags of manic pop thrills are tightly constructed, fully functional punk-pop symphonies. Breaking down into four-voice harmonies, chopping styles all in (usually) under three minutes, it can be a breathless ride that’s over before it’s begun, but worth revisiting.
Main singer Barry Hyde yelps, harmonises and enunciates to obsession, as the others rise and fall around him with counter melodies. Produced by former Gang of Four guitarist Andy Gill, the album captures The Futureheads live in all their bluster and verve. Needless to say, there are no dance remixes in the pipeline.
Blasting off with Le Garage with its deceptive acapella intro, before falling into the fizzing guitar workshop, the grease monkey chorus, and the tourettes on speed line of “bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit”, this is one memorable opener. The blistering Robot could be an undiscovered early track from The Jam, similar in feel to the clipped military precision of Alms. As with a lot of the post-punk stuff, the bass becomes a driving force pogo-ing around the workman-like guitars chugging along, or punked to death.
There’s a straight-laced, honesty to their sound that has traces of the melodic, the minimal and the slightly monochromatic. First Day tells of the hopes of youth and it speeds up like a factory line gone beserk with a vague ska feel, reminiscent of The Beat. Similarly, Stupid And Shallow is fairly straight down the line in its intent – “You eat shit because you’re stupid and shallow”.
Decent Days And Nights is basically a chugalong straight from the post-pop days of The Knack. Variety comes in the unlikely shape of the Garage band gospel Danger of Water which provides a charming respite and a glimpse of invention from the onslaught of the four-string assault.
The Futureheads are a four-headed beast, each barking for themselves, bringing their own tricks, which can be bewildering and thrilling in the same breath. The only criticism is the lack of invention and the tendency to drag its Doc Martens over the length of an album. However, it possesses such a bounce and drive you’d be plain mean to deny them their fun.