Review Summary: The words ‘Eponymous’ and ‘Debut’ should never be uttered in the same sentence. Ever.
I laughed unnecessarily heavily when I saw that the Futureheads’ “Sounds Like” section cites Modest Mouse. If this caught your eye as well, prepare to be confused, and perhaps a little disappointed.
The Futureheads are;
Barry Hyde – Guitar, Lead Vocals
Ross Millard – Guitar, Vocals
David Craig – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Dave Hyde – Drums, Vocals
(How very novelty that they should all share credits for vocals.)
Ok, The Futureheads (I’m already getting sick of typing that name) are yet another 4 piece indie rock band from the Northeast, and yet they are relatively standalone in their approach to this genre. In fact… Let’s call it Spaz Pop to set it apart from some of the dross that emerged at the same time/place (*cough* Maximo Park *cough*). However, in the years since this, their debut, they have suffered from unlucky hardships, such as lack of funding after being dropped from their label, 679, in 2007. Or it could be that their 3rd album was not very good. Anyway, no matter whose catatonic fault it was, The Futureheads have taken turn after turn down all the wrong roads, which is a damn shame, as this is a damn fine album to start a career in damn indie rock.
Drawing influences from all over the shop (some quite surprising and some totally irrelevant), this album is a mix of angular post punk, barbershop (?!), and eventually draws some strange new wave elements into its often confused and confusing microtracks. The infuriatingly short length of the songs on this very abrupt album however is overshadowed by the fact that the musicianship is sublime and the spastic nature of the songs’ structures which seam together perfectly whilst being oddly disjointed and unrelated within the space of one short track. For instance, album opener Le Garage
is a spaced out echo chamber song with far too much reverb for its own good (and this style of music in general), and this suddenly splashes into Robot
, a very tight, clean track that is basically just an assault on the snare drum and is overall a pretty fecking obnoxious song. The point I’m trying to make is that there is plenty of variety within each individual track, but at the back nine (Yes, I play golf), it suddenly hits you that you’ve been listening to just one album the whole time. The stylistic leaps and bounds from song to song are certainly keep the listener on their Converse shoes’ toes, but this record as a whole has little to no structure at all, and the jumps between tracks are relentless and unexpected.
While this is certainly a problem, the length of the tracks is the biggest downside to this album, but what can I say? This is a frustrating habit of theirs. I started writing this review listening to the opening track, Le Garage
, and by this point I have ended up on Sale of the Century
, the 6th track on their 3rd album (this is mainly because I forgot to go back to the beginning of the first album). Only one original song on this album clocks in at over three minutes, this being He Knows
, a definite album highlight that crashes and thunders through discordant countermelodies to create a surprisingly danceable listen. While contemporaries such as Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party may create a dance-punk track every other second of the day, the only way to dance to The Futureheads would be if you were the reincarnation of Ian Curtis. Speaking of which, there are a few Joy Division homages and references in the interplay between the guitar and bass scattered throughout the record. The most obvious of these is the album closer, Man Ray
, another sturdy track that holds up the album superbly through twists and turns of sporadic drumming and ultimately building to a vicious crescendo that ends with Barry sounding like he’s trying to contain the spit from flying out of his Sunderland mouth whilst screaming at his poor microphone. Though why it’s named after Man Ray remains a mystery to me.
However, when the tracks are bad, they ain’t great, and this is evident on the critics’ little love child, Carnival Kids
. Fans and reviewers alike eat up this chirpy, naïve track, but it is just insufferable. It sounds like what would happen if the ever-abysmal Wombats hired a tired, drunk vocalist and moved to L.A. to be produced by Rick Rubin. Whilst being quite awful, it does however showcase a very short sample of that deadly secret weapon that The Futureheads have stashed away in their hidden arsenal; Vocal play. Their barbershop harmonising tendencies are stunning for a band of their age and genre, the stuttering and clunky Alms
being the finest example of this skill, though let it be known that vastly overrated lead single Decent Days and Nights
overuses this medium a tad. But if the standard for an indie rock band were not a smart-casual-dressed 4 piece from a place with a hilarious accent, you would think there were 8 or 9 people playing on this record, the voices acting as rhythmic, melodic and harmonic instruments in their own right throughout. Ironically, however, Danger of the Water
, which is almost entirely a capella (save for a gentle organ beat in the background) and definitively shows off their harmonising skill, is actually one of the weakest tracks on the album. It’s just too fu
cking dull. Simple as that.
The album (Well, actually all three of their albums) also suffers in its solo vocal delivery. Whilst their impressive singing in the altogether moments is… well, impressive, Barry Hyde’s vocals suffer from being somewhat mannered; Overly quirky whilst putting slightly too much emphasis on the Sunderland accent. However this is not really his fault, the band were clearly brought up on a diet of New Wave such as Talking Heads and The Jam, the latter of which they often sound almost identical
to. And the lyrics! Oy vey!
“You eat *** because you’re Stupid and Shallow/ But I like it when you’re Stupid and Shallow/ You were dying on the floor/ And you won’t stop talking about it any more.”
Actually maybe I’m being a bit too hard on them.
From start to finish, there is absolutely no way of summing up this album; it is simply too slap-dash. In places the album is phenomenally good (Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten their remake of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love
, one of the most innovative and original covers you’re ever likely to hear), and the rest is just… good. This is a thoroughly well thought out and in-depth album whilst seeming quite light and fluffy on the surface. One could even go so far as to say that in places it even borrows from one of the most complex and challenging genres of music; Math Rock (See track: The City Is Here For You To Use
). Oh and by that I mean proper Math Rock. Not Foals. Or the fu
cking Mars Volta. ARGH. But anyway, if you are looking for an interesting mix of retro, fresh and confusing (which is an odd combination, I know), this album will be for you. It baffles whilst being fantastically obvious, explodes where it should whisper (not always for the better), and overall it is a pretty damn good album. BUT; And this is a BIG but (Yeah, get the LOL out of your system), it’s frustrating. You listen to it once and think “What was that spastic mess of noise?”. Listen to it a second time and you get “My God this album is a revelation!”. Listen to it the third time (and beyond) and you’re left with a sense of;
“Sweet Jesus I’m bored of this fu