Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 79)
Gang of Four haven’t gone down in history as a pop band but that didn’t stop their best music from being strikingly catchy. All their ideologies and angular guitars were wrapped up in a package as instantly infectious as any number one pop single and when a generation of eager Brits started dusting off used CD bin copies of Entertainment!
they heard the hooks before they heard the words. Yes, it was 2004 and a post-punk revival was sweeping the UK. Along with other post-punk luminaries Joy Division and indie-Beatles The Velvet Underground, Gang of Four was suddenly in fashion like never before.
Like most of their peers, The Futureheads heard hooks when they heard their influences. But The Futureheads went beyond the co-opting of a look and a feint from their predecessors, they added their own signature to their snappy post-punk with intricate harmonies. Not something typically associated with punk music, The Futureheads lace their debut album with intricate and expressive harmonies that separate them from their peers and elevate their music beyond homage.
Opening with some disarmingly beautiful “doo doo do do”’s, “Le Garage” sets the tone for the rest of the album by taking 4 minutes of great ideas and folding them over into a 1:45 barnburner. From “Le Garage” onward The Futureheads clip every instant that might stand in the way of another hook and let it rip. Nothing here approaches bad but the highlights are very high. “Decent Days and Nights” contains a one note guitar riff so irrepressible that the “Woo
!” at the end sounds necessary, “Meantime” is a very relatable tale of words meaning what they did when they didn’t but you thought they did, and “Carnival Kids” speeds ahead on a manic bounce and big vocal hooks during the chorus. “Danger of the Water” actually comes close to being a capella (just in case you doubted these guy’s chops) while “Trying Not to Think About Time” wields the same anxious energy the Japanese new-wave group Polysics so often tapped into.
The Futureheads aren’t slouches with their lyrics either even though they’d probably get away with it. “He Knows” quietly contains one of the most compact definitions of date rape I’ve ever heard (“He was not invited when he went into her room/He wanted it now, she wanted it soon”) while “Stupid and Shallow” contains this boldly feminist lyric “An alpha male is better than a b male/A female is better than a male male”. Elsewhere they’re making a new job sound like a living hyper-hell (“First Day”) and “Man Ray” closes this album with the evocative refrain of “Touch yourself, touch yourself, touch each other in black and white”.
Do you heave at atmospherics? Do guitar solos make you nod off? Are you sick of waiting through long intros? Do you fidget through tracks longer than 5 minutes? Here you go. It’s The Futureheads
. Its got the energy of punk and the brevity of pop. It's 15 tracks in 36 minutes and they don't waste a single second.