This band exists on pure charm. Their self-titled debut sounds like what would happen if members of the Vienna (or in this case, Sunderland) Boys Choir grew up, learned guitar and started a band. The Futureheads combine impossibly thick Northern accents, punked-up gorgeous harmonies and precise guitars into a package that is winning, listenable, and—yes—touching. Their bio cites Kate Bush, Devo, Queen and Fugazi as influences, and you can hear all of these and more without the songs straying into derivative territory.
The subject matter of the songs ranges effortlessly, cheekily even, from robots to the first day on your new job to drowning—not your typical post-punk Wire-happy material. Add a well-executed, perfectly placed Kate Bush cover (“Hounds Of Love”) and you have possibly one of the most original albums of the past five years. It is not hyperbole to admit that the first time I listened to this album I felt drugged (happy drugs-drugged, not somebody-put-roofies-in-my-drink-and-I-just-woke-up-in-a-basement drugged). I couldn’t stop smiling.
After the initial giddiness wears off, you realize that there’s much more than goofy aural Prozac operating here. About that song about drowning—it took me a few listens to realize that it isn’t literally about drowning; it’s a rueful examination of the disintegration of a relationship where one person doesn’t want to work at it anymore. The metaphor would feel heavy-handed if they didn’t structure it so beautifully. In hushed, nearly a cappella verses, the singer (all of the band members sing at various points, and with little in the CD sleeve to guide me it’s difficult to tell who sings what and when) describes the drowning: “It cut through the water as we watched it getting closer / And you said that it would soon fall down the drain / You said it didn’t matter but then that is you all over / And the danger of the water meant it wasn’t worth the bother.” It is gorgeous, and it stands out starkly from the rest of the songs.
This album stands out. Go buy it.