Futureheads – The Futureheads

The FutureheadsThe Futureheads (Sire)

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.

13 thoughts on “Futureheads – The Futureheads”

  1. Grrrrrreat album. Very underrated, underappreciated. Much better then their more-headlining grabbing peers (Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, anyone?), but this band has much more substance and a helluva lot more style.

  2. Highly recommended. I also hear the angular melodicism of XTC and The Jam etc. in these songs. “Robot” is a perfectly crafted gem, with every facet precisely in balance. Many delights await the listener.

  3. It’s a good album not a great album Bill. I’ve had it a while but it still hasn’t grabbed me.

    I don’t think they’re from Wales btw. I think I heard someone say they were from Sunderland??? Not positive though.

  4. For the record, ha ha, the reviewer never actually said they were from Wales. Just that they sound like the Wales Boys Choir grown up.

    And for those of you not geographically inclined, Sunderland is in England, one of the four “countries” making up the United Kingdom, the others being Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. Right?

  5. Why do you use quotation marks around the word “countries”? To imply that all U.K. constituent members are the same because we share parts of government and most laws is ludicrous.

    Oh, and for the record, Sunderland is just about the furthest point from Wales in England. And how the f**k you get a “thick welsh accent” – which, incidentally, they don’t have – without being welsh is beyond comprehension.

    Don’t be a smart arse if you don’t know your stuff.

  6. I apologize. I was reasonably sure that I had done my research right and I knew their location–clearly I hadn’t and didn’t. I meant no offense to anyone. If it was possible to go back and change the review to reflect their actual point of origin (edit0rs? anyone?) I would, but I am not that powerful. Again, I’m really sorry.

  7. I it’s just one of those things that’s the same all around the world.

    The Irish hate people mistaking them for English.

    Kiwis hate people thinking they’re from Oz.

    Canadians hate people thinking they’re from America.

  8. Probably my favourite album of 2004. When I listen to it I hear the Clash channeled through early Who. Great vocal harmonies!

  9. the clash? the who? queen? fugazi?

    um… gang of four anyone?

    that being said, i’ve been in love with the futureheads since i heard “decent days & nights” on KEXP a couple weeks before the record came out in the states. couldn’t figure out why none of the stores i went to had it in stock at the time. :)

  10. Only heard one song by them and holy shit, have the jam reformed?? Sounded exactly like them, sung exactly like them and danced exactly like them.

    Somebody up the top there said this bunch were original. if they’d have arrived in 1976 maybe! Unless they were taking the piss with the track I heard/saw…. I seriously hope so.

  11. Being from Sunderland I can’t help but laugh at this whole Wales confusion thing! Top album by the way but quite poor live!

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