Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hit to Death

This Is Not the World
This album is exhausting. But let's not count that as a complaint. After the Futureheads' self-titled 2004 debut -- a sharp jolt of starched-and-creased pop that shot far ahead of its post-punk revival peers -- the Sunderland, England quartet fell into a morose, introspective ravine with News and Tributes in 2006.

Now the band claws back out with their own label and a ferocious collection of new songs. World's first three tracks are a gleeful rocket ride, propelled by Dave Hyde's drums playing off the bass and guitar interaction to give the illusion of tempos in danger of rushing into chaos. Four songs in, "Hard to Bear" finally softens the thundering rhythms, but the pace of World never slows.

The band's strength remains: solid tunes and remarkable rhythmic precision. They're never showy, and that's the allure. Their harmonies -- never a weak spot to begin with -- soar into Proclaimers territory during "Hard to Bear" and "Radio Heart." And the Supergrass arena-rock muscle from the verses of "Sale of the Century" disguising an XTC-like bounce beneath stands out among many clever ideas.

But forty minutes of snarl and speed over-delivers what feels like a Futureheads declaration of freedom and return volley to the lackluster response to the sophomore album. Somebody must ask the Haircut 100 question: "Where do we go from here?"

Reference materials: The Futureheads have digested and repurposed all sorts of pop and rock references. They list several American musicians, but there's also a lot of The Jam, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. Plus Barry Hyde often sounds like a scruffier Terry Hall, and when Ross Millard takes the lead vocal, there's a strong resemblence to Paul Weller.

Bonus video!
The Futureheads will never be "that band that covered a Kate Bush song" because they waited long enough into the line-up of singles from their 2004 debut to unleash their lock-step version of the wispy one's "Hounds of Love." That's smart tactics. Now get ready ... cute overload!!1!