The Futureheads - News And Tributes
The best thing about the current crop of British based indie-guitar bands is that it's not taking them long to record the follow-ups to their acclaimed debuts. The Stone Roses being a prime example of a band getting so bogged down in creating the perfect follow-up that they got lost in their own worlds. With Franz Ferdinand, and now with The Futureheads, early promise has been transformed into a sophomore record that's actually better than their debut.
Where the 'Heads debut had some stand out tracks - the inventive cover of Hounds Of Love and the debut single Decent Days And Nights to name two - the overall pace of the record was too samey, their take on Gang Of Four / early Costello riffs and angular guitars became indiscernible over an entire album. Where News And Tributes succeeds is in it's variation; they've taken their original influences and their harmonic vocals and developed them, infused other musical strands that they've come across and focused them to an impressive point.
Kicking off with Yes/No, the drums build and build, beginning just out of reach, until the guitars crash in and the "Yes / No" refrain jumps out at you in such a way that you could almost believe you're on the terraces at a football match (topical, I know) - carried along in the euphoria around you. And the best thing is it doesn't even let off. Back To The Sea is a quality slice of an XTC style quirky pop song; the chorus, with it's gentle harmonies and up beat riff, canters along betraying the seemingly desolate situation sung about in the song. Then there's Cope, which begins with an almost trademark Gang Of Four riff, but it gets darker, the drumming more intense.
This is a common feature throughout the album - their original sound dirtied up a bit, the lyrics a little darker as well, seemingly all dealing with or relating to loss and rejection. Some of this new darker focus must be down to producer Ben Hillier who's worked with Depeche Mode and Doves. The fact that the album was recorded in six weeks has also added some urgency to things, it's all over in just under 40 minutes, but I just find myself pressing 'play' straight away. I've already played this album more times than the debut.
There's also a great big gutsy and aggressive half way point in The Return of the Berserker just to prove that they can. Its two and a half minutes of dirty riffs, stonking drumming and fuzzed vocals which leaves you as breathless as the band playing it. Genius. In fact, the only thing that disappointed me about this album was the lack of their inbetween single Area which, in the end, pointed towards their new direction quite nicely.
So who says second albums are difficult? Certainly not The Futureheads. The only problem is now, as they keep on raising the bar which each release, can they carry on with their upward curve? Only time will tell. But, in the meantime, just enjoy.