Sunderland post-punks replace instant gratification with tales of love, loss and air disaster
Their cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds Of Love” made The Futureheads bona fide pop stars. Running on accepted music biz logic, their second album, News And Tributes, should set out to consolidate such success with a suite of polished post-punk tracks, all Gang Of Four jerkiness and barber’s shop four-part harmonies. The opening “Yes/No”, however, tells a different story. “My advice goes as follows,” sings Barry Hyde, over salutes of metallic guitar, “Go home, brick yourself in/ Think about it properly/ Go back to the beginning.” Or, as one bright spark once put it: rip it up, and start again.
Recorded in a six-week stint at a farmhouse outside Scarborough, News And Tributes replaces the hectic Technicolor rush of the debut – once described by the band as “a punch in the face” – with a more spacious, wistful feel comparable to late-period XTC or Wire, but defiantly of the Futureheads’ own creation. Thematically, however, an impulse towards the deconstructive spirit of post-punk remains. “Fallout” and “Burnt” subvert traditional love themes, the former a Romeo And Juliet for Cold War paranoiacs, the latter a curdled, minor-key prog construction that equates falling in love with receiving third-degree burns and concludes that, “Nothing lasts forever and nothing is free”.
Generally, it’s the quiet numbers here like the title track, a misty-eyed homage to the victims of the Munich air disaster, that impress more than familiar, harmony-laden numbers like “Cope” or “Worry About It Later”. That, however, would be to ignore the crushing “Return Of The Berserker”, a track that’s hammered into the middle of News And Tributes like a stake through the heart. A one-chord clatter just a notch off the jackhammer pummel of Big Black, it’s seemingly thrown in to prove The Futureheads still can: that they don’t, it’s implied somewhat elegantly, is merely their choice.
Like mid-‘80s Scritti Politti, News And Tributes is pop music made by DIY heads, accessible sounds made by young men loathe to sell their intelligence down the river. True, it might not awaken the same instant delight as its predecessor, but its cries should resonate as long, and as loud.
By Louis Pattison