In every sense it doesn’t matter, because such is the power and pull of ‘Robot’ (and the Futureheads’ debut album in total) that to pick apart is to miss the point. The Futureheads seem so potently to be about something urgent and meaningful (are, I understand, about such things), that to not fully grasp what these things might be is irrelevant.
The urgency and frantic pacing themselves feel like a manifesto against stagnation, complacency and piss-poor all-pervasive coffee-shop rock. The wild overlapping of vocals and ideas - and not-infrequent use of two-great-tunes-in-one - give ‘The Futureheads’ a kind of Year Zero instruction manual feel that is compelling and even, perhaps, dangerously exciting/excitingly dangerous.
That said, the final appearance of this long-awaited album could count, for this band, as something of softening. Only two songs here last for less than the once-statutory two minutes. Only one, however, breaks the three-minute mark, and it still takes 14 songs to get anywhere approaching an acceptable definition of a long-player.
Production-wise too they have at last managed to capture the burning ferocity of their live shows, without sacrificing any of the ubiquitous poppy-ness of the writing. This is thanks to the twinning of one-time Gang Of Four guitarist Andy Gill with brand newcomer Paul Epworth in the production chair. Epworth particularly emerges as one of the freshest production talents in the UK right now, leaving behind stints as live sound guy for the Rapture, Liars, LCD Soundsystem and The Kills, which is where the Futureheads picked him up for this, his first, production job.
‘The Futureheads’ is, if you’ll excuse the clich, the record the Futureheads have always threatened to make, and for that it has definitely been worth the extra half a year wait. The record maintains their dictionary definition of “tight”-ness, while combining with it all the sing-a-long-a-bility they manage to cram into every crack and crevice. Indeed, it is hard to put a feeler gauge between the joins of ‘The Futureheads’, or to imagine how they could have improved upon its stunningly engineered structures.
Sometimes the sparseness and economy of the album make it seem like a work of beautiful geometry; as angular and pleasingly mathematical as a dodecahedron. Other times its raucousness verges on the ramshackle. And that too is a treat. ‘The Futureheads’ is the sound of the Futureheads finding their feet, cutting loose, having fun and becoming themselves; free of influence. The early early-Wire/XTC descriptions - which always felt as much a jibe as accurate pinpointing - now seem positively inadequate.
The exuberance found here now has as much in common with the conviction that drove the first two records by The Jam, or the chakka-chakka guitars of ’Tommy Gun’-era Clash. The accents may be different (being pure Tyne & Wear), but the excitement’s box-fresh and the same, and one that’s felt strangely absent from the art fringes of guitar music for way too long (barring perhaps recent welcome incursions from the more capital “A” Art – and half a generation older - Franz Ferdinand).
Throughout, however, the Futureheads use of harmonies and call-and-response vocals, plus the sheer lyrical overload of having all four members in possession of a microphone, makes them quite unlike anyone else you’re likely to have heard before. A thorny thicket of words seems to hide a compelling secret. Lines, words and syllables are barked, spat, sung, ooh-ed and ahh-ed in, out and over each other, in a bewildering but thrilling mesh of voices. It is exhilarating, to say the least.
To say more, ‘The Futureheads’ is fresh, aggressive, strange, brazen, urgent, alienating, tuneful, abstract, scary, hysterical, fun and about to become as vital as breathing.
Barry Hyde (vocals/guitar)
Ross Millard (vocals/guitar)
Dave Hyde (vocals/drums)