Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Futureheads - Rant

The Futureheads have ditched guitars! They have made an a cappella album! It’s a totally NEW direction! Let’s get that obligatory stuff out of the way.

On first impression, ‘Rant’ is a vague soup of harmonies and ‘doo-wop’s, which I must admit kinda sounded like those doo-wop bits on Glee in-between scenes. (I watched one series to see what the fuss was about, OK!) However, after a few listens, some songs do begin to emerge. ‘Beeswing’ is a huge nod to traditional folk singing and is really quite touching; "She was a rare thing/ Fine as a bee’s wing/so fine a breath of wind might blow her away", and even moving ; "they say her flower’s faded now/ hard weather and hard booze/ but maybe that’s the price you pay for the chains that you refuse", telling a classic tale of a scatty girl for whom "even a gypsy caravan was too much settling down". The second track is a cover of Fergie’s ‘Meet Me Half Way’ which, once you get past the original amusement, is a bloody good cover, reinventing the song and really making it their own (just like THAT Kate Bush cover from a few years back). Barry White’s vocal succeeds in bringing out the meanings of the words and the emotion behind them, compared to the rather bland original. Another highlight is the band extolling the virtues of robotic love in ‘Robot’: ‘the best thing is our lifespan/ we last 900 years/ if that means we’ll be together …’

The Futureheads’ electric songs often sound urgent and sometimes quite boisterous. It would be far too simplistic and just plain wrong to assume that this is lost in the harmonies the a cappella songs (they have also always, remember, been very harmonious). On ‘Meantime’, the first song of the album, Barry Hyde almost snarls "when I said you were a moron/ when I said it I was smiling/ so you thought that I was joking." In this way, the band (or maybe that should be ‘group’ now?) manage to steer away from the twee and the fey. Some songs do sink into the vagueness, but I have no doubt that on further listens they will begin to take shape. This album is a refreshing antidote to the bland, electronic computer-fuckery that’s around these days, and shows a real and deep understanding of song writing and harmony.


Holly Read-Challen

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