UK-based art-pop group the Futureheads’ self-titled 2004 debut resulted in an unassuming, rockin’ record of driving, jagged guitars, ferocious drum work, embellished vocal harmonies (even occasionally going a cappella), and punk shout-outs that shunned traditional verse/chorus/verse structures, recalling bands like Wire and Gang of Four — even the Beach Boys. Noisy, sparkling melodies were combined with sheer speed, and the record demanded repeat listens to absorb it all. And, save for a few criticisms of songs getting repetitive, and their sound being derivative of all those London new wave bands (both past and present), it was hard to deny them.
News & Tributes isn’t the same Futureheads in all their dense energetic exaltation, but make no mistake: this is no sophomore slump. Dropping their interesting quirks and whimsical immediacy for a broader musical space has allowed the Futureheads to hone their craft without holding back. And, when they are holding back, it’s on purpose, creating a nice interplay with a destructive spirit and a post-punk mentality. ‘Thursday’ is the best example of this, featuring flowing vocal melodies combined with restrained riffs. The erratic nature of the first album is used on this record by way of suggestive power.
News & Tributes proves the Futureheads can negate reservations of being trendy by taking what they’ve got and extending it into a career’s worth of possibility. Full of asymmetrical hooks, the band’s trademark harmonies add fullness and texture. A key element here is their determination to take each song in an unexpected direction and have those shifts seem natural, as shown on ‘Worry About It Later’. The Futureheads break up the more pop parts in a well-played quick reminder to their debut album with ‘Return of the Berserker’, a rousing breadth of noise rock that holds to their inherent liveliness. While the Futureheads experimental side may momentarily thwart those who had bags packed for their frenetic bandwagon, this record is catchy enough to beckon skeptics back to unpack and settle in for a long stay.