Let’s discuss the Futureheads, shall we?
First of all, hate the name. Enough with the ‘head’ suffix already, please (this means you Radio, Talking, Oyster, Base, Bed, Blonde Red, Hammer, Lemon, etc.)
Second, as suggested by an esteemed commenter, they do press my aging hipster buttons, probably because they do come so dangerously close to aping my favorite bands of 25 years ago: the Jam, the Damned, and one other I’ll mention later*. Then again, this is defensible, since these days it is a feat alone to play like the aforementioned faves, let alone approach their songwriting skillz. The F-heads’ latest and second effort, News & Tributes, sometimes suffers from cut & paste (used to be called paint by numbers, but this is the computer age) songwriting, where the weight of influences and learned instrumental moves seem too heavy to allow a song to survive amid it all:
When their Scottish accents (are they even Scottish?) come through, we’re left with tracks so evocative of Big Country* that I’m left embarrassed to say that’s the nerve they hit, but then that makes them so less of a manufactured aging hipster band, since Big Country will never pass for Editor Rock. Even the chorus on the following track reminds me of the football-chant-y, complex-but-stadium-ready type stuff Big Country would drop sometimes (and they were a slight bit more than the silly by-name single – ed’s note). Maybe the Futureheads would prefer to be known as Skids enthusiasts, the punkier band from which BC sprang; it matters little. (PS – y’all know BC frontman Stuart “Feed the People” Adamson hanged himself a year or two back, right?)
And then they get it right, subsuming and reconfiguring all their influences, or at least the right ones, right ones meaning those you don’t immediately hear in their postpunk ventriloquism, like early Peter Gabriel, or Kate Bush, whose ‘Hounds of Love” the Futureheads so eloquently covered on their debut.
And if it’s still music for aging hipsters, then okay. I admit it. J Frank takes a hit to a vital organ. But you will never catch J Frank gorging on NPR-hoggers like Wilco, Aimee Mann, or the Arcade Fire. I have drawn a line in my hardwood floor, and it will not be crossed by anyone other than the Futureheads.