I’ve Never Seen You Look Like This Without a Reason

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:

The Futureheads – Help Us Out

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?)

The Futureheads — Yes/No

Big Country – Tall Ships Go

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.

The Futureheads – Favour for Favour

The Futureheads – Back to the Sea

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.

This month.

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16 thoughts on “I’ve Never Seen You Look Like This Without a Reason

  1. No they’re not Scottish – do some research.. and if you really want to find out what happened to Stuart Adamson’s old riffs (god rest his soul), check out Graham Coxon’s ‘Love Travels At Illegal Speeds’ – they’re all presented there. In a good way.

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  2. Are you sure they’re not ethnically Scottish? They’re from Sunderland, which is in England proper, but if I remember from my travels, so northern England they might as well be in Scotland. Hence the accent. Tell you what – do some more research for me and find out where Hadrian’s Wall is, exactly, and then get back to me. Thanks. And I’ll check out the Coxon.

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  3. Oh gosh, here it is 2006 and I had never heard that Stuart Adamson checked out.How saddening. There has never been anything else like the instrumental break in Fields of Fire.

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  4. Yeah. Srry to bring bad news. To lighten it, they had a good sense of humor; I recall an MTV interview where Adamson said BC’s third record (which became the Seer) was to be called “how the f**k do you get those guitars to sound like bagpipes?”

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  5. Sunderland is at LEAST 60 miles from the border: I can imagine you in a pub on Wearside – “Hey, you guys are practically Scottish!” – BAM! 🙂

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  6. It’s equal distance to Glasgow and Leeds from Sunderland. Being Scottish in Sunderland is like being Irish in Manchester. Again: are you sure members of the F-heads aren’t ethnic Scottish? Shane MacGowan and most of the Pogues are from London. Are they not Irish? And for the record, J Frank partied with Scottish oil rig workers in Sudnerland & Newcastle on their holday/way home. Closer we got to Glasgow, more people they knew.And please don’t ever type that passive agressive colon-period-) happy face here again. We commit to our enmity.

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  7. Careful, your non sequiturs are flourishing.The Futureheads are not, and do not sound, Scottish.Shane Macgowan is Irish, he is from Ireland.Let me see if I’ve got this straight: the closer the Scottish folks you met got to Glasgow, the more people they knew? Really?Not a semblance of a smiley. Cos this time I’m not smilin’.

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  8. Ah, sweet enabler, if anything will now flourish, it is your frown:Shane MacGowan was born in England, in Kent, actually, and only lived in Ireland from age 2-6, and then lived the rest of his life in London. He’s ethnic Irish, but not a citizen of the Republic, not at all.Not only that, the Nips and the Pogues are formed in London, most of the members are English born (and if anythng, ethnic Irish); their greatest record <> If I Should Fall With Grace From God<> is about how people <>leave<> Ireland (and sometimes come back to die, hence ‘Worms’).The Pogues are an English band using Irish music. The Undertones were Irish. I doubt you’ll now go all-after-school-special on us, running through the woods, tears in eyes, yelling ‘no.’ PS:The Futureheads sound so Scottish they could be on a Proclaimers album.

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  9. The only reason I like The Futureheads is totally because they push the Big Country buttons. I’m interested to see what they do in the future. Is it weird that I’m already looking forward to the next album. Even if News & Tributes isn’t the best album of all time, it shows an interesting evolutionary trajectory within the band’s sound that, if contiually pursued, will flourish with the next album. Maybe?

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  10. Ms. Hotpoint: Absolutely agreed. It’s all there. They play well enough that likeable failures like “Burnt” (it’s all riff &chorus, but no verse)promise excellent stuff further on.Watch. They’ll break up.

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  11. They are totally gonna break up. Or direct that potential into some sort of seiesmic shift away from the post-punk revival like The Stills or The Walkmen, and everyone will hate them.

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  12. Might be interesting if they take a left turn a la Stills, Walkmen, etc. I hope they go the way of Oneida. They have the talent. Maybe more.But they’re all so talented that someone just has to go solo soon.

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  13. Oneida can be an acquired taste; I’m unsure whether you’ll like them or not. Go track by track, since they’re albums are vastly different; one,with an orange cover, name escapes me, is unlistenable noise; a blue one has a great track on it that sounds like straight up garage rock, called “Doin’ Business in Japan.” My fave is “The Wedding,” from 2005, I think, very psychedlic, not always successful. The new track, ‘up with People,’ I think, is swell. I udnerstand they’re down to a duo now, members leaving elft and right. But they’re edging toward Can-Neu-metal stuff. I think.

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