Band of the Day

2011.12.24

The Futureheads

Modern British punk rock with a surprising harmonic twist
Misery is a little line, or a little dash, it's a subtraction sign. Happiness is a little cross, so if you're feeling lost, use it to add it up.
lyrics from Struck Dumb

The Futureheads are a post-punk band from Sunderland, England consisting of Ross Millard (vocals and guitar), Barry Hyde (vocals and guitar), David "Jaff" Craig (bass guitar) and Dave Hyde (drums). Forming in 2000 while attending the City of Sunderland College, the group began their career playing local shows at small venues around town. Noted for their catchy melodic punk sound and new wave sensibilities, the Futureheads take primary influence from XTC, Devo, the Jam and the Buzzcocks. Their songs are typically 3 minute, guitar-driven punk tunes with catchy melodies and memorable hooks. Another defining aspect of the group's sound is their well coordinated vocal harmonies, similar to those in Queen's hit song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” With major label support from 679 Recordings during 2004-2006, the Futureheads released their self-titled LP to a #11 UK chart position, while their sophomore LP News and Tributes climbed to #11. In 2008 the Futureheads broke out of their major label contract and opted to independently self-release their next LP This Is Not the World on Nul Records. The album charted at #1 in the UK Indie Chart. The Chaos LP was released on Nul Records in 2010, and the band is rumored to release their next album entirely a cappella.

According to The Futureheads, "Christmas Was Better in the 80s." But as awesome as their holiday ditty is, we wholeheartedly disagree with the sentiment. Because if we were in the 80s, we wouldn't have the music of The Futureheads to listen to. The Futureheads aren't your ordinary British indie rock band hawking generic melodies and a pretentious attitude. All four band members—Barry Hyde (guitar), David “Jaff” Craig (bass), Dave Hyde (drums), and Ross Millard (guitar)—are also vocalists. Together, they masterfully weave together an unlikely combination of post-punk with a-capella vocal harmonies that could easily rival the cast of Glee. “Le Garage,” the first track off of The Futureheads, is the perfect example of their pleasantly harmonious union. It starts out with various “do-do-do-dos” interspersed with “ahs!”, before lead singer Barry Hyde joins in with “Everything was ready but he had to run away/Shot for the money on the very same day/Le garage, le garage-rage!” Suddenly the tempo starts racing, and the song takes a punkier turn. However, they're also able to strip songs down to their rawest elements. Case in point: “Danger of the Water,” from their self-titled debut album. It's completely stripped away so that the many layers of vocal tones come through. Echoing the aquatic motif of the title, the vocalizations of “do-do-dododo-do” almost sound like rain drops gently coming down and pooling together into puddles. Their most recent album, The Chaos, continues to showcase what they do best, but it's also progressive. The guitar riffs in “Struck Dumb” have a sort of Russian sound, and it's easy to imagine someone dancing to it in voluminous red trousers and a black furry hat, alternately squatting and popping back up with flailing leg kicks and arm thrusts. “Heartbeat Song” is arguably the catchiest song on this album, with its singalong chorus of “Your heartbeat song, it's good but it's not the one/We're singing out of tune, but I still want to sing with you.” In concert, they are masters of showmanship. Their cover of Kate Bush's “Hounds Of Love” turns into a game, with each side of the audience competing as they sing along to different harmonies. Hypersonic songs like “Return of the Berserker,” from News and Tributes, or “Everything's Changing Today” from This Is Not The World, often induce mass pogo-dancing, crowd-surfing, and moshing from the audience. Without the smoke and mirrors of studio production, some bands just can't cut it live, but it's moments like this that make you remember why you bother going to concerts in the first place.