To the late-night indie knucklehead, The Futureheads are tethered to their 2005 cover of the warbling Kate Bush number, ‘Hounds of Love’. If you were foolish to palm them off as a poor man’s Maximo Park, then shame on you. Though they lost some standing by 2008, for a few brief years these lovable Sunderland chaps had indie boys jerking all over the place... dancing, I mean.
This week they released Powers, their sixth studio album and first for six years. Come for the jaunty accents, stay for the jagged guitar lines; The Futureheads USP. Same old same old, right? Well, that’s just where you’d be wrong. Because Powers is no saunter down memory lane. I must confess that when I first heard there was a new album on the way, I too worried it might be. But apparently The Futureheads have no time for nostalgia, hurtling through some of their best melodies and harmony’s yet, with a rejuvenated, frostier edge.
The Futureheads have always had the means to show more grit and angst, but perhaps in the dewy eyes of youth didn’t have the motive. Now into their mid-late 30s and kicked around by life, the narrative comes easily. Mental health struggles, separation, and, what else, impending European exile – all ammunition to creating their rawest album yet. More Wire than Buzzcocks, more Gang of Four than Undertones, Powers is a more inwardly looking, more afflicted post-punk record. The band sound gloriously refreshed. Ravenous, earnest, at times ratty. Powers has gnarled edges but retains the unmistakable spasms of humour that first made them one of the mid-‘00s standout indie slingers.
Something you can always expect from The Futureheads is big, join-in choruses, and Powers is no different. Choruses are plump and abundant where almost every track can have you shouting along in no time. Lead single ‘Good Night Out’ exemplifies this; its battling “whoah-oh” chorus is straight-up formula Futureheads.
As already mentioned, Powers has plenty of punk attitude, and it is these moments that most impress. ‘Across the Border’ is an under-three-minute riotously good bluster, with U.K Subs style and Stiff Little Fingers substance. ‘Don’t Look Now’ and ‘Stranger in a New Town’ are also favourites – tracks reminiscent of the fun, catchy side of early post-punk.
Over six years out from making music together is a heck of a respite and, as shown earlier this month by contemporaries Friendly Fires, long absences don’t always yield a noteworthy return. Fortunately, Powers is an earnest and successful one which sees The Futureheads at their absolute best.