THE FUTUREHEADS – Rant (Nul Recordings)

Making an album totally devoid of musical instruments might seem like a huge departure for The Futureheads – or any band, for that matter – but the hints were there on their last album ‘The Chaos’. The hidden track at the end of the CD was an a cappella song called ‘Living On Light’, and after the initial surprise it quickly became a favourite of mine. Even so, I never expected them to take that template and expand it into a full album, but then the vocal harmonies were always a big part of the band’s sound, and so I suppose it is a natural progression. The album is a mixture of reworkings of their own songs and covers, and ‘Meantime’, from their debut album, is a sprightly way to give you an idea of what to expect from the rest of the record. To be honest I didn’t recognise it in this new format and so it was like hearing a new song and judging it on initial impressions, which were that it might be just a bit too frenetic. Their version of Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Meet Me Halfway’, however, is superb, and suits a voices-only rendition perfectly. Richard Thompson’s ‘Beeswing’ is another track which benefits from this folky feel, and quickly became another favourite. Reimaginings of their own ‘Thursday’, ‘Robot’ and ‘Man Ray’ follow, but it is the covers which really stand out. The traditional ‘Summer Is Icumen In’ is so authentic it evokes images of groups of farmers singing it while working in their fields, and Sparks’ ‘The No. 1 Song In Heaven’ is given a complete make-over, stripping it right back so that the lyrics take centre stage and you hear them properly for perhaps the first time. ‘The Old Dun Cow’ is a rollicking drinking song, Kelis’ ‘Acapella’ is given a reverential treatment, and the hidden track this time is a live version of the folk song ‘Hanging Johnny’. So, a brave move from the band, bearing in mind the backlash that was generated when Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand decided that a complete change of direction was required. In this case I doubt that it is a permanent change, but just something that the band had to get out of their system, and so I look forward to more examples of their fractured indie pop in the future. In the meantime, this album is well worth a listen for fans of the band, or anyone else who like their music to be a little out of the ordinary.
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