The Truth About Music: Play It Loud

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Triple Take: The Futureheads

It may be too early to start forming definitive opinions yet, but I believe the mid-00’s will be remembered as the greatest era of “Indie Rock”. Much the same way that time has revealed the early to mid 90’s as the true golden age of hip-hop, the mid 00’s gave us an almost embarrassing abundance of great Indie Rock. From The Shins to Sufjan Stevens to TV On The Radio, there were many great musicians working at their peak during that 4-5 year stretch. That period was so flooded with great Indie that many excellent artists and albums simply fell through the cracks, their releases lost in the sea of great music. The Futureheads are one of those bands.

Best known for their amazing cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds Of Love,” The Futureheads self titled debut received very good reviews at the time of it’s release in 2004, but has since been swept into obscurity, with only their aforementioned cover song getting much recollection these days. This is a shame, as The Futureheads is an excellent album, so let’s take a look at three of the songs that show why this band was more than just another run of the mill NME buzz band.

While it is probably best known for it’s brief use in the Happy Maddison cult comedy Grandma’s Boy, “Meantime,” the fifth song on the record, is a perfect example of what made The Futureheads such a compelling band. Opening with a clean guitar strum that gives way to a propulsive bass line, “Meantime” kicks into gear as a gnarled guitar riff propels the song forward. From here singer Ross Millard starts singing in his heavy Welsch accent to an unnamed person, giving sarcastic advice with a clear smirk on his face. “you thought that I was joking when I said you were a moron, when I said it I was smiling, so you’ think that I was joking” goes a typically snarky line, as Millard’s bandmates fill in the backing harmonies. “Meantime,” like all but 2 of the songs on the record, is over in less than 3 minutes, but it leaves a big impression and is perfectly emblematic of the album.

Next up is “Alms,” which clocks in at just over two minutes yet is still not the shortest song on the album. Here The Futureheads show off their more experimental side, expanding on their blend of Post Punk influenced Indie Rock to include a string quartet. While it doesn’t have the same instant ear worm quality as “Meantime,” it is a fine bite sized composition. “Alms” proves that The Futureheads had an ability to blend the dance punk intensity of Gang Of Four with the psychedelic experimentation of late XTC perfectly to form their unique sound.

Finally, we arrive at “Danger Of The Water.” Until now I haven’t mentioned the fact that The Futureheads originally met as part of an A Capella group, though their intense and multi layered harmonies might have led one to guess as much. However, it is on “Danger Of The Water” where they fully indulge their formidable vocal talents, and the results are nothing short of gorgeous. starting with a slow, soft “do, do do do” refrain, the song slowly builds vocal harmonies on top of one another until there is a full melody in place. On top of those vocal melodies and a single pulsing organ line Millard sings a story about he and a lover drifting apart in a body of water. He uses this as a metaphor for a relationship coming apart, as he sings of being unable to “stop you from going under” while watching in futility. Ultimately heartbreaking and beautiful, “Danger Of The Water” is the most unique and strange song on The Futureheads, and further demonstrates just how great and original this band could be at their best.

So what happened to The Futureheads? They received very good reviews and buzz from all the big internet tastemakers, had their music featured in movies, everything was set for them to follow the 00’s template for breaking into the indie mainstream and then…it just didn’t happen. Their 2006 followup News and Tributes was again well received, but by then it was too late, for whatever reason the internet hype machine had moved on, and The Futureheads were just another forgotten band whose buzz had flamed out too quickly. Maybe it was a matter of timing, or trouble blowing up across the pond from their native UK. Whatever the reason, The Futureheads have been mostly forgotten, which is a shame, because their self titled debut is a true lost classic of that era of Indie Rock, and these three songs prove just how much this band is in need of being rediscovered.

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