The Futureheads - News and Tributes (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Futureheads

News and Tributes (2006)


While the Futureheads won me over with the angular guitar work, frenetic pop songwriting and impeccable vocal harmonies of their debut it wasn't until I caught the band live that I pegged what made them so endearing. Between the pompous, ironic rock of Louis XVI and the overblown light show that was Hot Hot Heat, the unassuming Sunderland four-piece won the evening on skill alone. The Futureheads flawlessly delivered on the harmonic vocals of their studio work, nailing the energy with a punky live tempo and relying on absolutely zero gimmicks. They quite simply proved themselves a classy band, and while News and Tributes takes a bit of an unexpected detour it's that class that keeps it on track.

It comes as no surprise that the Futureheads made a quick and seamless transition to maturity. Still, after the wellspring of captivating, upbeat material from their debut one wishes the band would have stayed the course just a little while longer. That's not to say that News and Tributes fails to engage, but as an atmospheric, deeper work it connects on a different level. This is a mid-to-slow tempo take on their sound. It still carries the vocal influence of the Jam and the rhythmic timing of Gang of Four, only it comes from a more introspective place.

While the booming "Yes/No" storms out the gate with the deceptive simplicity of early songs like "A to B," somber tracks like "Cope" and "Burnt" set the prevailing mood. It's not until the album passes the raging, out of character "Return of the Berserker" that it delivers its true gems. The lyrically wonderful "Back to the Sea" eclipses the band's earlier stabs at balladry, while "Worry About It Later" shows that their joyful vocal work can be fully utilized even without the bombast of their past. While "Thursday" brings the record its most sedate moments, "Face" concludes the work by gradually raising the tempo and volume. In many ways it eases the band out of their introspective phase and back to form as an immediate, triumphant rock band.

(North American fans have the four-song Area EP included as a bonus, which is both a blessing and a curse for the release. While "Area" is one of the band's best realized songs it betrays the arrangement and intended conclusion of the record. An ill-conceived remix of "Decent Days and Nights" is completely out of place here. It's a nice gesture to include the rare material, but News and Tributes is far more cohesive an album without it.)

The Futureheads have made a headphone record, a collection best appreciated when you can give it the attention and patience it demands. They remain remarkably classy and enormously likable, and that carries them through an introverted shift that would sink other bands.