The Zodiac, Oxford
13th October 2003
Sunderland quartet The Futureheads are one of those bands that compel you to see them before – just in case – they get famous.
Energetic and punchy pop punk rockers, they have a good line in short sharp bursts of urban tales, mostly reminiscent of early XTC (though a bit more flippant in their story-telling) but with echoes of early Jam (especially on Ticket) and Gang of Four, which isn’t surprising as their recent EP 1-2-3-NUL! was produced by Andy Gill.
They’re also idiosyncratic, with songs like Stupid and Shallow (which Rolf Harris look-alike Ross Millard dedicates to the act of buying shoes) and Piece of Crap rubbing shoulders with recent single First Day, about the reality of growing up and getting a job, Man Ray, possibly a paean to the artist (though it’s hard to tell) and a cover of Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.
Ross, Barry Hyde and Jaff, all on guitars and vocals, demonstrate very impressive lyrical play and harmonies; this alone makes them worth seeing. They seemed to have honed this down to a fine, if eccentric, art, sometimes even yelping or yodelling, but always in time with each other. The tune does sometime make way for the vocals and rhythm, admittedly, and they do tend to like one particular note and don’t deviate from that much, but their habit of slightly wandering off in another direction mid-song is endearing and at least keeps your attention.
Everything seems very quick and urgent with The Futureheads: their subject matter, staccato guitar and vocal styles and song lengths. They’re strong enough for the catchiness of their songs to also develop; they’re otherwise very impressive but the tunes you take away in your head aren’t theirs but the songs of artists they sound like, sung by their voices.
From Nightshift, November 2003