The best of the fabulous 1980s

The Futureheads distill a riotous decade into each of their songs

by Keri Carlson

The Futureheads have nailed the spunky 1970s punk and new-wave sound. With spiky guitars that slice through twitchy stop-start melodies, they bring to mind bands such as the Jam or Gang of Four (whose member Andy Gill produced the album) with dancey songs about cities, nightlife and girls.

But this description of The Futureheads could be used for a million bands right now. What sets The Futureheads apart so much, so that they have a distinguishable sound, is their use of vocals.

The many uses of voices on the band’s debut album are insane. The Futureheads incorporate a variety of styles: They use the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll harmonies in which each member adds a new “ah” in a higher octave, like in “Twist ‘n Shout.” On the song “The City is Here For You To Use,” the vocal parts diverge into several different parts swirling into a round before joining together to shout rhythmically “Cover the cost!”

But the most unique and striking use of The Futureheads’ voices is when they sing a cappella. “Danger of the Water” features mainly vocals with only a soft keyboard. Even while applying a classic singing form, the band always sings with a heavy British accent that somehow harmonizes even while shouting.

The vocal sections are always busy – the singers are constantly switching from separate parts to joining together. It makes The Futureheads’ album quite complex. However, the complexity never distracts from the album’s fun and upbeat attitude it takes from bouncy new wave.

The Futureheads

album: “The Futureheads”

label: Sire Records