Release Date: Jun 1, 2010
Record label: Dovecote
Genre(s): Rock, Indie/Alternative
If you hate The Futureheads, you have no heart. The Sunderland trio consistently writes some of the best bounce-your-body, bob-your-head songs known to man. The group’s fourth album, The Chaos, demonstrates that it has lost none of the infectious enthusiasm that made 2004’s self-titled debut such a pleasure to hear. Whether it’s the punchy ebullience of “Struck Dumb” or the brash boisterousness of “Heartbeat Song,” the threesome sounds like it’s on an adrenalized sprint to the finish, which seems to arrive all too quickly.
The second law of thermodynamics states that any process that occurs will tend to increase the total entropy of the universe. In layman’s terms, everything tends towards chaos. The Futureheads arrive at The Chaos four albums into their careers, but without any indication that they’re experiencing an entropic dispersal. The title itself is almost misleading when attached to an album of songs this surefooted, this carefully constructed from those familiar angular guitars and vocals thrown back and forth.
It'd be a shame if history only remembered the Futureheads for one near-perfect album (2004's self-titled debut) and for being unlikely forerunners of the current Kate Bush revival (thanks to that album's heroic "Hounds of Love" cover). But that tricky balance-- between buzzsaw aggression, mathematical complexity, and bubblegum accessibility-- the Sunderland quartet once deftly executed proved difficult to strike on subsequent releases. The result was a more pedestrian, power-pop aesthetic, and, by 2008's This Is Not the World, a band once near the head of the post-millennial post-punk class was threatening to be demoted to one of its also-rans.
[a]The Futureheads[/a] are a bit like the art-pop Heinz beans; despite the occasional professed new and improved recipe they’ll always reliably and essentially remain the same. You might stray over to a newer, seemingly more exciting pulse, but you’ll always end up crawling back because there’s no beating a bit of spiky, saucy familiarity. From the outset then, [b]‘The Chaos’[/b] is undeniably a vintage ’Heads album, its [i]“Five, four, three, two, one… GO”[/i] opening gambit recalling the teetering anticipation that begins [b]‘Man Ray’[/b], wrapped around a [b]‘The Beginning Of The Twist’[/b]-esque driving guitar romp underscored by a slightly wobbly, off-kilter discordance.
As a rule, “maturity” hasn’t set well with the legion of post-punk bands that made their debuts in the mid aughts. Acts like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, and Arctic Monkeys have all struggled to various degrees with matters of voice and direction once they made it a couple of albums into their respective careers. The Futureheads look to buck that trend on their fourth record, The Chaos.
The Futureheads’ previous album This Is Not the World left the band at an impasse -- with neither News & Tributes’ grand scale nor The Futureheads’ quirky focus, it often felt dangerously close to ordinary. At first, The Chaos seems to follow suit, offering a similar mix of glossy, ‘80s-tinged rockers (the title track, “Sun Goes Down”) and clever-yet-straightforward radio songs like “Struck Dumb” and “Heartbeat Song,” both of which edge the band closer to the mainstream. But just when it feels like the album is going to be quintessentially “solid”, The Chaos gets interesting.
In 2008’s This is not the World, The Futureheads broke free from the shackles of big business by deciding to start their own label. Interestingly enough, it was the Sunderland band’s most accessible: rapid, unsyncopated time measures were replaced with more conventional rhythmic patterns that relied on pop hooks and repetitive choruses. You would think that making it on their own terms should’ve rewritten the Futureheads’ story completely, especially when the ties that bound them weren’t present anymore.
For a fourth album, the Futureheads’ latest album The Chaos makes a fine debut. Naïveté, energy, and a decided willingness to play with conventional song structures identify The Chaos as the sort of fireball usually deployed by a band ready to make its mark in a terribly crowded scene. What’s strange about this is that the Futureheads have had four albums with which to make their mark, the first of which was near-universally lauded as a fine debut even if its pièce de résistance was a cover tune.
Britain’s most interesting guitar band furthers their winning weirdness. Gary Brabin 2010 It’s easy to forget the trajectory of stardom this Sunderland four-piece were on before they dropped 2006’s esoteric News and Tributes: the band’s second album, and a befuddling listen if you’d been reared on the student disco fodder of their eponymous 2004 debut. Singer Barry Hyde summed it up at the time: “It was almost like we made our fifth album second, like we jumped ahead of ourselves.” Nevertheless, fans smiled and thought: “Can’t wait to hear album number six.” See, The Futureheads always had more nous, more range, more brains than their indie punk peers.