Strangely enough, The Futureheads are back with a strictly a cappella album, the impressive albeit unsatisfactory Rant, in which they hone their vocal skills with formidable results but leave the listener looking back with a slightly rueful nostalgia to their formulaic, guitar driven albums; we should’ve been nicer about them, really. Now look what’s happened.
Where their previous work was often satisfying but undemanding, with tracks that you loved deep down but were very slightly ashamed of admitting, this new album displays an innovativeness and originality of which you neither expect nor demand from The Futureheads; in parts it is genuinely successful but the rest feels like it needs their usual pop-punk guitar treatment to liven things up a bit and inject some variety.
The traditional songs and cover versions on the album are the main reason for any of its successes; the medieval ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’, ‘Acapella’ and ‘The Old Dun Crow’ shining in particular on this curious album. The former is an English Folk round which is an interesting choice and one that they execute particularly well, whilst the latter is a shanty-esque drinking song which, along with their cover of Kelis’ ‘Acapella’, a version which cleverly refuses to adhere to her comparisons between love and symphonies, are the best the album has to offer. Their own tracks shown here work well as a showcase of the band’s mastery of a cappella vocal, but bear witness to little of the urgency of the originals; undoubtedly The Futureheads’ intention, but in my opinion an unwelcome one. The mastery of a cappella shown here just doesn’t quite stand up by itself, and, as a result, the album feels strange and empty.
The album is undoubtedly a particularly brave and interesting one; not The Futureheads we all know, but a courageous departure from their sometimes overly consistent formula. In terms of theirs and the album’s success, a tour will be difficult and radio airplay will very swiftly die down; we can only hope that their bravery will pay off and this experiment will clear the way for more successful ones.
Released on the 2nd April 2012 by Nul Records