Singing: a simple idea, but it seems like bands these days do anything they can to mask their vocals, either due to weakness or disinterest. So it's almost jarring when a band comes along like the Futureheads, whose members seem to show off their impeccable pipes on every song. Their self-titled full-length debut begins with "Le Garage," a wonderful four-part harmony launching into a stuttering pop-infected anthem that's over by the time you figure out what's happening. From there, the Futureheads set out to prove that anything can be said -- no, sung -- in two minutes or less.
It would be an understatement to say that the four-piece from Sunderland, England, has a knack for writing short, catchy pop songs: They've mastered it. In the album's fifteen songs, which race by in less than forty minutes, the band's enthusiasm cannot be contained; vocals spill from all corners of the songs, propelled by drummer Dave Hyde's awesomely syncopated style. The band been compared to punk popsters (not pop punkers) like XTC, the Jam and the Buzzcocks. It's not unfounded, but the Futureheads aren't re-treading ground as much as they are merely celebrating it.
Like many debuts, The Futureheads offers a history of the band's output up to the point of its release. It includes many previously released British-only EPs, singles, and giveaways, so it is as much a compilation as it is a new album. Both "Le Garage" and "Carnival Kids" are on their 2001 demo. But that also makes it easy to see the band's creative progression: the newest songs are also the best in most cases. "Danger of the Water" offers the album's only quiet moment. Nearly a capella, it's a beautiful song buried in four-part harmonies over a quietly pulsing organ; it sounds endearingly not unlike a British invasion band imitating a Motown record. And by British, I mean hopelessly British; the band does nothing to hide its thick regional accents, subsequently adding to the authenticity.
The Futureheads is not just the kind of album that quickly grows on you, it's the kind that every subsequent listen yields a new favorite song. Mine is currently "The City is Here for You to Use," with its odd time signature and difficult structure but still amazingly infectious refrain: "Cover the cost/ cover the cost."
Judging by the album's newest tracks, it seems the Futureheads will only get better, and perhaps gain the American success that eludes most worthy bands from across the pond. With their debut, the Futureheads have already mastered the art(iness) of the pop song, and the possibilities are limitless for this tremendously talented young band.