ALBUM REVIEW: The Futureheads – Powers (Nul Records)

The Futureheads – Powers (Nul Records)

Sunderland indie-rock heroes The Futureheads are back with their first electric guitar release in almost a decade – and it’s like they’ve never been away.

The quartet, who emerge at the start of the ‘00s as part of a swarm of guitar bands, stood out from the off.

They didn’t try to disguise their Mackem twang, wore influences like Gang Of Four and Adam Ant (listen to Car Trouble …) on their sleeve, and were a refreshingly honest blast of spiky North East talent.

They earned an NME Single of the Year award for their cover of Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love, released five critically-acclaimed albums and headlined countless tours before going on indefinite hiatus in 2013.

The Futureheads are back with their first album since 2012.

Now, to everyone surprise and delight, guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Millard, bassist David ‘Jaff’ Craig and drummer Dave Hyde are back with a new album – and it’s a belter.

Their last album, 2012’s Rant, was an a capella effort which expanded on the four-part harmonies which set them apart from their peers.

It was an enjoyable enough record, if light years away from the guitar-powered post-punk which made us fall for them in the first place.

But I‘m pleased to say their return is a full-on return to their earliest days, when their sound was instantly recognisable, and there’s no mere retreading of past glories.

It kicks off with aptly schizophrenic lead track Jekyll, which won the support of 6Music’s Steve Lamacq, Marc Riley and Shaun Keaveny, who made it his single of the week.

The Futureheads will promote Powers with a UK tour in December.

That’s quickly followed by one of the album’s standout tracks, Good Night Out, which references the local habit of “talking to the river at the end of a good night out”.

Elsewhere, Animus addresses Barry’s depression, which, we now know, derailed the band in the first place, questioning “is your life a struggle, did something burst your bubble?”.

Across The Border examines the Heads’ hometown becoming the face of Brexit, asking “what will it take to change your mind?”, while the excellent Listen, Little Man ponders “when did we all think so small?”

The frantic punk rush of Headcase is another song about Barry’s mental health struggles, and probably my favourite on the album.

He sings: “There’s madness in your eyes/And you don’t even know/I think you’ve lost the plot/I think it’s time to go/And get some help, “What do you mean?/I’m feeling great/Just look at the smile on my face”. Brave – and I’d imagine very cathartic – stuff.

There’s joy here too, in the shape of 0704, a love song to his partner and young daughter which is the most sentimental song they’ve ever written.

Ross, who’s also a member of Frankie & The Heartstrings, says it’s a record which “is a little off kilter and maybe a little more out of step than you might expect from four lads in their 30s. I think it might surprise people.” It does, and in a very good way indeed.

The Futureheads sound completely reinvigorated, and it’s good – no, make that great – to have them back. Their  December tour promises to be a treat. 8/10

Gary Welford owner