Review: The Futureheads – Rant
Published on April 13th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
You have to give The Futureheads a lot of credit for having not only the cojones but also the talent to record an entirely a cappella album, but the fact that it’s comprised of covers – mostly of their own songs, to be fair – dictates that it registers more as an arresting curio than the subversive masterpiece that it could have been.
As a matter of personal taste, I’ve always found it hard to warm to this band purely on account of the spluttery, blokey low register of their Sunderland-chiselled singing voices, especially the grating uh oh oh! vocables they diffused into the national consciousness with their cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love”. In spite of this, the origin of their name and their endearingly honest enthusiasm were always endearing factors, and listening to Rant evidences a way with song-craft that I’d not fully appreciated.
Sounding for the most part like some kind of mad combination of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, XTC and Adam Ant, Rant is arguably at its most effective when tackling traditional folk songs – “The Old Dun Cow”, with its grin-inducing cries of “the bloody pub’s on fire” and “somebody shouted ‘MacIntyre’ (MacIntyre!!)”, is particularly diverting – and The Futureheads deserve massive kudos for making The Black Eyed Peas sound listenable on their cover of “Meet Me Halfway”.
Of their own back catalogue, “Meantime”, “Robot” and “Thursday” sound fresh and even quite exciting in their new environment, the frantic ba ba ba-ing of “Robot” working particularly well, while the exaggerated enunciation that had occasionally jarred in the past is turned into a major strength on their cover of Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing” (specifically on the line “She was a lost child / Oh she was a-running wild”), the Whac-A-Mole arrangement of their voices reminding strangely of “The House Song” from The Beta Band’s The Three EPs.
All in all, The Futureheads should be applauded for not only doing this, but doing it well. Whether or not their particular sound is to your liking, you can’t deny that the music scene would be infinitesimally more fascinating if more bands were willing to go out on a whim like this. Perhaps the growing trend of artists starting their own labels might help that along.
Rocksucker says: Three and a Half Quails out of Five!