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Album Review: The Futureheads ‘Powers’

While it might feel like the last few years have really changed the country, the globe, and the world as we know it — the one thing we hadn’t heard from in awhile was UK indie post-punk group, The Futureheads.

Friday, August 30th marked the release date of The Futureheads‘ sixth studio album, Powers, via Nul Records. The last time we heard a studio album from the fourpiece, it was 2012. Solo records, and acapella releases made for a different sound than the frantic British guitar hysteria harmonies fans were used to. Now, in 2019, the band sounds reinvigorated — proving their worth for old friends, and new friends alike.

I have to be honest in this review — it is coming from someone who had not heard previous Futureheads material before. This was my first intro to the ’00s UK post-punk outfit, and I have no prior top hit or B-side nostalgia to compare it to. For some bands, this is the prime listener. One with fresh ears and eyes, no harsh criticism on ‘selling out,’ growing old, or changing for the worse.

It’s precisely that inertia that Futureheads is happy to have –going forward, rather than backward. “Obviously it’s an absolute privilege to come back and still have fans and that’s something to cherish,” Ross Millard (vocalist, guitar) said, “but I also think we’ve got a bit of a job to do about letting people know that there’s more to this band than you might have thought.”

Powers is just that — a powerful, punk, frantic, loud, spazz of a record. It’s riffs are fierce, the pace is fast, and the lyrics are deep. “I love the thing Bowie said about how an artist should be slightly out of their depth because that’s when you get the good stuff,” Barry said, in a press release. “Or as David Lynch says, ‘If you want to catch the big fish, you’ve got to go deep.”

With song titles like the opening track, “Jekyll,”or the eighth track, “Headcase,” or even the closing track, “Morals,” mental health was certainly at the forefront of this record.

“My main thing was about accepting how my mind works and then trying to love that. The danger of mental illness is becoming trapped in something like depression; you can’t stay manic for too long, you end up sectioned or probably dead because you become so uncaring about your own safety,” he explains. “I’m not a victim of my own mind anymore; I take responsibility for my mind and my actions, and those two songs (“Headcase” and “Animus”) speak to that.”

“Stranger in a New Town” is a personal stand-out track, but not for the reason you might think. It’s not a seemingly vulnerable song, or display of affection –not that I can tell. It is however, really reminiscent of ’80s synth-driven songs, and had the same feel as Madness’ “Our House,” or “Space Age Love Song” by A Flock of Seagulls.

The closing track, “Mortals” features a repetitive chant (Today I learned something…and what I learned… it got under my skin), and can almost be pictured at some type of witch gathering, or seance. It’s got a real spooky, Tim Burton film-kind of sound. I can imagine this as a B-side on The Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack.

Real life can be real scary — anyone who’s living will tell you that. With Futureheads latest release, Powers, we get the sense that the world is full of controversy, turmoil, and things that might just leave us scarred –but that only means one thing: we’re alive. Living life is powerful, it’s a flurry of frantic, often manic emotions — chalk it up to the powers that be.

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah's a little bit of a rock 'n' roll rebel, almost always at a concert. She loves to soak up the scene, immersed in the music journalism world, still buys CDs and rents music documentaries from the library. Just don't call her a hipster. She's never been that stylish.

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