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Music Review: The Futureheads – This Is Not The World

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Some bands contain so much energy that it’s hard to imagine sitting still while listening to their music. The Futureheads match that description better than most alt-rock bands in recent memory, with the exception of perhaps Franz Ferdinand or The Hives.

The band cites Devo, The Jam, XTC, and Kate Bush among their influences and the impact those performers have had on this Sunderland band is perceptible from the first few rapid notes. This is express music, double-timed for your pleasure.

This Is Not The World marks the band’s first work on their own label, Nul Records. After being dropped from 679 for not selling enough records, The Futureheads decided to make their own label and get to work on selling how they want, when they want, where they want.

This defiant attitude plays out on the record in its speed and in its addiction to energy, but isn’t there in the structure or variety of the songs. Each one pounds through similar power-pop-rock melodies, which both helps and harms this album. Mostly harms.

The damage comes when each song unfolds in comparable fashion, much like most power-pop-punk stuff. Fist-pumping choruses follow somewhat downturned verses, with a bridge ripe for light guitar tinkering floats into the last third of the song. Each song follows a related pattern, which is great for predictable pop-rock but not so great for innovation or for a band that so daringly left the confines of familiar labels to revolt on their own. When that rebellion sounds like “Sale of the Century,” an underwhelming mechanical rock tune, it loses its sting.

The pacing helps in other places, though, and the certainty becomes easier to bear on the album’s catchiest tune, “Radio Heart.” Other songs walk the same scaffold, but lack the wallop.

Unfortunately, This Is Not The World lacks the quality of 2006’s great News & Tributes and features very little by way of forward-thinking rock. “Hard to Bear” is a moving enough track, but even its rigid dive takes the clout away from the song and degenerates it into a lukewarm power ballad.

And the similarities between “Sleet” and the album’s title track serve to drive home the sameness of the album in rather noticeable terms.

Overall, This Is Not The World is a sub-standard entry in the annals of The Futureheads. This is a step backward, in my view, and the band’s originality seems to have been left back at 679 somehow. Perhaps a follow-up effort will capture more intensity, but this one’s simply too much of the same to be very interesting.

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