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Album review: The Futureheads – Rant

  Thursday 15th March 2012

Believe it or not, The Futureheads have been around for almost a decade.  That’s long enough to release four critically acclaimed albums and develop one of the most recognisable sounds in the British music scene.

It’s worth remembering that this endurance has also seen its fair share of strife.  In fact, the band’s anger and distrust with the music industry led them to set up their own independent record label in 2007.  Gaining a reputation as a group that doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to speaking its mind, the title of the new album comes as no surprise.

The hotly anticipated Rant is sung entirely a cappella, that is without any instrumentation- just the heavily-accented vocal harmonies of a group previously known for its Rock-guitar riffs and post-Punk tendencies.  While getting a chance to realise the breadth and scope of the Sunderland foursome’s vocal competencies, this album also gives us a chance to come to terms with their irrepressible ambition.  On first listen, it’s clear that Rant is unlike anything that has come out of the British music scene in a very long time.

It’s fair to say that listening to the album is like venturing on a weird and wonderful journey, and once you get used to the a cappella idea, it’s hard not to be captivated.  The first song is a cover of one of their earlier singles, Meantime.  Colourful and textured, it also breaks us in gradually for what’s in store later in the album – most notably their bizarre and surreal versions of The Black Eyed Peas’ Meet Me Halfway and Kelis’s Disco hit Acapella.

Whether you’re excited, bemused, or just think your brains are deceiving you, by the time you reach their take on an interesting selection of traditional English Folk chants – Sumer Is Icumen In, The Keeper and The Old Dun Cow, you’ll realise that there really is no turning back.  Like many English Folk tales, their lyrics are, at times, dark and disturbing, but nonetheless mesmerising.  Unlike the Laura Marling-cum-Mumford and Sons’ Folk revival we’re familiar with, The Futureheads pay homage to (rather than move on from) the much under-appreciated genre.

Feeling as if you’ve journeyed through an enchanted fairy-filled forest, the climax of the album is undoubtedly their cover of the 70s’ Pop classic The No. 1 Song in Heaven.  How they managed to retain the sparkly Disco sound of the original, without a synthesiser or mixing deck is beyond me.  The only thing that I was certain of was that I didn’t want the journey to end.

In an industry of over-production, Rant demonstrates a refreshing and inspiring refusal to conform.  The album is organic, but also technically flawless and innovative.  While I don’t think this signals a new direction for the band, they’ve taken the opportunity to show off their breadth of talent.  Headstrong, stubborn, or just downright audacious, they’ve certainly got our attention.

 

Verdict: •••••

Connie Viney

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