By The Futureheads
As good as The Futureheads' debut was, it was often trying to be the class clown one too many times for its own good, too disjointed to ever really get going, too yelp-tastic and with one too many collective sing-a-long to get the real point across. Long-awaited follow-up News & Tributes stumbles across the half eaten trail of crumbs laid out by its predecessor, but ends up getting very lost and comes out all the better for it!
Opener 'Yes/No' feels vaguely familiar in the way that your house would if a herd of Wilderbeast had just used your living room as a rat-run back to the Serengeti. All barking vocals intermingled with driving guitars and 'grab a mic and join in' harmonies. Ok, so far so Futureheads. But then just as you would when receiving 800volts through your nadsack, you jolt just a little when you realise that, yes, this is The Futureheads. But better.
A theory that's further enhanced by third slice 'Fallout', a meaty nugget of a song that makes the concept of a nuclear disaster sound like the most beautiful thing imaginable, and is a standout among a CD crammed full of them. Before latest single 'Skip to the End' makes its presence known with a little help from a mighty power-pop riff straight out of 1986, that folds out into a case of vintage classic summer pop.
Heart-warmingly beautiful slow burner 'Burnt' (yes I can't believe I've used them words in a Futureheads review either, but listen and all will become clear) and title track 'News & Tributes' offer up a plate of something a tad different, poignant, mellow and reflective in mood, and it's here the 'heads really show off their new-found maturity. Granted they've always had an arty side to complement their intelligence, but it was often slightly distorted by their lack of structure and smart-alec complexity, but not now as these stripped down efforts reveal their true splendour.
And just when you're nodding off you're blasted with an insane wall of noise that Barry is shouting frantically from behind, you see for all their 'grown-up-ness' these Mackam lads can do fucked up with the best of them! The track instantaneously alters the mood after the restrained couple of songs before it, and shows off a new skill the 'heads have mastered, changing mood, even several times in one track on occasion.
'Worry About it Later' has future single branded across every available bit of skin on its forehead, and it oozes with everything that The Futureheads are, showing that sometimes simplicity can reap the best results, while closing track 'Face' does the near impossible job of rhyming faith and face, I mean go on try it, you'll see how hard it is, god bless those Wearside folk.
News & Tributes bare-back rides the basic formula employed on the 'heads first album; fractious tracks emblazoned with yelpy vocals and collective sing-songs, yet it takes it, dunks it in a bowl of hot soapy water, and grinds it through an industrial-strength mangle, and by the time the last of the water has dripped off the battered and broken carcass, you're left with 14songs that are evocative, charming and all the more clever for their restraint. Each one gleaming with a new-found maturity that makes you appreciate their Mackam-drenched jitter-pop so much more.