I’m not a futurist, but listening to the Futureheads’ third album, I can’t help but feel slightly hopeful. Like previous outings, the Sunderland four-piece sounds hyped-up and breathless, with no trace of Radiohead’s dystopia or the Strokes’ urban angst anywhere. It’s all just too damn happy, Devo without the irony or doubts or even anxiety (of influence). This Is Not the World sounds more like a Buzzcocks record—a merry collection of punk cut-ups.
Not that this is without precedent: In June 2005, I watched the ’Heads perform an acoustic set, culled from their self-titled debut, at Piano’s, and the band was raucous and wild, despite the tiny venue and lukewarm reception. World sounds like they’ve only increased their resolve in the last three years, ending on a note of defiance and jubilation with “See What You Want to See”: “I roll with the punches and make the most of it,” they sing, and for a moment you can imagine them as a pop-punk band on the Warped Tour, singing to screaming kids, not saddled with the bored consumers of the indie movement.
Which isn’t to say, though, that everything is alright. Lyrically, there are some clippy moments: “You will never find anyone to come along and take you by surprise,” frontman Barry Hyde chastises on “Think Tonight,” while the title track moans that “the pavement’s cracked and the cars are swollen.” (Or is that stolen, or potentially Simolean? It’s hard to tell given the skuzzy guitars and Hyde’s elongated British delivery.) The band has cause to feel nervous: In January, the Futureheads were dropped from their major label and started Nul Records (as distinct from the Japanese gabber/hardcore label of the same name) to compensate. But even while tracing unhappy sentiments, World’s worldview is relentlessly positive. The line beginning “Everybody wears their frown,” after a short beat, ends with “upside-down.” The pause is long enough to be momentarily unsettling, but not so long as to ruin the cheer.
The Futureheads play Bowery Ballroom June 17, boweryballroom.com