Post-punk, sons of Sunderland, The Futureheads have released their first studio album in nine years. Entitled Powers, it is a welcome return of the quick-paced tunes from the Wearside, ‘Mackem’ Boys. “This wasn’t a reunion for nostalgia, this was a new start.” That’s the exact words from the band (well, so their press release says..) The previous two albums; Rant (2012) and The Chaos (2010) were more experimental in nature. Powers is more what we expect from their signature sound. Up until their demise in 2010, the band had been very prolific, releasing an album every two years since their debut in 2004.
Vocalist & guitarist Barry Hyde’s self-admitted episodes of mental illness were, unfortunately, a key driver in the band’s disbandment in 2012. The guys have recently made it clear that this album was to be a clean slate with brand new music being the result. Barry’s, and indeed the band’s difficult journey over the past decade is quite evident in this release.
The album opens with the punchy Jekyll, also their lead single, which is currently on release. Despite the fast pace, there is an air of regret and reflection in the lyrics, – “Can you repair lost relationships?” Good Night Out has echoes of classic Weezer. Animus, as the title suggests has a hostile feeling, attacking and jabbing with their strong North-East English overtones coming through strongly.
Across the Border is catchy & compact at three minutes dead. The album’s publicity team references a nod to the likes of The Streets on this one, and I wouldn’t disagree. The lyric “bittersweet” is a common occurrence in Electric Shock and it is certainly a theme of this album. The band haven’t lost any of their brake-neck pace of musicianship, but it is certainly tinged with more darkness than previous releases. The anthemic guitar solo on this track will undoubtedly be worth hearing in a live setting.
Stranger in a New Town certainly has some influences from the likes of Elbow. Listen, Little Man! challenges the increasing & flawed assumption that things in life should be just handed to us on a plate –“Why do we all think so small…when was it all taken away?” Headcase is potentially an introspective, honest insight (“Help me, I’m living like a headcase”) into the mental health difficulties that have ravaged the band before their recent reformation. It is manic and the quickest track on the album at under three minutes.
Idle Hands (“Something festering…something terrible”) and Mortals are in tune with the heavier vibe of the album as a whole (“I watched, I learnt, it got under my skin..” “..and when we die it starts again”).
At their peak, once touring on the coat-tails of art-rock acts such as Franz Ferdinand, it will be interesting to see what the reaction is on a wider scale to the band’s return. Will their voice find a place in the madness of 2019 and on the cusp of a new decade? Will, they purely continue to resonate with their loyal followers from the mid-noughties or will they find themselves an additional, alternative fan-base hungry for frenetic, post-punk pop, time will tell. All in all, Powers is a brave and solid comeback record from the band.