By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, October 28, 2004
There is nothing I would love better than to tear this whole indie rock thing down. Just absolutely decimate it, declare it a sham, crass marketing and that's all. I wish we could all just go home, put our copies of Joy Divison's Unknown Pleasures on the turntable and cry ourselves to sleep.
Indie rock used to signify certain things about recording methods, economics and audience. Now it's just a floating aesthetic.
8 out of 10
And I'd like to be mad about that. But things like The Futureheads' full-length debut make it hard. I picked up the jewel case, flipped it over and groaned when I saw the Sire Records insignia (Sire is a subsidiary of Warner Bros.). Great. Can't you find some other movement to co-opt?
Finally, I actually hit play. I was expecting something bubbly or maybe vaguely and unconvincingly threatening, perhaps the ol' elegantly wasted sleaze posture. Instead, I was faced with "Le Garage," whose floating, contrapuntal harmonies and roller coaster dynamics makes it the most arresting minute and 44 seconds I've heard this year. The rest of the record pretty much follows the model set out by the first track.
Certainly there are echoes of the prerequisite post-punk reference points - the Fall, Wire, Gang of Four, etc. - but The Futureheads manage to write songs that reflect the underlying pop sensibilities of those bands. "First Day" is a look at the oft-mentioned cutthroat nature of corporate business, and the lyric, "This is the job that people die for," is a merit on one level and a warning on another. Despite the relatively unhinged guitars and conventionally convention-spurning lyrics, the song somehow remains hummable.
Lines like "I don't mind/I have no mind," from "Robot" reiterates punk and post-punk themes of automatism induced by pervasive boredom. The cure is, of course, the music. "A to B" performs a trick originating with Thelonius Monk, continuing through Brian Wilson and moving on through Wire: The song is instantly memorable, yet on repeated listens reveals its intricate structure and counter-intuitive melodic twists. And, as happens frequently on the record, the lyrics hint toward the form of the song. After the lead vocal strain half-sings, "You make a question I make a comment," the background harmonies respond with the title of the song.
Though I'd like to say that this record will blow open the doors for older bands and expose them to the same audience The Futureheads will receive, it's probably not true. This band seems to be the real thing, so I can't really complain. Maybe I won't revolt quite yet.