Review: The Futureheads – Powers

I saw The Futureheads at Chicago’s Pitchfork Festival in 2007. The entirety of the festival, I was distracted by a girlfriend who was drunkenly hanging out at a frat house 3.5 hours away, so it remains a blur to me. However, one of the few remaining memories of the day was this band. Throughout the years, I have occasionally come back to their album News and Tributes, a bouncing rock album that could just as easily be a dance album. A lot has happened in the 12 years since then, and their long anticipated new album, Powers, attempts to catch fans up.

You can buy or stream Powers on Apple Music.

The last proper album from The Futureheads was released in 2010 (The Chaos). Since then, the band released an a cappella album (2012’s Rant) and then went on hiatus. In that sense, Powers doesn’t waste any time jumping back into the indie post-punk sound of their earlier albums. While Powers returns the band to their traditional rock sound, it is also an outlet to describe a mental illness by vocalist Barry Hyde which led to the band’s hiatus several years ago. Powers manages to be a fun rock album that dips its toes into psychedelia (“Mortals”) to express the mental struggles of the last few years that Hyde experienced.

Musically, Powers is reminiscent of what I loved about News and Tributes so many years ago. The album is a jam that manages to mix the nostalgic sounds of brit pop with punk eccentricity. Guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Miller sway between simple and repetitive punk power chords to elaborate guitar solos and haunting strings at the drop of a hat (“Jekyll”). Bassist David “Jaff” Craig provides an elaborate backing melody (“Across the Border”) while drummer Dave Hyde deposits an unrelenting display of dance beats (“Don’t Look Now”). The music isn’t terribly evolved from their earlier sound (“Good Night Out”), but it is everything expected of The Futureheads. Occasionally, there are spots of Pink Floyd levels of depravity, as the music or vocals distort (“Jekyll”, “Electric Shock”).

Although the album deals with many aspects of Barry’s mental well-being and illness, it addresses it from a distance. Even songs like “Jekyll” are left intentionally vague (“Can you control the anger in your voice / Do you enjoy a spot of violence?”) However, some songs are more brutal than others, such as “Electric Shock”, which features a synth beat reminiscent of a Guitar Hero version of the “Stranger Things” theme song as Hyde sings, “It was the middle of winter when the lights went out / When I was swallowed by the darkness / When I got my electric shock / It knocked me off my feet”. 

Meanwhile, other songs lean into the mental illness aspect, such as “Mortals”, which repeats simple lyrics over simple melodies. The beat is relentless as a cappella sets of lyrics haunt the first 2:40 minutes before breaking into a blistering rock song of redemption (“But life is burning in my bones”).

Powers is a return to form for The Futureheads, which is easy to say but hard to do. The album returns to a traditional tone for the band while forging its own unique identity. The record manages to capture the momentum that the band had over a decade ago while jumping forward in style. Powers is a solid album that manages the fine line of pleasing long-time fans as well as first time listeners that bands spend their entire career trying to achieve. 

4/5

 

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is running on an ADRENALINE HIGH!!!! 1:30 am! Sleep is for the healthy!

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