- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Hello, we’re the Futureheads. We’re from [some unintelligible English city].” The ‘Heads talk fast (“thonks, chairs,” meaning, “thanks, cheers”). They play fast. And they pack up fast.

On the opening night of their first U.S. tour, Monday at the 9:30 Club, the U.K. punks were there and gone in under an hour, blazing through their debut album and floating one-liners that no one could quite follow.

The Futureheads are wonderful at first impressions. The working-class lads (from Sunderland, it turns out) have post-punk-pop hooks to match Scottish rivals Franz Ferdinand and convulsive power-guitar interplay that could send the Libertines’ Pete Doherty back to his jail cell in a whimpering fetal crouch.

Everyone — guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Millard, bassist Jaff, and drummer Dave Hyde (Barry’s younger brother) — can sing like doo-wopping angels. They pull off countermelodies and rhythmic dynamics that make your head spin while maintaining a jocular atmosphere that seems appropriate for a Wiggles concert.

(Have I mentioned that the elder Mr. Hyde looks great in white suede loafers?)

The problem — it’s a fixable one — is precisely the unrelenting speed that makes the band so bracing. Like a sugar high, the ‘Heads feel great at first. Then you’re dying for a slab of protein slathered in grease.

Which might explain why so many 9:30 Clubbers didn’t mind splitting before the band’s encore: Once you’ve ingested “Le Garage” with its endlessly hummable chorus and pogo-hopped to “Robot” and “Meantime,” sticking around for more of the same seems unnecessary.

The remedy is obvious: more variety, more range. There are hints the Futureheads know this. They tweaked the shape-shifting arrangement of “A to B” to focus more on the group’s garage-choir facility for vocal harmonies. And they turned Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love” into a churchy singalong in which one side of the room takes one part and the opposite side takes another.

What they evidently didn’t dare try was “Danger of the Water,” a tricky, nearly a cappella number from their self-titled CD. A momentum killer, the ‘Heads probably figured. But perhaps it could’ve been a tempo tonic in a show that was all momentum and no release.

The Futureheads have showmanship and chops, and they have the potential to poke their heads into the American mainstream, as Monday night’s healthy crowd indicated. All they need is to extend their ken past early-‘80s influences such as the Jam and Minutemen, and locate the more vintage sounds that are lurking in their DNA. (The Kinks and The Who are somewhere in there.)

If they do that, they’ll leave less-talented rivals trampled under white suede.a


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