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The Futureheads

This Is Not The World

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8 / 10 If he dies, he dies.” So spake metaphorical commie fearmonger Ivan Drago as his opponent’s central nervous system spasmed its last all over a bloodstained canvas at the start of Rocky IV. What are we doing quoting Rocky IV here, you ask? Well, the cold indifference with which the music industry shrugged off the fate of The Futureheads back in 2006 might not have been as vocal, but it could easily have proved as fatal. And for what? The band’s second album, ‘News And Tributes’, may not have flown off shelves at an Oasis-like velocity, but to call it an artistic misfire is to judge it on the subsequent split between band and label alone. Besides, only a fool (or an over-optimistic A&R, take your pick) would earmark the Sunderland quartet for commercial mass consumption, as they’ve always been too intelligent and idiosyncratic for the casual music fan to get much further than the first few bars of ‘Hounds Of Love’. Whether they like it or not, The Futureheads are Britain’s best-loved cult band.

Which is why it’s a pleasure to have them back – this time on their own label - reinvigorated, and in rude health? ‘This Is Not The World’ is fused with a sense of urgency and fuck-you bravado that’s evident from the very first line of opener ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’: “It’s time to wake up/ It’s time to change/ Let’s get it started/I feel like there’s so much to rearrange”. It marks the album as a straight-ahead punk rock record, from ‘Think Tonight’’s slashing Pistols-esque power chords to the murky riff that ushers in ‘Sale Of The Century’.

Yet, despite the band’s understandable chagrin towards the music industry, this album is far from bitter – only ‘Walking Backwards’ (“Sometimes it feels like we are walking backwards up a mountain”) appears to address their recent past. On the contrary, it’s as if they’ve found a new lease of life. ‘Broke Up The Time’ channels the jerky spirit of their brilliant early EPs, while ‘Hard To Bear’ might address the painful issue of heartbreak, but ends on a suitably triumphant note. Triumphant, incidentally, is the watchword for this album. Against all odds, and with not a little style, The Futureheads have defeated the machine at its own game and made a record that’s every bit as vibrant and vital as their 2004 debut. It’s a comeback even Rocky would raise a bruised and bloodied eyebrow to.

Barry Nicolson

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