The Futureheads; KCLSU, London, Thursday November 29

The Futureheads; KCLSU, London, Thursday November 29

New album, new label, new tunes – Sunderland’s finest are back on form

This time last year, it appeared The Futureheads were cruelly fated to be one of those two-album bands: victims of our novelty-obsessed, use-once-and-destroy musical culture. It just didn’t seem right; surely they were too smart, funny and downright lovable to go the way of Johnny No-Mark & The Also-Rans? Nevertheless, after a practically flawless debut and the single of 2005, they found themselves dropped by their label, 679, despite warm reviews for their second album. Cast out into the wilderness, things looked bleak, and they nearly buckled under the pressure. Instead though, they’ve pulled off the musical equivalent of a fuck-you makeover. They’ve been pumping riffs in the gym for a year, got their basslines done and bought a brand new outfit. Tonight, they’re back to show the world that spurned them what they’ve been missing.

“This is our first gig in 25 years!” announces Barry Hyde as his band tear into the jerk-pop glory of ‘Meantime’, sounding reinvigorated and ferocious and clearly not the same band that seemed tired and tetchy onstage last winter. The renewed energy never flags over a fast-and-furious 14-song set that debuts five tracks from their forthcoming third album. ‘Broke Up The Time’, recently issued as a free download, careers along with the brittle verve that made their debut such a thrill, while the “punk tango” of ‘Radio Heart’ is classic ’Heads, combining a great rhythm and a chorus full of yearning for “a girl who doesn’t need to dress to impress”. ‘This Is Not The World’ and ‘Everything’s Changing Today’ continue the rockier tendencies of ‘News And Tributes’, and future single ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’ recalls Wire in its heavy groove. The Futureheads sound tight and together, strengthened rather than diminished by their troubles. The fans, too, are coming out fighting, particularly a few rabble-rousers down the front. “You can’t sing ‘Fuck 679’!” exclaims Jaff, laughing.

“Can’t you count?” deadpans Barry, “isn’t it 6, 7… 8?” Ah, the sweet taste of revenge.

‘Worry About It Later’ sounds exhilarating, puff-chested and cocky; ‘A To B’ sounds every bit as exuberant and raw as when they first charmed us. The mile-wide grin on Jaff’s face as the whole band chime in on the “WOO!” bit of a rampant ‘Decent Days & Nights’ tells you they’re no more tired of it than we are. “I bet Queen felt a bit like this when they came back at Live Aid after a while in the doldrums,” says Ross wonderingly, after a triumphant ‘Hounds Of Love’. “This feels great.” Closing with fan-favourite ‘Piece Of Crap’, The Futureheads leave with the warm, fuzzy feeling that the good guys have won out after all. Welcome back, lads; you were missed.

Emily Mackay