The Futureheads

The Futureheads

The Sunderland foursome delight fans with front room acoustic gig. Ross Millard’s Flat (March 27)

Entombed within a wall-mounted frame, proudly hung above the pile of football biographies on the floor, there hangs a signed Manchester United shirt. Over on the CD rack, thousands of jewel cases, taking in the disparate back catalogues of Fugazi, Hefner, Bruce Springsteen and Napalm Death, sit atop each other. The bookshelf cradles not only English lit classics, but weighty tomes on the history of Def Jam and Daniel Johnston, while on the kitchen surface, you’ll find an orange-pulp soiled smoothie maker and a pile of dog-eared vegetarian cook books. Most impressively, suspended from the ceiling using a complex arrangement of nuts, bolts, and wire, hangs a huge, purple orb with a double bed inside. To paraphrase celebrity house-snooper, Loyd Grossman… what kind of indie rocker would live in a place like this?

In the eight years I’ve been a fan of The Futureheads, I’ve seen them play some strange shows. There was a time, circa-2000, where they turned up sans instruments and proceeded to mime the entirety of their repertoire like a post-punk take on Bros. A year later, they dressed as Cybermen for a show in Sunderland, their bodies painted head to toe in metallic paint. I’ve seen them play shows in squats, in record shops, pre-game on the turf of Sunderland AFC – even an unlikely evening in 2002 supporting Shed Seven. Yet this evening, during which guitarist Ross Millard has decided to host an acoustic Futureheads show in his Quayside flat to be filmed for their forthcoming DVD – in front of the sofa, to the right of the telly and before 30 or so friends – ranks as perhaps the strangest time of all.

It’s undoubtedly one of the funnest, though; you don’t get many situations in the pursuit of live music where the audience share the contents of a fruit bowl, or where dishcloths are passed overhead whenever someone spills their drink. It’s an illuminating evening, too – an insight into a complex band at their most relaxed. They open with a skeletal arrangement of ‘Decent Days And Nights’ that, shorn of its regular guitar fuzz, provides an up-close demonstration of their acrobatic four-part vocal lunacy. Cuts from their new album ‘This Is Not The World’ follow – the title tune sounding like the early work that Elvis Costello did with The Attractions; the Ross-penned ‘Everything’s Changing Today’ featuring ‘noises’ from himself and bassist Jaff that resemble the mocking cries of kookaburras; forthcoming single ‘Radio Heart’ sounding deliciously familiar for a song that hasn’t yet had a traditional release. But a mere two weeks after returning to the UK Top 20 there’s a sense of celebration as they plough into ‘The Beginning Of The Twist’. It’s the sweet smell of triumph in the face of adversity. Well, either that or Ross hasn’t defrosted his fridge properly.

They close their set with an audience participation-heavy ‘Hounds Of Love’, Ross concerned they’re making too much noise for the flat downstairs. But when The Futureheads are sounding this good, what grounds do the neighbours, or anyone else, have to complain?

James McMahon