THE FUTUREHEADS + Shoutout Louds + High Speed Scene @ El Salon

By Alex - Losing My Edge - 02/26/2005

The current crop of post-punk revivalism, spearheaded by Franz Ferdinand and including Bloc Party, TV On The Radio and tonight’s hosts The Futureheads, promotes the artier and spazzier side of the much-copied genre.  To their credit, they have stepped back from the mood music of predecessors like Interpol, realizing perhaps its limited shelf life, to bring more of a good times aspect which of course means backup shout vocals galore.  What might bore some people is that these bands are so, well, straight down the middle.  They hardly inspire as much hate from the cynics who like to rattle off the laundry list of influences (Gang Of Four, Talking Heads, Wire), because it’s hard to deny their effort and "taste" (it's much harder to hate someone who loved the same records that you did).  Despite the copping, they seem sincere and earnest in their desire to make interesting music, doing what they can within the limits of their talent.

Making their first visit to Montreal, The Futureheads made their intentions clear by blasting off with "Le Garage", showcasing the vocal interplay between all four members.  The energy was also palpable, with each instrument bouncing off each other in a jagged rhythm.  They were in good spirits and they passed the crowd’s bullshit detector with that first song.  Then came the next song.  "The City Is Here For You To Use" is a good song, but the feeling of stagnation seeped in quickly.  In fact, that was representative of the Futureheads in that they have great parts in their songs, but don’t seem to always be able to piece them together to have much sustaining impact.  Nowhere is this better examplified than in their single "Meantime", which drags through a competently written song before belatedly delivering the goods in the last part of the song.

However, the frustration is easily offset by their seeming desire to entertain and put on a good show, emphasizing audience participation in a last-call-at-the-pub kinda way.  They led the crowd in a split sing-along of the great Kate Bush cover, "Hounds Of Love".  Perhaps though it is telling that the audience was all into the chants and the hand claps, but the dancing was barely registering when one would think that the music is conducive to such activity.  Blame it on the cigarette smoke, blame it on the heat inside the glorified death trap that El Salon becomes when it sells out, or blame it on the lack of build-up versus delivery of most of their catalogue.  The sameness in the music often threatened to suffocate the blistering moments that the Futureheads are occasionally capable of delivering.

It is an uphill battle to try to convince skeptics, because their influences came from (Ed’s note: romanticizing alert) a more embattled backdrop, a time where they were more likely to inspire and change the lives of a few.  The Futureheads possess the explosiveness of The Jam, but lack the angst or ultimately, the purpose.  To be fair, the Futureheads never claimed to be in the market to peddle scathing social commentaries through their music.  The burden of their socially-conscious influences weighs heavier on them, whereas for example, the Exploding Hearts only had to live up to the heartbreak themes of The Undertones and The Buzzcocks (though they also arguably wrote better songs).  One wonders if they can even do that, as their cover of Television Personalities' "A Picture Of Dorian Gray", kicking off the encore, lacked the vulnerability of the original.  What they did manage to do was to deliver a good rock show for those interested.  As evidenced by the sweaty and enthused crowd response and the visible high in the Futureheads’ demeanours, no one minded turning the rally into a party.

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