Back to the Future
This past Saturday night, the woman and I had the pleasure of seeing British hype band The Futureheads at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ. I'm always shocked to go to bars/clubs in New Jersey nowadays and see that people are still allowed to light up. The NYC smoking ban wasn't put into effect all that long ago, but once you've gotten used to it, it's hard to go back (and it really was an excellent idea in retrospect).
Prior to the Futureheads going on at around 11:30, concertgoers were made to suffer through opening act Pitty Sing, who really could be the worst band working the local club circuit now. I thought they sucked when I saw them open up for Metric and South back in February, and the three songs I caught at Maxwell's didn't exactly do much to change my mind. Not so much a post-punk revival band as a really lame parody of a post-punk revival band, Pitty Sing sounds like a bad version of The Stills; not exactly a quality act to begin with. Granted, sometimes live performances can be deceiving; I only warmed up to the Secret Machines and Interpol after sitting down with their records, but rest assured that this is not the case here.
The Futureheads made the wait completely worthwhile. Their debut album has already firmly entrenched itself in my year end Top 10, and their live show is extremely energetic and tight. The Futureheads were one of the opening acts on the recent Franz Ferdinand tour, but they were generally forced to hit the stage so early (say, 7:30) that few FF fans actually witnessed them. The two bands are similar in that they're both highly energetic groups owing a great debt to 80's post-punkers like Gang of Four (whose Andy Gill produced a Futureheads track or two), the main differences being that The Futureheads tend to sing about human interaction (sample lyric "you are a decent person / and you have a function") as opposed to girls, and The Futureheads lack a distinct frontman as all four members sing; often on top of one another, often like a college acapella group.
But whereas an acapella concert was always the last place that you'd find this blogger on campus, the skill with which the Futureheads utilize their vocals is borderline incredible, and creates a unique sound unheard anywhere else in indie. Each song is literally composed of nothing but vocal hooks, and the pacing of their live show is relentless and drag free; a tidy 45 minutes in which the only pauses were for witty stage banter and the occasional tune up. The sold out crowd appeared to echo my sentiments as the amount and duration of post-show cheering was far more than I'm used to hearing at the typical Maxwell's gig. I'd be surprised if they ever played there again, but I would certainly not hesitate to go. Wogwon!