The Futureheads

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Album: The Futureheads
Label: Sire

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Album: Please Describe Yourself
Label: V2

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The late-'70s and early-'80s blur wherein post-punk and new wave shared living quarters (and sometimes commingled) feels ripe for revisitation now, and a host of bands from L.A. to London appear eager to capture the essence and/or the sound of the relatively recent past. The Futureheads and Dogs Die In Hot Cars—both young, both British, and both with strikingly bad names—pluck different elements from the same era and run with them, and both have enlisted assistance from producers who could help authenticate the sound. There's lots of rear-view neck-craning going on, though it rarely causes serious strain.

The members of Scotland's Dogs Die In Hot Cars claim they hadn't heard XTC before they wrote the bulk of the songs on their debut album, Please Describe Yourself. That seems plausible, considering XTC's slow disappearance into the record collections of thirtysomethings. But there's no denying the sonic similarity between the two groups, particularly the heady timbre of Craig Macintosh's voice, which an expert might mistake for Andy Partridge's. Unlike most new-wave time-travelers, Dogs Die In Hot Cars ignores the era's punkier push, embracing the cheery radio pop that it spawned instead. Names that haven't been heard outside I Love The '80s have spilled forth for purposes of comparison: Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley, British producers who won fame crafting records with Dexy's Midnight Runners and Madness, have polished up their "eccentric '80s pop" button and pushed down with force. There's even a hint of Big Country on the sometimes ingratiating, often just breezily enjoyable record.

The presence of producer Andy Gill on The Futureheads' self-titled debut foreshadows a different sound from the same time frame: The Gang Of Four guitarist surely sees some of his old band's wiry tension in "Robot" and "Alms," two standouts on the short, smart, unrelenting album. But where Please Describe Yourself clings to certain time-sensitive signifiers to the point of distraction, The Futureheads bounces between then and now with enough flair that the obvious comparisons (The Jam, Gang Of Four, Wire) can be viewed as reference points rather than blueprints. Straightforward standouts like "Stupid And Shallow" find weird partners like a cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds Of Love," adding up to a punchy and exciting debut that's nearly as good looking forward as it is looking back.

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