THIS fifth album of the Sunderland band’s career is probably the bravest they’ll ever make.
It’s such an enormous departure from their usual frantic sound and singalong choruses that it’s hard to believe it’s the same band.
One thing’s for sure; they would never have dared release it if they hadn’t been on their own Nul Records label.
For while Barry, Ross, Dave and Jaf are known as much for their four-part harmonies as their angular post-punk, all the tracks here are performed a capella, with mixed results.
They have laid down their guitars, bass and drums, and rely entirely on their voices to drive the songs.
It is a style they have touched on before: their version of Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love on their 2005 debut album was the song which gave them their big breakthrough.
And they latched onto the idea of recording an entire album after doing an a capella version of the Kelis song Acapella for Radio 1’s Live Lounge back in 2010.
I was unsure how it would turn out after hearing their new version of their own Heartbeat Song (available as an iTunes extra track), which is one of their best singles.
It all seemed a little contrived, and had me concerned at how a whole album’s worth of this stuff would sound.
The opener, their own Meantime, gets it off to a solid start, but reinterpretations of two more early tracks, Robot and Man Ray, don’t quite pass muster.
And, for me, their covers of Meet Me Halfway by Black Eyed Peas and The No1 Song In Heaven by Sparks are among the weakest tracks here.
The highspots are their versions of folkie Richard Thompson’s Beeswing, the rollicking pub yarn The Old Dun Cow, and the aforementioned Acapella, which make the whole thing worth it.
It’s certainly a bold move at this stage of their career. I just hope it doesn’t alienate too many of the fanbase that they’ve worked so hard to build up.
It takes a very brave band to make an album this different to what they usually do, and for that, at least, The Futureheads deserve a lot of credit.
You can see them perform their a capella set at The Sage Gateshead tonight and Sunderland Minster on May 15. 7/10. GW