Despite all their good work over the past nine years, for a lot of people The Futureheads will always be associated with feisty cover of ‘Hounds Of Love’, a great record but one that brought a slight whiff of novelty along with it. It’s clearly not something that bothers them though, as Rant sees them dispense with their guitars, drums and everything and else to record entirely a capella. For those who like what they know it’ll surely be a step to far, but for those with a more open mind their fifth album is a real treat and one that is testament to the joys of artistic freedom that having your own label can bring.
A combination of covers, old songs and traditional tunes, Rant is certainly not a novelty record. As with everything the band have turned their hand to, it seems to come from a genuine place. Not to say that there’s ‘always been a folk element’ to the Futureheads’ music in the past, but they always displayed a keen ear for vocal harmonies – something that is taken to the extreme here. The quartet tackle the task with gusto, dropping elements of doo wop, gospel and traditional singing. While the thought of twelve tracks might seem off putting, there’s enough variety on offer to ensure that the attention never wanders.
Thus they rework their own ‘Meantime’ and ‘Robot’ without ever losing sense of the originals’ deft melody, transform the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘Meet Me Halfway’ into something quite beautiful and get to the heart of Richard Thompson’s ‘Beeswing’ and Sparks’ ‘The No.1 Song In Heaven’. The influence of the North East is clear on the folk numbers, coming across as a more rowdy, blokey version of the Unthanks, and their spirited version of ‘Acapella’ by Kelis could not be more apt. So what seemed like a recipe for disaster turns out to be one of the year’s most engaging albums. As Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees have proved of late, being an indie band doesn’t need to condemn you to a life of dull guitar music. Few, though, have pushed the envelope as far as The Futureheads and it suits them down to the ground.