Album Review: The Futureheads – This is Not the World

One thing I realized the other day is that I only review albums that I like on this site.  Part of it has to do with the fact that I rarely purchase music that I don’t like since I’m pretty in tune with my musical tastes.  However, occasionally I come across an album that bores me, disappoints me, or just really is not my cup o’ tea.  Usually those albums get a few spins and then just fade away from my consciousness, only popping up on the occasional random shuffle playlist in iTunes.  I realized, though, to keep my journalistic integrity, I should probably take the time to review those as well so at least I can express what it is that I don’t like about them.

Which brings us to The Futureheads and their latest record, This is Not the World.  The Futureheads are a band that I’ve been following since the release of their self-titled first album.  I was an immediate fan of their interesting post-punk sound, and I loved the harmonies and vocal quirks inserted into most of their songs.  It’s been labeled “barbershop punk,” and the name is fitting.  That first album was full of raucous, fun, pop/punk genius, which crystallized towards the end of the album with their excellent cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds of Love.”  Their next record, 2006’s News and Tributes was basically more of the same, energetic, Clash-flavored pop/punk, but it was apparent that their songwriting was getting more mature, and the craft with which they applied their famous vocal harmonies was impressive.  It was another solid, exciting record from the Sunderland boys.

Now, in 2008, they have released their thrid album, This is Not the World.  In terms of songwriting, it’s much the same as their previous records.  These guys do what they do, and they do it well.  About two weeks ago, I posted a live video of the band performing opening track “The Beginning of the Twist” on a rooftop, and it was a rollicking, powerful performance, showcasing once again their fun harmonies, but the song also is their most urgent-sounding tune to date.  I guess I don’t have musch bad to say about any of the songs on the album, and I don’t think it’s the bands fault that this album falls so incredibly flat.

What kills this album is the production.  Remember those barbershop punk harmonies that made this band so distinctive?  Oh, they’re still there, but they’ve been buried so low in the mix as to be nearly unnoticeable.  The instrumentation is cranked to the max, and the man behind the boards has turned this otherwise solid record into another victim of dynamic range compression.  It’s a sad casualty of this ugly trend, and I hope that The Futureheads come to Austin some day soon so I can hear all of these songs live.  If their performance of “The Beginning of the Twist” is any indicator, it will be great to hear these songs as they were meant to be heard.  Until then, this record won’t get any more play from me.  Sad.

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