A solid return but not ground breaking.
With last years EP release 'Area', the Futureheads stole a march on their recent breakthrough peers and have followed this up by returning with their second album, 'News & Tributes.' So whilst their NME Tour comrades plod on flogging dead horses over the summer festival circuit, The Futureheads are out of the blocks.
In time their quickness will either be viewed as rushed or beneficial but that's an argument for the historians, lets just concern ourselves with the record itself.
As opener 'Yes / No' slowly cranks up the colume and itself into life, it eventually explodes into life and the simple chorus is sure to wow the crowds at the live shows. The guitar lines run excitedly and there is an air of optimism that manifests itself better than anything on the first album. And this momentum carries itself into the next few tracks and hopes are high that the album could be worth savouring.
Recalling the first Futureheads album, it would be wrong to say that this writer was particularly enamoured with it. Sure, the Kate Bush cover was a work of genius, brilliantly taking a classic track and enthuse it with a new life and energy and the band quite rightly gained the plaudits for that showing. The rest of the album was very one-dimensional though and by the end of it, there was little to make it stand out. The jagged stop start nature of the tracks and the alternating vocals were intriguing at first but failed to develop further.
Has the second album pushed on from these weaknesses? To a certain extent, yes. There is more depth to the songs, some of the tracks have pauses, and there is lightness about songs like 'Burnt' or 'Back To The Sea', which would not have existed on the previous Futureheads album. Long term fans can also revel in the clanging riffs and vocal interplays that still exist in their arsenal but thankfully for all, its not the only trick left up the Futureheads sleeve.
That said, its not all great. Comeback single 'Skip To The End' is quite a turgid rehash, akin to what a Futureheads tribute act may churn out in their spare time. The comeback single is always a tricky one as bands want to maintain their fan base but that track fails to deliver or excite. There is also a lack of great choruses or too much that grabs the listener by the throat and forces them to get excited.
The Futureheads are clever boys and they've did well in getting new material out quicker than their contemporaries and will avoid a lot of unnecessary comparisons and judgement because of this. Then again, it is not as if this album is a massive step on in sound or direction from the band, it does enough to move on but contains no massive leaps. Regular fans will be pleased, potential doubters will feel there is enough progression to justify a listen but it's unlikely to feature highly in the year end favourites.
Ironically enough for an album that starts with a track called 'Yes / No', the main phrase that comes from this record is "maybe."