The Futureheads - Rant (Nul)

An a capella record from Sunderland's premier indie band

Released May 17th, 2012 / By Larry Day
The Futureheads - Rant (Nul) Striding boldly forth with a cappella effort Rant, the Sunderland post-punk four piece leap out of their comfort zone with their take on an eclectic mix of traditional folk songs, back catalogue hits and modern day chart belters. Releasing something as barebones as this takes a lot of bravado, as the hardcore Futureheads fans are likely to be divided on an LP which features covers of pop bands and leans solely on vocal harmonies. Saying this, The Futureheads have never shied away from either- see 'The Hounds Of Love' for examples.

Opener 'Meantime' is a reworking of their own smash hit. With backing vocals that wouldn't seem out of place in The Lion King, and Glee-flavoured doo-doo-doos, it's an unlikely recipe for success. They are undoubtedly talented singers, able to project a wide range of sounds and tones with merely their voices. As much as you may detest Glee, you have to hand it to them- they can sing.

Cover of Black Eyed Peas track 'Meet Me Halfway' follows, with the band turning the schmaltzy balladic catastrophe into a brooding piece focusing on introspection and regret. The vocal drones in the background and repeated harmonic motifs make for a more sincere atmosphere than the original, and Ross Millard (lead vocals) provides his signature voice for a unique twist on Fergie's parts of the song.

Olde tyme folk song 'Sumer Is Icumen In' stands prouder than the contemporary covers, and you get the feeling a butter brand is on the verge of using their version on an advert. Probably recorded whilst wearing flatcaps and a barrowload of tweed, the track is sung with complex harmonies and a head-scratchingly finicky form: the round. 'The Old Dun Cow' weaves a tale of some local men getting 'blue blind, paralytic drunk' as the pub burns down around them- a true tale of English legend. The monophonic track is as raw and pure as the time of it's inception. This version was probably sung a lot more soberly, though.

Rant is clearly an impressive feat though possibly an album which serves better as something to be admired, rather than listened to regularly. However, tracks like 'Robot' mimic the memorable guitar licks of the original, and the organic synths on cover of Sparks' 'The Number One Song In Heaven' are something to hear to be believed. This album still has the balls of any previous Futureheads album; how many other bands could take such a radical step in an unexplored direction?

It is a mammoth task for such a high-concept album to retain a replay factor and achieve commercial success- and maybe the album won't- but after a few years out of the spotlight, it could shove the rollicking Northerners back onto the main stage and as such, we eagerly the next move.