The Futureheads – Rant (2012)
A capella music has probably been a little cruelly warped in our collective perceptions. The hallmark of cathedral choirs, experimental episodes of the sickeningly saccharine Glee and a handful of harmonic indie choruses, the genre is far less acrobatic vocal athleticism, more shameful second-tier show-jumping – antiquated and awkward.
And so Rant arrives, apparently a few millennia too late to be acceptable. And yet, it blisters like a sandstorm and soothes like a summer breeze.
For The Futureheads, the construction of a capella seems near scientific. Vocal lines undergo quadratic divisions between the four Mackem minstrels. Classic tracks “Meantime” and “Heartbeat Song” are precisely dissected and filled with newfound euphoric pulsations and characters. Angular reworkings see pipette-drop pa-pa-pa’s pushed into “Thursday” and the Black Eyed Peas‘ “Meet Me Half-Way” suddenly bubbling into a charmingly earnest serenade.
But this is more than mathematics. There’s a huge heart in this creation. Roguish covers of 13th century English chants “Sumer Is Icumen In” and “The Old Dun Cow” just gleam with ruddy-cheeked mischief. Head and shoulders above all others, “Beeswing” is a technically perfect, forlorn howl to a long-lost love. Where proud and humbled Northern gruff burns under utterly soaring harmonies, I’m willing to say as a piece of music, it’s one of my all-time favourites.
I wouldn’t consider it a failure if I couldn’t quite convey the glorious sound of this album with these words, but I would if you didn’t fully realise how excited this EP makes me. It’s heart on sleeve innovation, dangerously daring to be anything but formulaic. You won’t enjoy it all the time, you might even be a little embarrassed were it to erupt into life publically, but at some point I swear it’ll grip you and make a whole lot of sense. And you’ll be smiling when it does.