Laura Prior 14/12/2009
Say what you like about Futureheads, but no-one can argue that they don't frequently give fans the opportunity to poo their pants with excitement, having famously played shows in working men's clubs and their guitarist's living room. This intimate, 200-capacity Christmas show in north London's Lexington bar continued the tradition of seeing them close enough to see the sweat fly off Barry Hyde's eyelashes, and the opportunity to perv at beautiful Ross Millard's chubby chops with a nutter look in your eye to your heart's content. Needless to say, it was truly amazing.
The brotherly banter was worth the admission price alone, with Barry squabbling aimlessly about a pin in his leg or something, which he claimed had left him completely unable to walk ("you can walk, son" came the weary response).
Strolling through songs both unplayed and obscure ("Ticket"!), it was the chance to hear new material from their titled-any-second 4th album that proved the real treat. "The Chaos" and "The Baron" are brilliantly busy messes. "The Heartbeat Song" was described as a brat-pack odyssey about 'going steady' and sounded just like that would sound. It had a "Radio Heart" feel to it, all pep, and designed to hard-wire itself in your brain. Recent free download "Struck Dumb" was the real deal. The bittersweet refrain of "The negativity/is ruining your sleep/it makes you wanna cry on your pillow/The negativity/is controlling your dreams" is deceptively understated, until you realise you've been singing it for nine hours.
It's fun to preach to the converted sometimes, so although they can self-deprecate as much as they like about their "ill-fated" second album (the bizarrely demonised, but simply a bit…boring News and Tributes), it was great to hear unfairly smothered songs like "Yes/No" and "Back to the Sea" get rare airings. Boring isn't something you could ever dream of Futureheads being. 2008's This is Not the World may have redeemed them in the eyes of those who overexposed their "Hounds of Love" cover, but they've near-constantly breezed out giddy, articulate pop songs with class, and shown dignity in the face of all their various record company bitchfights and misfortunes.
The intelligent, Maximo Park3, matter-of-factness of their lyrics ("When I cut teeth/I cut to the root/then the end is absolute/when she makes sense/I go through the roof!") and the fact they belt out their preposterously bonkers Tyneside barbershop quartet-ing at 150 miles an hour make them consistently unique. They ram home the hits for good measure, too ("Hounds of Love", "Meantime", "Carnival Kids" and "Decent Days and Nights" were all present and skewed). Ending with "Piece of Crap" sealed the deal of this being a Tiny Tim of a generous gig.
The Futureheads: more fun than Christmas by 2,000 miles.