The Futureheads have returned; Going their separate ways after the release of the 2012 acapella album Rant, it seemed as if the four bandmates were off to their own projects. Most of them can sing as well as play an instrument, thus carrying the tremendous potential to find work where an experienced punk practitioner is needed. Fate had other plans however in the form of insurance provider BUPA UK who pulled the Futureheads back together for an interactive music video. By 2018 they had begun recording together again on their latest release, Powers. The time away has served them well as there is plenty for the British post-punk band to rebel against.
Powers opens with a bang through the song, “Jekyll”. Brothers and bandmates Barry and Dave share the last name, Hyde, with the literary icon’s alter ego Jekyll representing the demons of mental illness. The album begins, “Are you an animal all the time?/ Or only when the human slips your mind?/ Can you control the temperature of your blood?/ Can you predict the changes in your mood?” The song is a dark descent of mania balancing apprehension and a sick sense of enjoyment. Sections of twisted metal interrupt the smooth rock rhythm throughout to create a dueling mind ambiance. Like a spinning revolving door, it flings listeners deeper into the album for more punk and politics.
The British punk is more pronounced in the following song, “Good Night Out,” shining a reflective spotlight on the aimless burnouts that would easily trade away the future for a good night out. “Across the Border” introduces the dialogue-dominant political call to action strung together with a catchy beat. Their lyrics try to convince those who voted for Brexit (and against easy access to holidays across the pond) to see the other side of the issue. They sing, “Take take, take take take/ What would it take to change your mind?” There is anger, but still a call to return to the table to talk the issue through. Rather than simply building another wall, they call out their opponents while holding out a skeptical hand to work with them.
The album balances songs and stories. “Little, Little Man!” plays like a stout European folk tale about us all getting smaller, but no one wanting to throw away our picture-perfect lives and plans. “Headcase,” follows with an up-tempo punk ballad as the bandmates sing in chorus to make it feel like a whole audience is singing along in the recording studio. The varying styles between each song keep the listener from getting complacent by mixing up dancing one’s buns off to their political activism to inviting everyone to join in festive anarchic merriment.
Powers starts strong with “Jekyll” and wraps up nicely with, “Mortals.” For the finale, the multi-talented band mates echo each other before singing hauntingly in line with one another, like a demonic chorus within a rock opera. Their latest album delivers the punk energy to keep their audience hooked in a time when people want to speak out against what they see but feel too small to be heard. Like most punk albums, it works better when there is a proper antagonist to rally against.