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Dec. '04

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The Futureheads

Things are going well for your band when you’re getting name-checked by David Bowie (and what a terrible name it is!), opening for the-band-that-saved-rock-in-2004,

Franz Ferdinand, and still enjoying some degree of indie-rock anonymity. Even though it may not last for members of the Futureheads, they can revel in their 15 minutes for the next few months as listeners sink into these 15 tracks of snarky guitar licks and scattershot drumming that hearken back to the glory days of the Jam and the Clash.

While the Sunderland, England-bred Futureheads’ self-titled debut is not as funky as Franz Ferdinand’s, it kicks out the jams in very reasonable, head-bopping precision.

Songs like “Le Garage” showcase an affinity for pop jingles, as the song highlights the layered staccato vocals of Barry Hyde intertwined with the sharp snare of drummer (and Hyde’s younger brother) Dave Hyde.

The single “Decent Days and Nights” feels like it came straight from Joe Strummer’s songbook as Barry sneers, “I can see that you look confused, and you don’t know what to do,” over a cunning riff that was born in 1977.

The irony for any post-punk outfit is that it starts out conforming to its predecessors by aping their riffs and mimicking their jeers. Not very punk, eh? But for the most part The Futureheads sidesteps derivation even as it embraces the past. —Gillian Titus


Handsome Boy Modeling

White PeopleAntlantic/Elektra

"Being handsome means never having to say you're sorry," or so say the liner notes of Handsome Boy Modeling School's latest, White People.

And just as the pretty people get all the breaks, the talented musicians get all the hooks. The Modeling School's über instructors, Prince Paul and Dan "The Automator" Nakamura — working under the pseudonyms Chest Rockwell and Nathaniel Merriweather, respectively — have mined an album's worth in collaboration with some of the finest musicians in rock and hip hop.

So is it possible that one of the most rock and roll releases of the year is... a hip-hop album?

While it might be a stretch to make such proclamations, Prince Paul and the Automator aren't above such hyperbole on booming tracks like "Rock and Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Part 2." And like the skittish magic Prince Paul produced on De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising and the Automator brought to Kool Keith's Dr. Octagonecologyst, they sprinkle pixie dust over the soulful delivery of Cat Power on "I've Been Thinking," as nimbly as they emphasize the folky groove of Jack Johnson's guitar on "Breakdown."

The unfortunate consequence of making a classic like 3 Feet or Dr. Octagonecologyst is that it has been difficult for De La Soul and Kool Keith to top it; the upside is that these were just the first swings of producers Prince Paul and Dan the Automator's extended hit list. —Gillian Titus (Posted 11/19/04)

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