While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Futureheads @ Liquid Room, Edinburgh

The Futureheads, w/ The Dials, The Ads, 2 March 08

The Liquid Room was already pretty crowded when the Dials, a young power-pop trio from Edinburgh, started. Okay, so it doesn’t take a lot to crowd the Liquid Room, but it was a Sunday night.

As the first of two opening bands, The Dials did a good job. I’m listening to their songs on myspace now, and I have to say, they sounded better live. Still a long way to go, but they’re young. Give ‘em time.

Next up were The Ads from Glasgow. There was something off with the mix (someone behind me said the bass was too loud, but I’m not sure). Even so, they have some songs, those boys. The highlight was a new song which may or may not have been called ‘And so I know’, a.k.a. ‘the one where Kenny played the keyboard.’

[I hope the pen in Kenny’s shirt pocket was there because he writes a lot of things down, rather than a kind of nerd-rock affectation.]

If this were a Friday or a Saturday night, the gig thus far could have stood alone and we would have happily sprawled out onto the Cowgate for some serious drinking… but we weren’t out for a good time, we were out for The Futureheads.

Thankfully the two (Good time/Futureheads) are not mutually exclusive. They opened with ‘Decent Days and Nights’ and proceeded to mostly play songs off their first album (‘A to B’, ‘Carnival Kids’, ‘Man Ray’…) and tracks from their forthcoming, This is not the World (‘The Girl with the Radio Heart’, ‘Hard to Bear’, ‘This is not the World’…).

By my count, they only played two songs (‘Yes/No’ and ‘Skip to the end’) from 2006’s News and Tributes, which, admittedly, was more downbeat than their joyous debut, but still had some good tracks—‘Burnt’ and ‘Fallout’ would not have been out of place last night. I think Barry said it all when he introduced ‘Yes/No’: “This is a song from our second album. That is, the one none of you have heard.” It’s not so much that the crowd didn’t know it (they were singing along to ‘Area’ from an EP I’m sure would have sold less than their second LP) but that the band took News and Tributes’ cooler reception to heart.

Which brings us to their new songs, which are not simply a return to the angular guitars and four-part melodies of The Futureheads. The first two singles, ‘Broke Up The Times’ and ‘Beginning of the Twist’ are indicative of the harder, straighter punk-rock of the Futureheads circa 2008. They are good songs, but sandwiched by classics like ‘Hounds of Love’ (introduced as “a cover of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’”), and ‘Meantime’ (a better live song than on record) they are just that notch below (despite being that notch louder).

It didn’t help that on ‘Beginning of the Twist’, which was being recorded for release as an mp3 download on March 8 (which I pre-ordered with my tickets), Barry’s guitar died and afterwards Jaff confessed to completely screwing the song up.

And these were not the gig’s only technical difficulties—the way the band handled them however, with a mix of humour and self-deprecation, only added to the show.

It wasn’t a perfect set, or a perfect set-list (for this audience member), but it was easily eight guitars out of ten. I know this is what I gave Nada Surf last week, and it’s true that I enjoyed the Futureheads more, but like I said the first time, you can’t play half a guitar. When I see a nine or ten guitar gig, you’ll know it was truly great.

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