Futureheads | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The unlikeliest achievement of the new wave of postpunk is that it's made spastic yelps cool. Not "cool" as in trendy, though it is. I mean "cool" as an overall mood. With a band like the Rapture, for instance, vocal hysteria is just another formal element; it's meant to be a sonic effect, not something that conveys a sense of jittery tension. Judging by their self-titled debut album on Sire, the Futureheads seem to come by their anxiety honestly. They're prone to the young-adult habit of approaching fellow humans like emotional puzzles: "This is a brand-new problem / A problem without any clues" are the first lines on "Decent Days and Nights." Their tangles of taut, hyper art pop could've been neurotically introspective--not unlike their prime influence, XTC--but the Futureheads' music springs outward, if only because they probably realized it's a better way to meet girls. Remarkably, they excavate a kind of beauty from such spaz pop: singer-guitarists Ross Millard and Barry Hyde play with a Paul Wellerish warmth, and the quartet's sweet, doo-wop-flavored harmonies smooth out the jaggedness of the songs. They can whip out punky put-downs when the need arises, as on "Stupid and Shallow" (about someone who is) or "Robot" (about wanting to be one). But their best track is "First Day," a song about a new job--a topic way too uncool for most postpunks to broach. Shout Out Louds and High Speed Scene open. Tue 3/1, 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12.

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