The best part of the recent "angular" post-punk revival has been hearing bands like Maxïmo Park, Field Music, and The Futureheads pick up the musical threads that were abandoned too quickly in the go-go '80s. On their second album, News And Tributes, The Futureheads continue fiddling with XTC's rhythmic, Top Of The Pops-defying minimalism, but guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Millard also frequently crank their instruments—which were reasonably loud on the band's self-titled debut—up to a roar, in an apparent attempt to impress the surviving members of Big Country. The raging performance and fragmented-but-poppy songwriting makes News And Tributes a happily unpredictable record, bouncing from wistfully grand songs like "Skip To The End" to anxiously pretty heartbreakers like "Burnt." Put simply, the record rips.
But what's it all about? On most of News And Tributes, Hyde and Millard's lyrics stick to simple "Here's why I love you, why don't you love me anymore?" explications, with the notable exception of the faintly martial title track, which mourns the dead. Still, even though The Futureheads don't have a lot to say, per se, the words do work with the musical approach, which is all about tension and release. The relief of letting go—if only for an instant—can be heard in the way every line in "Cope" begins as a lone voice and ends in harmony, and in the way "Burnt"'s monologue-like lyrics wind to a sharp hook. The pleasure of the squeeze is also back in "Worry About It Later," which veers briefly into rowdy dissonance before curving on back, graceful as a well-timed haymaker.