Perfectly accessible gems from one Futurehead and a Golden Virgin.
Brad Barrett 2011-08-11
The side-project of The Futureheads drummer David Hyde and ex-The Golden Virgins tubthumper Neil Bassett has hallmarks of their day jobs, but it's defined by a blasé, playful approach. With snatches of piano stabbing, loose and lazy guitar licks and falsetto backing vocals, we're drawn into the duo's slightly psychedelic world.
Initially, a lot of these songs sound like they're dragging their feet or meandering on purpose. But there are far too many wonderfully potent moments. The harmonious voices on If You Could Buy Me Anything draw the lilting elements into a gorgeous, psychedelia-scorched ballad. There's hints of whimsy too on You Will Be Lonely, which throws in everything from helium vocals ("You keep on knocking but you can't come in!") to fiery blues solos. It's tempting to cite the glorious multi-faceted work of Sunderland's Brewis brothers – otherwise known as Field Music – as an influence. It wouldn't be surprising thinking about their geography, and David Brewis being a one-time Futurehead.
Unlike Field Music though, there's nothing complicated about these mid-paced, pretty and often lolloping songs. It's into this simplicity that the two manage to filter their distinctive chops. Skipping and hopping guitars blend with the requisite amount of harmonies; oohs and aahs are brandished with pride. Then there's the unexpected blasts of 60s and 70s inspiration upon these templates. So we hear cheeky brass on Never Come Back, early Quo lead breaks – especially on (And the) Pictures in the Sky – while the instrumental Wolfman Blues sounds sozzled and broken, off-key and out of step with itself. What definitely isn't here is the spikiness associated with either members’ other projects.
No song is over three-and-a-half minutes, the perfect length for tracks that could easily break out into ill-advised blues jams if left to fend for themselves for too long. Instead, Hyde & Beast nip things in the bud, taming tracks into perfectly accessible gems. Despite the pace of the album never going beyond a stroll, it's the eloquence of delivery and jabs at homage that prevent them from trudging along uninspired or descending into polite pastiche. Sure, there will be a great deal you'll have heard parading in records from a once-golden era, along with those more recent records that try to recapture such a time; but the humour, the brevity and the joy with which it's bundled ensures a quality listen throughout.