The Futureheads

News and Tributes (StarTime/Vagrant)

On their eponymous debut, the Futureheads played like there was no future. Everything they had they threw into that recording studio, and as a result, the album is proof of the dangers of indie-mod excess, artsy punks with a clever sense of humor, and elaborate four-part harmonies run amok. Maybe they never believed they'd get this far. Maybe that's why their sophomore turn, News and Tributes, feels like an answer to that.

Under the influence of producer Ben Hillier (Depeche Mode, Doves), the Futureheads have opted to do more with less, manipulating space and pace. Their post-punk riffs still dominate tracks like "Cope" and "Yes/No," as well as the skins-happy "The Return of the Berserker," but there's a complexity to their sound here, a new texture that's most evident on their back-and-forth between solo and harmony, which can turn poignant but pedestrian lyrics like those of "Burnt" and "Back to Sea" -- both tales of collapsing relationships -- into anthems where anthems shouldn't be. In the middle of all this restraint, you get "Skip to the End," sort of a follow-up to "Decent Days and Nights" and News' most ridiculously contagious track. It's like they're daring you not to bounce your head.