the Futureheads at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (November 1), 9 pm. $12. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
For the sunderland savants in the Futureheads, the decision to pick up guitars and aggressively thrash away like their favourite 80s bands wasn't a calculated bid to glom onto the emerging post-punk trend.
If anything, it was their anti-fashion instincts that now have them hailed as the next Franz Ferdinand, as if their Glaswegian pals had already worn out their welcome.
You see, the Futureheads began as a violent reaction against the prevalent Britpop trend, but by the time they made their way south to London, they discovered that in sidestepping one fleeting fad they'd stumbled right into another.
"There was a time when all these people in bands here in Britain were trying to look aloof and forlorn - very, very forlorn," recalls singer/guitarist Barry Hyde before a show in Sheffield.
"The whole image of the tortured genius was very popular during the Britpop craze. No one would ever dare smile. I guess they wanted to appear intellectual to separate themselves from the punters at the gigs.
"But we've always wanted to confront people, get them involved in our shows - you know, create a friendly atmosphere where people feel welcome to join us in having a good time."
As soon as the Futureheads began releasing singles with super-tight rhythms and choppy guitar riffs, the UK music press hailed them as the second coming of the Gang of Four. The fact that Gang guitarist Andy Gill was brought in to produce the Futureheads seemed like a perfect fit. Well, not quite.
Even though much of what's been written about the Futureheads' self-titled debut celebrates Gill's production job, a closer inspection of the sleeve notes indicates that he touched only five of the album's 15 tracks, while Paul Epworth produced the other 10. Yet for some reason, Epworth doesn't even rate a mention in the Futureheads' official press bio. Obviously, something's amiss here.
"We came to work with Andy Gill because we share management (Big Life). We recorded a good single and EP with Andy, so we went ahead and recorded our album with him, but we didn't... well, we were very disappointed with the results. We wanted something bombastic and colourful, and what we got was just sterile."
Instead of putting out a mediocre album they hated, the Futureheads wound up starting from scratch, this time with Epworth. According to Hayes, it's Epworth who salvaged the album.
"This time last year was a terribly stressful period for the band. We thought we'd never get to make the album we wanted. At one point I had a bit of a nervous breakdown. It was a total nightmare.
"But thankfully, we had the opportunity to re-record everything. And in working with Paul we got something that was more than just good - it was beyond all our expectations."
So actually, the Gang of Four sound has had much less of an influence on the Futureheads than many previously thought.
"To be honest, I hadn't even heard the Gang of Four until about a year after we formed, and by then our sound had already developed into what it is now. The Gang of Four's stuff was always stripped down and funky, whereas our music is very busy, with a lot of harmonies happening and no element of funk whatsoever.
"Also, the Gang of Four were a seriously political band, and other than our song Alms, there's nothing really political about what we do."
So don't count on seeing the Futureheads sporting any anti-Bush slogans on their shirts when they return to rock Lee's Palace Monday. Hyde isn't planning to write the address of his favourite activist Web site on the back of his hand.
"I find a lot of that stuff annoyingly patronizing and cringeworthy," groans Hyde. "Generally speaking, I think musicians should stick to music."