Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The Futureheads – Meet Me Halfway

Once upon a time, they sang songs they wrote…


Iain Mew: Recently, while searching to see whether the Jukebox had ever had an opinion on Charlotte Hatherley, I happened across the penultimate UK Corral column on Stylus. That week in February 2005 was momentous for the UK chart show and for that fine document of it for numerous reasons, but one which I’d forgotten was that it was the week in which The Futureheads’ cover of “Hounds of Love” made the top 10. Reading about it I was hit by intense nostalgia. I doubt I’m alone there, which makes it easy to see why the band has decided to to return to the well of covers of pop songs with multi-part harmonies. They’ve even made it a capella to play up the “oh! oh! oh!” aspect even more. However. “Hounds of Love” was an all-time pop classic which they made into a song which was just as amazing but in a delightful new way. “Meet Me Halfway” is well down the list of best or most memorable Black Eyed Peas songs and while stripping away all of its gloss does make it into a different song and display some of its strengths, it’s a new song which above all sounds doleful and dutiful. This time the appeal only stretches to hearing the transformation, not to its product.

Andrew Ryce: These guys are still around? This is a Black-Eyed Peas cover? I suppose this is the closest anyone has come to salvaging the only salvageable part of this song. Surprisingly well done, but why am I supposed to care?

Edward Okulicz: The double-A side to this is a cover of Sparks’ “Number One Song in Heaven.” It is luscious, inviting, reverent and interesting (being a Sparks song and as such a good song helps). It’s tempting to say that this reading of “Meet Me Halfway” brings out the real sadness in the song that was half-disguised by how gaudy it was, with Fergie’s aimless wail and the Cyndi Lauper appropriation, but that’s just the fan in me trying to overlook the obvious grimness in the delivery. It’s not much of a song, and as an arrangement it’s functional at best. Wouldn’t pass muster competing against all the inventive a cappella groups doing the rounds and as far as the pop charts go, it’s no Flying Pickets either.

Anthony Easton: Doo-wop, and this sounds like doo-wop to me, has this great ability to provide an understructure for emotional ambiguity and excess. Those onomatopoeic soft, slow moans, in perfect unison, that take over the place of language when language fails completely have an elegance, and a reductive power. 

Brad Shoup: The split difference between misplaced reverence and cheap popjacking points.

Jer Fairall: The early days of The Futureheads found the band doing fairly awesome and revelatory covers of Kate Bush and Television Personalities. I mention this mostly to remind myself that, even though I don’t love them anymore like I used to, the fact that they were once much better than a witless LOL! cover like this was not something that I just imagined.

Jonathan Bogart: If I’d been blurbing when the Jukebox covered the original, I would have given it at least a [7], and now it’s a [9] — it may be the Peas’ best song (which is in fact saying something), a pulsing space ballad that would have been orgiastically overpraised had it been chucked up onto Soundcloud by anonymous hypnagogists who would even have been forgiven will.i.am’s limited flow because nobody expects anything from bedroom rappers. So yeah, I’m displeased with the F-heads’ trawling for novelty bait not because I think they’re above it, but because I think the song is. Maybe I’m wrong, and they hear it the way I do, and want to illuminate its beauty for people with their heads up their asses; but po-faced reverence never made anything better.

Katherine St Asaph: Every subculture gets the Karmin it deserves.

7 Responses to “The Futureheads – Meet Me Halfway”

  1. ‘Once upon a time they sang songs they wrote,’ yes, and they produced 4 amazing albums. 2 years ago doesn’t strike me as warranting the inclusion of the ‘once upon a time’ reference. There about to release their 5th album that being an a capella effort (seeing as their harmonies have been such an integral part of what has made them awesome over the years)…this might be ‘why you’re supposed to care’ or the reason why they decided to do this cover in the first place. Not because after all these years they’ve thought “well we’ve written 4 sweet albums and are a massive success but seeing as our greatest hit was a cover of a pop song we should go back and do that after 10 years.” No. I mean do you really think these guys need to ‘trawl for novelty bait’…they have a much larger and loyal fanbase than you’ve considered – for trawling for novelty bait to be of genuine intent. They might’ve done this to get a few fans interested and accustomed to the 4 piece outfit as an a capella group, in preparation for their forthcoming release. I’m not defending this cover itself as whilst still being an improvement on the original and a rather clever one at that; it’s not the Millards at their best – nor does it need to be. You’ve taken an in store live cover video and treated it like a calculated release, and you’ve been rather biased and one sided when presenting the backround facts too. I’d like to hope you do more research and be a little more considered in your reviewing before you score this 1/10.

  2. Maybe I was being too charitable, but I didn’t get the Karmin/LOL! cover feeling from this at all. Not least because if that was what they were after then surely they would have done “My Humps” or “Boom Boom Pow” or almost any other BEP song? Accusations of too much reverence seem more fitting.

  3. Not because after all these years they’ve thought “well we’ve written 4 sweet albums and are a massive success but seeing as our greatest hit was a cover of a pop song we should go back and do that after 10 years.”

    To the contrary, I think that’s exactly what’s going on. The methods of getting hype for upcoming albums have changed a lot in 10 years.

  4. I wrote my comment before J Gleadell’s appeared, just to clear up why it looks a bit odd. As my review hopefully indicated, I agree with Katherine that them doing a cover is a calculated measure to recapture attention even if I probably disagree about the precise motivation behind the choice of cover.

    On the large and loyal fanbase and the need to recapture attention front, highest chart places for The Futureheads’ four albums to date: 11, 12, 17, 48.

    you’ve taken an in store live cover video and treated it like a calculated release

    Look on iTunes or Spotify, we’re doing it on the basis that it’s half of a double A-side official single release along with “The No. 1 Song in Heaven”.

  5. This isn’t bad because it’s mocking the BEP; I don’t think it is. I think it’s 100% sincere, and I don’t really get the Karmin comparison? Are we going to start calling all dubious cover songs Karmin? This is bad because it’s totally a capella and because they don’t actually cover the whole song. Shame, because “Meet Me Halfway” is a great song to cover — it’s got a great melody, but it’s aesthetically weird. It’s the kind of song that could stand to be dressed in different colors. You’d think Futureheads would be able to succeed at this task (I always liked “Hounds of Love”), but this is a very boring way to treat a complex, interesting song.

  6. I don’t care if they did this for apl.de.ap’s birthday party, or if the pulse of a quasar is encoded in their harmonies; the song is ass.

  7. That’s the other thing. This is an a cappella cover of a pop song. It’s post-Glee almost by definition.