Unlike most of nü wave's hottest acts -- who endlessly parrot the notion that they just play what they play, without regard for what's going on outside their heads -- England's Futureheads display a welcome familiarity with the hopped-up rock scene swirling around them. The 15 tunes on their self-titled debut are loud, fast and brief, played as if the band knows how numb we've become to the emergence of yet another gang of four hipster types with wiry guitar fuzz for brains and tidy twentysomething despair for hearts. Both of those elements saturate The Futureheads: Guitarists Barry Hyde and Ross Millard pile up shards of slash-and-burn riffery in "He Knows" and "Carnival Kids," while Hyde's strangulated yelp in "The City Is Here for You to Use" and "First Day" competes with any Robert Smith acolyte in its ready-made melodrama. But the band keeps its reappropriated moves so taut that they glimmer with newness anyway, as in "Robot," which should worry the Hives.
Better yet, the Futureheads allow the occasional flash of feeling; "Meantime" bends Wire's bare-bones art-punk into an almost-ballad for a Tubeway Army in retreat.