We last heard from the Nutopians in early to mid 2015 with the release of their EP, Time. Musically indebted to the post-punk scene of Manchester in the early 80’s, it struck a chord with me that has remained. I felt that the duo’s debut album would be stunning, and – well, I’m not wrong. As a refresher, the Nutopians are made up of a a father and son combo – Ian & Phil Jackson. I quite like the idea of a father and son working together in the arts, it lends the proceedings a gravity that feels different from friends bashing out a record. Personally, the last two weeks of my life have been marked by some unexpected tragedies and I’ve been able to do little but work, engage with friends & family, watch movies, and listen to music (writing has taken a backseat). This album by the Nutopians has been my go to album as I’ve sorted out heavy emotions. What I love about this band is that the lyrics deal in heavy life issues but always offer solutions. Or at least, wistfulness without regret. Musically, think post-punk with a slant towards power pop.
What Does The Future Sound Like? is the band’s 3rd major release and debut full length album. I was happy to see the band thought to include a few of the stronger tunes from the EP’s on the album – those songs deserve to be heard (Journey, Time, The Secret). It worked well for Wire when they released Send, and it works well for Nutopians in this context. The songs ebb and flow seamlessly, making for a true album listening experience. Remember the resurgence of post punk in the late 90’s / early 00’s? It never sounded as good as this. As much as I liked some of those bands, most times it felt like the music stood as tributes to the early 80’s – idol worship, homage – whatever. With the Nutopians I get the sense that they are peers, equals. No mere homage, this is brilliant stuff.
The album kicks off with the 1-2 punch of Foreward and Afterlife. Foreward is a musically complex instrumental that is both funereal and ethereal in delivery. Emotionally, it resonates deeply. That being said, it sets the tone for the masterful Afterlife. A guitar lick that would make The Chameleons proud carries the tune along with plaintive, angry vocals delivered with aplomb by Ian Jackson. Lyrical snippets that stuck with me – “the memory’s not enough”, “i’m like a ship without a sail”, and “I’ve got nothing left to give”. Unsettling sentiments, no doubt. But musical perfection. Out of Touch is a mid album highlight – a shimmering pop tune that sounds like a modern rock radio hit to me (I am not sure if that exists in 2016). Love the guitar solo too. Why? asks the big questions of life, delivered with a punk snarl. After that initial shock to the system, the song settles into a post-punk funk & groove. It is epic in scope and delivery. The song fades into closing instrumental Ascension which is the rougher, dangerous cousin of the opening instrumental. Is it hope or doom? I’m not really sure. Maybe they are the same. A perfection conclusion to an outstanding debut album.
Verdict: This is what the future sounds like
For Fans of: The Chameleons, The Fall, Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Jam
- Dark Star
- Out Of Touch
- Forever And A Day
- The Secret
- Worlds Collide