Citing Pixies as a reference is dangerous. Yes we recall their scratchy prowess over throwaway stripped surf and grunge, but that vision of Pixies has faded. Instead our love gets tested by each new release in a post 2000 act no one needed. The highs of ‘Doolitle’, ‘Bossanova’, ‘Surfa Rosa’, exist as if made by some other band.
For Les Futiles they’re more than a reference, on ‘Black Heart’ they are close to a blueprint. There’s the grunge and the lean towards atonal surf indie, there’s repetitive bass hooks and space. There’s even the warm fuzz of Shona Macmillan’s backing vocals to smooth the rough edges.
In the opening minutes of ‘Black Heart’, all that separates this from a lost Pixies workout is the Joe Strummer / John Lyndon London curl on lead vocals that pulls the track back from pure homage. That might not sound like much down on paper, but it’s more than enough to persuade us Les Futiles are more than fan service. Paul Killengray’s voice might not hit its full stride until the B-side / flipside track ‘Eggshells’, but they’re laidback and sneering and grounding, a balance of snarl and play-easy.
While the song grooves and stomps through its opening sections it’s familiar, it’s casual, it’s cool. When it breaks at the end into something more jagged, the mix of West Coast US punk of 80s and 90s, and UK punk and shoegaze is welcome.
‘Eggshells’ is more cut and thrust, guitar led instead of bass driven. There’s more play and stretch in the throwbacks and agro and ‘Eggshells’ is better off for it. More akin to late 70s UK DIY, it’s got motion and movement throughout. Those Strummer/Lyndon vocals move from PIL to Buzzcocks with the freedom ‘Black Heart’ didn’t give them. Drums are less beat-bound, guitars start to scrawl, there’s less of a formula and more of a thrill. There’s a sense they’re enjoying performing.
Add to that last track a charm of a video with puppets, retro gaming and alternate dimensions (and more PS1 games than I’d know what to do with, I admit I was jealous throughout), and there’s enough to pique your affection. There’s an album in making, I’m waiting. I’ll call this the warm introduction.
‘Black Heart’ is out now, watch ‘Eggshells’ below. And find these tracks and others from Rats On The Run featured artists right here on Rats On Run Radio.