Future Islands

Future Islands


You just know the night’s going to be good when – even before you’ve stepped foot inside The Academy – someone undercharges you for a beer, Rooney beats Bobby Charlton’s goal scoring record and you bump into old, old friends, long lost, somehow having got away from you.  So I can claim no critical objectivity when it comes to Future Islands.  They took my 9/10 mood and cranked that bad boy all the way to 11.  They had me at hello.

You may know Future Islands through a couple of kooky TV spots that I’ve watched that many times I burnt a hole in You Tube.  Over here, they appeared on Jools Holland; on the other side of the pond it was Letterman.  Each time, they played the absolutely gorgeous track ‘Seasons (Waiting For You)’ and each time was marked by the strange, unique presentation of lead singer Samuel T. Herring.  How to describe it?  It’s kind of like Gary from accounts mainlined a speedball and then gatecrashed a Canal Street (Manchester’s infamous gay village) cabaret.  He looks like an estate agent gone wrong, possessed by St Vitus, compelled to dance like an inebriated Dad at a wedding.

Sam kicks off the show with a few words – his languid North Carolina drawl like Elvis (even if his waistline is more latter day Presley – sequin Vegas not black & white Army issue).  ‘I know you!’, he says, teasing the crowd.  The stage is bathed in cool, blue light as the band kick off with ‘Give Us The Wind’ and from there wind turns gale as the band blow through the tracks that make up their three albums, Herring‘s flowery shirt sweatier and sweatier as he treats the crowd to his menu of moves: The crouching Dad groove; the hair-ruffling snake slither and, a new one on me, the Monty Python Hitler high kick.  I’m a dad… I like dancing… I’m taking notes, me.

Heart slapping, finger pointing, whatever it is, Sam means that shit, possessed with demented fervour – part singing, part manic southern preaching, at times finding this guttural animal roar from within, segueing from Anthrax to Sam Smith, often within the same lyric.  Bathing in the adulation, punching the air at dramatic moments, reaching out to touch an ephemeral something, just out of reach, Herring prostrates himself before God.  Or maybe just the stage lights.  The crowd get off on his dancing… then he gets off on his dancing… this dad bod dancing so sexy he nearly trips himself over.  After Ian Curts, and indeed Bernard Sumner, we now have the latest incarnation of that most idiosyncratic of stage personas.

Of course no man is a (future) island and Herring is pop primus inter pares.  The music, then, is 80s synth with rave flashes, driven by a thrummed bass line, the notes almost threatening to tumble over themselves.  It takes a few tracks for me to realise why they sound different – there’s no guitar – just that elegantly rhythmic bass, drums rattling tight like Carolina crickets and synth washes that crash over the packed urban barn that is the Academy, punters pogo-ing as though at a rave.  This Future Islands cruise stops off at all their best musical ports – ‘Sun In The Morning’, ‘Haunted by You’, ‘Tin Man’, ‘Spirit’, even digging back into the distant past for a last song with which to end the encore, Manchester just not letting go, not wanting to say goodbye.

So, Future Islands make a very lush and lovely kind of a racket but of course it does all centre on Mr Herring, by the end of the set a sweaty, sweary man, shirt now untucked, a kind of disheveled, chubby Morrissey (although thinking about, Morrissey is already one of those anyway).  Herring seems to climb inside the music, emotional – even crying at one point, according to my re-found old friend (who has been hiding in Japan).  You have to worry that Herring’s voice might give out… you have to worry about the way he slaps his own head in an act of pop flagellation… bottom line – I’m generally a little worried about him.  He is the least likely lead singer you could imagine.  And he might well be the best we have.  At least until the effects wear off and Gary goes back to the books…

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Simon is a writer, broadcaster and countercultural investigator. Over the last 15 years he has written for everyone from The Guardian to Loaded magazine, presented television for Rapture TV and hosted radio programs for the likes of Galaxy. He has also found time to earn a Masters Degree in Novel Writing and write three books (a collection of journalism, a guidebook to Ibiza and one on financial planning for young people – the most varied publishing career it’s possible to have) and establish and run a PR company, Pad Communications, looking after a range of leisure and lifestyle clients.He currently splits his time between researching his PhD at Leeds University, looking into various countercultural movements; consulting freelance for PR clients; writing for the likes of Marie Claire in Australia, The Big Issue and the Manchester Evening News, where he reviews concerts, theatre and is their Pub & Bar Editor. He is also broadcaster, appearing regularly on Tony Livesey’s late night 5Live show for the BBC, and also for BBC Radio Manchester Gourmet Night food and drink show.Simon’s main focus has been music and travel. His career has included editing Ministry of Sound’s magazine in Ibiza for two summers and also writing two long-running columns for DJmagazine – ”Around The World in 80 Clubs” (which took him everywhere from Beijing to Brazil, Moscow to Marrakech) and “Dispatches From The Wrong Side”. A collection of the latter was published in the UK and US as the book Discombobulated, including tales as varied as gatecrashing Kylie Minogue’s birthday party, getting deported from Russia, having a gun held to his head by celebrity gangster Dave Courtney and going raving in Ibiza with Judith Chalmers. He has recently written for the likes of Red magazine, Hotline, Clash, Tilllate, Shortlist and the Manchester Evening News. Pad Communications has recently consulted for clients as varied as Manchester nightclubs and New Zealand toy companies.On a personal note, Simon is a Londoner who left the capital at the age of 18 and never looked back. He sees himself as a citizen of the global dancefloor having lived in Sydney, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Amsterdam. However his life is now rather more sedentary. After all his adventures he bumped into and subsequently married his highschool sweetheart from their North London Grammar. They now live in Stockport with their four children and four chickens, trying to live the good life. Simon recently turned 40 and is steadfastly refusing to have a midlife crisis – as in, growing a ponytail and buying a shiny red sports car.OK, maybe he’ll buy the sports car…