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A few years ago, when bands who thought emotion didn’t compute ruled hipsters’ playlists, the Futureheads found a way to stand out: They courted nerds. Not just with angular guitar parts, Texas Instruments rhythms, and four-part-harmony vocals about Man Ray and robots, but with lyrics like “You are a decent person/And you have a function.” OK, it wasn’t exactly warm, but compared with ironic-suit-wearing peers such as Interpol and Franz Ferdinand, the Futureheads seemed fresh precisely because they were willing to make such proudly geeky music. One tour supporting Oasis later, the Futureheads have ditched much of the spastic energy of their 2004 self-titled debut. Gone are playful titles like “The City Is Here for You to Use,” replaced by solemn one-syllable jobs like “Cope” and “Face.” Nary a robot is to be found in the lyric sheet. And the band’s riffage feels decidedly more Squeeze than Gang of Four, pointing to only one conclusion: The Futureheads are growing up—and going MOR. “When the seasons change/It is for a reason/I’m not talking lightly” sings Ross Millard on the first verse of melancholy relationship rocker “Back to the Sea.” And for some of News and Tributes, his band’s own climate change doesn’t feel lightly considered. The off-kilter melody and big chorus of “Burnt” suggest growing up doesn’t mean dumbing down, especially when Barry Hyde pleads, “Please remember to let me down gently” and that huge refrain fades into a delicate guitar arrangement. The reverb-heavy “Thursday” also manages to convey melancholy without sacrificing the innocence that originally made the band so endearing. “Can anybody do/The curse removal/Is anybody here feeling helpful?” Hyde sings in a manner that’s as awkward as it is poignant. Too often, though, the Futureheads seem like they’ve aged too fast. “Many times we’d help each other out/Favors for favors is nothing new,” the band sings on “Favours for Favours,” unintentionally summing up the song’s problem: Its hooks just aren’t memorable. Worse, the title track turns the band’s once attractively awkward harmonies into generic adult-contemporary balladry. Forsaking their geekiness may open up some of those older, well-heeled Oasis fans’ ears (and wallets) to the Futureheads, but at the cost of what made them special in the first place.—Aaron Leitko