[sic] Magazine

Nutopians – What Does The Future Sound Like?

Brave boys keep their promises.

Nutopians are a father-son duo from Sunderland, who, like me, share a love of the early eighties UK independent scene. I’d wager they started life as a covers band and then progressed onto writing their own material. They came to my attention via word of mouth, moving in many of the same social networking circles as myself. I’m grateful for that but there’s another way of looking at it, which is to say that I might easily have missed out. That would have been a shame. They obviously like the same things that I like. And I’m starting to like them.

A word or two about Nutopians influences. The first thing to say is that you can relax. Nothing here is blatant rip-off*. They’ve hit upon their own sound with a unique blend of styles which may or may not be down to the generational aspect. One of the bands they regularly cite are The Chameleons, Manchester’s best kept secret and a real personal favourite of mine. I can hear it in certain choppy guitar parts and other dreamier sequences. Yet the real guitar flourishes on this record are probably looking further back to the pysch-rock of the seventies. Certain tracks flicker between decades in a way that shouldn’t probably work. Yet it does work, even if somebody isn’t sure if they want to be Dave Fielding or Dave Gilmour.

What does the future sound like? is pleasingly old school in structure. The opening piece is a short taster called ‘(forward)’. The rest of the (notional) side 1 is a veritable hit parade of heartfelt, anthemic rock songs. I have to warn you there are some real earworms here that, once heard, you may find hard to dislodge. It’s a faultless ‘side’ of music. Pick your own favourite from the likes of ‘Dark Star’, ‘The Journey’ and ‘Elysium’. The second half kicks off with the particularly strong ‘Time’. The vocals here have some real bite. I think what made The Chameleons special is their ability to be both dreamy and passionate rather than one or the other. Nutopians achieve the same here. Indeed many of the songs drift closer to Big Country territory. Recall that it was Stuart Adamson who exposed the myth that punks couldn’t play for the lie that it really was. Tracks like ‘Forever In A Day’ really recall Adamson’s playing style, ie post-punk but with leanings toward roots rock. More heartburst choruses follow. ‘The Secret’ has a kind of Oasis, everyman appeal and puts me in mind of the Mod revival.

There’s a lot going for these guys. What, then, do they miss? Well for one thing an audience. Without support, we’re unlikely to hold onto bands like Nutopians. If we’re splitting hairs I might also suggest a touch of variety, maybe? Aside from the instrumental bookends, the album is a procession of arena anthems. Maybe something slower, or weirder to punctuate affairs next time? Vocals here are of the ‘clean lungful of air’ variety. For one moment on ‘Worlds Collide’ I thought the singing might go in an Andy McClusky direction. That’ might have been interesting. There are no duets here but the sprinkling of spoken word clips is well done.Finally the exception which proves the ‘rip off’ rule* has to be ‘Why?’ which is strongly reminiscent of their heroes’ ‘View From A Hill’ in its closing passage. Imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

Overall this is a soaring set of honest, chiming songs. Despite all the previous mentions I’d liken them most to The Domino State, last year’s big surprise The Black Lamps or a less bruised Boxer Rebellion.

More please.