The Futureheads made a bold move by releasing This Is Not the World on their own label, Nul Records. However, that might be the boldest thing about it -- This Is Not the World often feels like the band's take on a pop album, full of streamlined, punchy songs that aren't exactly dumbed-down, but do sound much more straightforward than any of the Futureheads' earlier music. Trying to keep up with all the harmonies, quick tempo changes, and razor-sharp riffs the band crammed into The Futureheads and News and Tributes was a big part of what made those albums so appealing and rewarding on repeated listens, so This Is Not the World's simpler approach is a little disappointing.
It's also a bit surprising, considering how ambitious and introspective News and Tributes was, but where that album looked inward, This Is Not the World is almost all action; even "Hard to Bear," some post-breakup friendly advice that's the closest thing to a ballad here, gallops along at a relatively brisk clip. "The Beginning of the Twist" and "Think Tonight" prove that the album's glossy production didn't hinder the band's energy at all -- drummer Dave Hyde's playing is so propulsive, it's almost tangible -- yet too often, the energy the band pumps into these songs is more memorable than the songs themselves. None of them are actively bad (not even the oddly Proclaimers-esque "Walking Backwards"), but "Work Is Never Done" and "See What You Want to See" feel worryingly like they were drafted from the same revved-up template.
Fortunately, more than a few moments balance the quirky urgency of the Futureheads' earlier work with their simpler aesthetic here: "Broke Up the Time" is a classic Futureheads song, barreling along with call-and-response riffs and harmonies and leaving plenty of hooks in its wake. "Radio Heart" stutters and croons a tune about tuning into true love, with jagged guitars and spooky backing vocals that make it just strange enough. "Sleet" is aggressive and flirty at the same time, pairing rapid-fire drums with cheeky lyrics like "Let's go to bed, but let's not go to sleep." "Sale of the Century" is another standout, giving some of News and Tributes' leftover angst an angry focus with a sputtering one-note guitar solo and more of Hyde's outstanding drumming. These songs are so good, so effortless, that they end up highlighting how just-OK a lot of the album is. It's mildly disappointing that the Futureheads' first independently released music sounds more conventional than what they issued on other labels, but This Is Not the World is still a solidly enjoyable album on its own terms.