How, exactly, does a group of teenagers, boys who were not yet zygotes when the '80s dawned, discover long-extinct underground outfits like XTC, Wire, and Gang of Four? Credit it to sheer desperation. Growing up in the dreary English coastal town of Sunderland a place, according to Barry Hyde, ''with about 90 bars and no cinema'' forced the soon-to-be Futureheads frontman and his bandmates Ross Millard, Jaff (no last name, please), and Hyde's younger brother, Dave, to find their own entertainment. ''We got into the post-punk thing,'' says Hyde, now 23, ''because we weren't into heavy metal, we weren't into classic rock, we just wanted to listen to something a little bit different.''
The result, as heard on the band's self- titled debut, is a compact cherry bomb of angular guitars and shout-and-retreat vocals a near-pitch-perfect return to the glory days of their idols. The group's penchant for four-part harmonies and bristly, hook-laden riffs caught the attention of Scottish art-punk phenoms Franz Ferdinand, who recruited them as their opening act on a September U.S. tour.
Now the Futureheads (who took their name from the 1992 Flaming Lips CD Hit to Death in the Future Head ''before we knew what kind of band we'd be,'' Hyde admits) are seeing the country for the first time as a headlining act and still pinching themselves at their luck. ''America is such a fantasy, just completely surreal and romantic,'' says Hyde. ''Like driving through the desert, watching cowboy films.'' It sounds like they've found their cinema after all.