Hype can be a terrible thing. Take the Futureheads. When the British quartet started dropping singles in 2002, it immediately got lumped in with the United Kingdom's angular rhythm-and-rock scene, which included better-known bands such as Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand.

The Futureheads never really got the media and public adulation their peers did. Then again, they weren't exactly cut from the same cold funk, post-punk, or death-disco mold.

Although the Futureheads could slam through danceable, nervous punk with the best of them, in truth theirs was and is a slicker, more propulsive pop sound than that of their colleagues.

The Futureheads played to a small but enthusiastic audience at the First Unitarian Church on Wednesday night. They played music with rough-pop influences from early, manically melodic XTC albums and Buzzcocks 45s. And don't forget their harmony vocals, of a sleekness seemingly culled from years listening to the Electric Light Orchestra.

Guitarist (and all-around genial Brit) Barry Hyde was a warbling vocal master whose slippery voice was the oddball center of each densely crunching tune. With a sonic wall of boyish vocals behind him, the thickly accented Hyde made the most of riff-rockers such as "Struck Dumb" and "Meantime." The quartet showed off their love of stop-start rhythms, false endings, and wildly melodic bridges on everything from "The Chaos" (the title song of its just-released CD) to "I Can Do That." There was a precision in their sound that only the finest musicians hold dear.

"Heartbeat Song," in particular, had several precise, complex twists - one a bridge cheerfully borrowed from Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" - that seemed to lift the audience to some sort of nirvana. But the Futureheads did simple two-note pop tunes best, and proved as much on the raving "Carnival Kids" and the childish "Skip to the End."

Opening act The Like may have looked adorable - young girls in baby-doll dresses, saddle shoes, and high white knee stockings with a decidedly Valley Girl accent - but their attempts at quirky, rough-edged pop could have used more makeup.