Future of the Left
I have a fondness for hilarious bluntness. Like the exhortations of characters in John Waters movies, or the thought of conking someone on the skull with a ball-peen hammer - the bluntness gets me. It's hard to find a wrecking ball with a sense of humor in popular music - bombast usually get channeled in the service of image maintenance or expressions of dissatisfaction with institutions impervious the messages directed at them; wasted energy, man. It's like wooing a woman who is clearly uninterested.
McLusky was a Welsh band that offered an alternative vent for all that pent-up rage, spooling out lines like our love is bigger than your love and (my favorite) you're turning me on with your lightsabre cocksucking blues. Their brief period on this sphere is documented on a trio of brilliantly titled records: My Pain and Sadness Is More Sad and Painful Than Yours, McLusky Does Dallas, and The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire and a boxed-set succinctly labeled McLuskyism. Each offered relentless torrents of grinding rawk hatched from a three way involving The Fall, Mission of Burma and Helmet. Lead singer and guitarist Andrew Falkous often sounded like he was being stretched like a canvas over the band's frame, a taut impenetrable surface on which smears and scrawls become art. Any structure can only maintain its tensile pressures as long as all parts are in concert, and alas their bassist John Chapple left to form Shooting at Unarmed Men, a band with which I am wholly unfamiliar.
Meanwhile, another Welsh band Jarcrew, with whom I am also unfamiliar, began to unravel under their own pressures, and the remnants of the two groups pulled together to cobble a new bad from their fractured synergy. Jarcrew's singer soon departed, from the cobbling and the rest: Falkous, Mclusky drummer Jack Egglestone and Jarcrew's keyboardist (now on bass) Keelson Mathias adopted the humble name Future of the Left , and so the revolution was on.
I only bother with this family tree, lifted from various strands of the web, because, with this shift in personnel, some of the few flaws with McLusky were fixed. As with many flinty screamer type groups (the above mentions groups, Fugazi, the whole of American hardcore) McLusky's energy was often emitted in thin, brittle streams, but Mathias' fuzz bass give FotL's convulsive skeleton some serious ass on their debut Curses. The opening track "The Lord Hates a Coward" is a mix of chants, scraping guitars and cymbal crashes surfing on a deafening inky black wave of bass. "Fingers Become Thumbs" thunders the countryside like a rabid Cyclops, Falkous caterwauling we're not alive, we're not alive/We're not at home for preg-er-nant callers. On the exquisitely titled (like McLusky, they have the best song titles going) "Fuck the Countryside Alliance" the group throbs like Shellac at Nick Cave's Your Funeral...My Trial circus tent circa 1986. There are so many fine moments of blunt force barked poetry here. The way he chants wave wave wave, I don't wanna wave at them over and over in "My Gymnastic Past" sends me into palpitations. So what if I don't exactly know what he's talking about, it's the energy I'm drawn to.
Just as I'm about to put FotL in the vast category of Great Energy Rawk, they do the unthinkable: deliver a spec-perfect hit. "Suddenly it's a Folk Song" erupts in a keyboard grind as infectious as the riff in Joy Division's "Disorder" or Wire's "Ex-Lion Tamers" (which I consider to be both perfect riffs) and follows that line into epic glory. The chorus over hand-clap dums, open wide for sudden folk songs, open wide for certain doom , soon counterpointed by and suddenly folk songs are part of our future and rifling through sloganeering and platitudes like its 1992 all over again and reaching a peak at now we are not burdened by love which brings the groove to a perfect, dead halt. This song is fucking perfect. I want it on 45 so I can let it play on repeat as I destroy everything in my childhood bedroom before I expel myself through a smashed window into Freedom. It is glorious.
The afterglow of this song blinds my sight through the chaotic "Kept By Bees" and the awkward rap-ish moments in "Small Bones Small Bodies" until I am shaken awake by the album's other great moment, the malevolent swagger of "Real Men Hunt in Packs." The groove in this one is so insouciant it is practically swinging its dick around. Falkous is worked up into a veritable lather by the end, while the song keeps smirking. Future of the Left are one of the few bands anymore that get it - you are supposed to sound dangerous and charming at the same time. This band is wild as a pack of dogs, tight as a stripper's hamstring and smart as jewel thief. Falkous and crew have my signoff to devour 25% of all other existing bands if it fuels a follow up that is even better than this one.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
March sees a greatly expanded reissue of Elliott Smith's most critically acclaimed album Either/Or