Monday, 19 March 2018

An ode to Future Of The Left

Bad gig photos by me.
Future Of The Left is the type of band you wish more people knew about because they're fucking awesome and they totally deserve all the money and accolades that come with being adored by millions, but you know that as soon as more people know about them you won't get to see them in intimate venues like The Corner anymore and they'll become jaded and changed by money and accolades and fame and suddenly the fucking awesome band is gone and only a cash-filled shell is left.

So if you don't know about Future Of The Left, part of me wants you to go out and buy all their albums like I did when I first encountered their greatness. And the other part of me wants you to go and read something else on my blog, like say my ranking of all the Pixar movies. There - that's nice and harmless.

Actually, technically, it was the second time I encountered their greatness that spurred me to purchase their back catalogue. I don't recall the first time - it was at the Golden Plains Festival in 2008 and I was so cooked that I don't remember their set (and also because Ween and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings played and that was all the incredibleness that my brain could hold).

Pictured: my brain full of incredibleness.
But I saw them again at Meredith's Supernatural Amphitheatre in 2011 and they blew my mind. The setlist was a mix of stuff from their first two albums, a few killer tracks from their at-that-time-unreleased third album, and some classic Mclusky tunes (the former band of FOTL frontman Andrew Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone).

As I said, the set made me rush out and buy the widely available elements of their back catalogue - the great Curses, the all-time excellent Travels With Myself And Another, and the somewhat shittily recorded but rad live album Last Night I Saved Her from Vampires. The following year, their by-that-time-released record The Plot Against Common Sense was my #1 album of 2012, and I was telling anyone who would listen that FOTL were the best band I'd heard in ages and a lot of people were nodding in that semi-polite 'that's nice but I really don't fucking care' kind of way.

But why am I babbling about this band (and why have you read this far)?

Well, this is largely being written because I forgot to write a review of their gig at The Corner in January. I got sidetracked, but I want to share with you what makes FOTL so special, which was perfectly encapsulated by that night at The Corner.

They probably hate being described as "alternative rock/noise rock/post-hardcore" (as they are categorised on Wikipedia), but somewhere in there lies the truth. They love bursts of abrasive noise in between the singalong choruses. They adore tricksy time signatures amid their killer riffs. They offer a cynically witty view of the world wrapped up in catchy hooks and ecstatic refrains.

They're not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but if you like noisy, dirty, spiky rock and have more than half a brain, this is for you. They're like At The Drive In without the pretension, or Fugazi without the self-righteousness. They're like a scuzzier XTC circa Black Sea but with the irony, cynicism, and Big Muff pedals dialled up to 11, or Pulled Apart By Horses without the metal inclinations. They're like Gang Of Four but with better riffs, or Idles but with a better sense of humour.

The closest things to hits in their setlist are Arming Eritrea and Manchasm - two songs at either end of the FOTL spectrum, neither of which anyone knows (probably). The first is a bunch of distorted bursts of mini-riffs that give way to a surprisingly triumphant chorus; the second is a dinky two-fingered keyboard garage-pop tune that devolves into a celebration of a cat called Colin (and I have no idea what the fuck either song is about but they're great).

It's all quality. Behold the filthy motorik groove of Beneath The Waves An Ocean. Relish the sturm und drang of If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do?. Quiver at the uncompromising nature of You Need Satan More Than He Needs You. Swoon at the surprising sentimentality of French Lessons. And laugh at the wonderfully titled Robocop 4 - Fuck Off, Robocop, especially the bit where he points out Voldemort looks like Billy Corgan.

Is it too early or too late to recognise Falco as a genius? Aside from the fact he's achieved every man's dream - to play in a cool band and marry an attractive Australian bass player - he is one of the best lyricists kicking round, blending an unmatched wit with a knack for the abstract that leaves most contemporary songwriters for dead. His mind is a steel trap. He's as funny on stage between songs as he is in songs. He never 'umms' or 'ahhs' and handles hecklers with the aplomb usually reserved for veteran stand-up comedians. If scientists built a sardonic wit machine capable of screaming and ranting in tune, it would sound like Falco.

Also, he still plays Mclusky songs because he evidently agrees they're fucking good songs and is not going to be a twat about it.

So in summary, FOTL are fucking great (as is Falco's "not solo" side project Christian Fitness, by the way) and their gig at The Corner was further evidence of their greatness. They did a "secret gig" the following night at the Old Bar, where Falco was promising to play no more than five different songs, and it was a shame I couldn't go because not only would it have been worth it for the five extra songs, but seeing them live will always be worth it.

The Lord Hates a Coward
Arming Eritrea
Small Bones Small Bodies
Miner's Gruel
The Limits of Battleships
Beneath the Waves an Ocean
You Need Satan More Than He Needs You
To Hell With Good Intentions (Mclusky)
Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop
Eating for None
If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do?
Without MSG I Am Nothing (Mclusky)
How to Spot a Record Company
French Lessons/Singing of the Bonesaws/Lapsed Catholics/Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues
Outro for drum kit destruction: Gratitude bass riff (Beastie Boys cover)

Further reading:

Falco's track-by-track dissection of FOTL's excellent Travels With Myself And Another album
Falco on Mr Big's To Be With You - well worth a read, trust me
A much better piece on why Falco and FOTL are amazing
Falco's wonderful retort to a bad Pitchfork review
And he also wrote this wonderfully raw piece on what it is to be in vaguely unsuccessful band

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