Posts Tagged ‘ Future of the Left ’

Future of the Left – Human Death (Music Review)

Human Death cover

Future of the Left – Human Death

As a quick follow-up to last week’s Future of the Left review, I want to mention that in addition to How To Stop Your Brain In an Accident and Love Songs for Our Husbands, they released an additional “sessions EP” to people who backed their crowdfunding project. Human Death shows that the band definitely has a firm grasp on its strengths; This is twenty minutes of perfectly fine songs that, with one exception, would never have any chance of making it to a full album.

That’s not to say it’s bad. In some ways, there’s something very relaxing about listening to B-sides from a band you like and knowing that none of them need to very good. Future of the Left’s albums always distract me with worries about whether the band is living up to my expectations. For a side project like this, I don’t have any expectations.

This also seems like it was a place to put songs that didn’t sound quite like the rest of them. Where the band usually relies on heavy percussion to underscore Falco’s staccato delivery, these songs are softer and actually more melodic. It’s a nice change of pace, and I’m not sure what to make of the decision to keep songs like this out of the way. Not that these tracks specifically should have gone on another album – the lyrics don’t live up to the standards of the A-sides – but I hope to hear more like this from the band in the future.

As a good sessions EP should have, there’s one standout track that fans need to track down. “Not Entirely Present” is a catchy, off-kilter pop song that features a simple folk-rock backing while Falco spits out inscrutable lines.

That one track doesn’t make me recommend the EP. Human Death is a pleasant but definitely inessential companion to Future of the Left’s main release this year. I’m strangely happy with it, thanks to the way it manages expectations, and I hope that this experimentation leads the band down new paths in the future, but I don’t have any illusions about the actual quality of it either.

Grade: C+

 
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Future of the Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident (Music Review)

How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident cover

Future of the Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident

I guess I didn’t have to worry about Future of the Left after all. Last year’s The Plot Against Common Sense was musically strong but lyrically weak, and I wasn’t sure what to make of that. Falco’s brilliant sarcasm was wasted on its easy targets, and it lacked the truly weird choices of words that define this band and Mclusky before it. This year, the band shook off the traditional record industry connections and crowdfunded a crazy, wide-ranging album that finally lives up to my expectations. How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident, which is officially released today, is what I want from post-hardcore absurdism.

Falco will never stop having things to say, but this time around he manages to convey a general disdain for society and popular culture without dumbing it down to make specific statements. Compare this album’s “Singing of the Bonesaws” to the last one’s “Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop”. Both are bitter, semi-spoken word complaints about the entertainment industry, but last year’s take was more like a comedy routine worth listening to once. “Bonesaws” is a legitimate song, and possibly the high point of the album, with a hard-to-follow logic that makes it worth returning to over and over. Halfway through, it becomes a shaggy dog tale about his family being killed by the psychic blow of wasted lives on MTV. It’s catchy and quirky enough to feel nothing like a lecture, and it has the weirdest verbal hook you’ll hear all year. (“It bursts from the screen and into their eyes and their hearts and their minds and their tits and their pits”.)

There are some weak points. Songs like “Things To Say To Friendly Policemen” and “Future Child Embarrassment Matrix” feel like lists without much inspiration behind them (though “Policemen” has the best electro-rock riffs of the album”), and there are a few spots like the opening of “How To Spot A Record Company” where both the music and vocals feel too fractured for me to care. But the more I listen to it, the harder it is for me to find parts to complain about. Initially boring songs like “French Lessons” turn out to have interesting messages. In fact, Future of the Left is becoming more adept at a wide variety of sounds, with that and “Why Aren’t I Going To Hell?” filling out the “tender” side of the equation. Falco is probably tired of hearing his new band compared to Mclusky, but with this album I think it’s fair to say that Future of the Left is a multi-faceted band with their “post-Mclusky” sound being only part of their charm. They haven’t hit Mclusky’s high points yet, but they’re still making great music.

Backers of their crowd-funding effort also received the EP Love Songs for Our Husbands, and it focuses the things I most want from this band into four short, brutal tracks. True, it’s only nine minutes long, and one of the songs (“The Male Gaze”) is also on How To Stop Your Brain, so it’s hard to call this essential. But this is the band unhinged, free to turn up the volume and yell out inanities. I really wish “The Bisexuality of Distance” were on the main album, with its unrelenting guitars and unhinged lyrics that are too clever to have been written as quickly as they seem. They follow that up with “An Idiot’s Idea of Ireland”, which is one of their most successful efforts at making a point without watering down the song (“I’ve been there twice/once in a dream state that lasted for most of my youth/Two years ago/we stopped off in Dublin/and wondered if Warsaw had moved”).

I still approach every Future of the Left album with unfair expectations, and I’m always disappointed that they have to include some filler. But How To Stop Your Brain moves closer to my hope of what this band can be.

How To Stop Your Brain in an Accident: B+

Love Songs For Our Husbands: A-

 

Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense (Music Review)

The Plot Against Common Sense cover

Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense

Future of the Left, like Mclusky before it, is a vehicle for Andrew “Falco” Falkous’ absurdist rants. Whether doing a flat spoken-word delivery, staccato post-hardcore chants, or full-on electro-punk screaming, his sarcastic Welsh voice is a perfect match for the humorous, sometimes almost stream-of-consciousness, lyrics. The Plot Against Common Sense, Future of the Left’s latest release, is more of the same in many good ways. Musically, it is their strongest yet, especially if you liked Mclusky’s intense songs narrated by faux-tough guys. However, over this band’s three albums they have become increasingly serious, and their intended messages just aren’t as fun as the tongue-in-cheek nonsense they used to spew.

It isn’t necessarily bad to mix music with a message, but the two goals often conflict with each other. Whether the results work is a matter of personal opinion, and you can’t always predict whether I’ll like the result based on whether I agree with the point of view. In this case, there are some successes. I particularly like “Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman”, partly because the music industry always seems like fair game for musicians to criticize, and also because Falco’s blistering delivery doesn’t slow down to make sure you get the point. Other than a hilariously apt message at the end (“This song is dedicated to the merchandise manufacturers who made it possible”), it’s just two minutes of clever wordplay and verbal hooks (“autistic autistic autistic radio/artistic license (celebrate a bus pass!)”)

“Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots” is the complete opposite of that. The theme (trust-fund kids who aren’t really devoted to their causes) is also a frequent target for punk rockers, but this just feels painfully strident. The only clever part is the inversion of children caring less than their parents. (Ok, excusing his absence with “I’m sure that Chumbawumba will understand” is pretty funny, too.) Otherwise, it feels generally boring and a little preachy.

Most other songs fall somewhere in between those two. Surprisingly, the band chooses a lot of easy targets, such as unnecessary movie sequels and idiotic advice in Cosmopolitan. These songs have Falco’s typically-clever delivery: “Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop” includes an on-the-nose description of Pirates of the Caribbean 47’s plot, and he responds to Cosmo’s fear of aging by foretelling a future in which “everyone is slightly older”. But his songs work best when he presents gripping but hard-to-follow visions (“This is a song about breaking bread with enemies of fantasy”), and finding an obviously-mundane message in it ruins the message.

Fortunately, not all the songs on Common Sense are derailed by meaning. “I Am the Least of Your Problems” is cheeky, hard-rocking fun, “Beneath the Waves an Ocean” has more self-referential jokes (“Three men walk into a cafe, take a corner booth, and wait for context”), and “Polymers Are Forever” is just my favorite name for a song since Falco formed this band. Future of the Left is still improving in many ways, and they are sometimes figuring out how to handle political and cultural statements. Those statements still get in the way more often than on past albums, though. On balance, it’s definitely a worthwhile effort, though I can’t tell whether they are getting better or worse.

Grade: B