Monday, April 14, 2008

Future of the Left, live @ The Village 13/04/2008 (now with full review + video)

I hate strongly dislike Budweiser

I had all day to write this up, but I postponed it until this evening (no fault of Budweiser), and was further delayed by the arrival of Noel Murray's A.V. Club Popless column, Wk. 15. This week it is the letter F, so I guess it's quite appropriate even if he is unlikely to have heard of either of the bands above.

As usual, taking a particular theme or issue to begin the column, this week it is the vague idea of 'transcendence' in music appreciation. The song used to illustrate (and discuss)?

Fugazi's Margin Walker (Dischord 35, yo!)

"I hope that Fugazi is still an essential part of every young punk's musical diet. From the band's rigorous DIY ethic to their belief that punk rock can contain subtlety and complexity, they're an inspiration"

Popless Week 15: Taking You Higher

And so, on to the show. Listening to that song above, I'm convinced that without Fugazi (and I'm a fan mainly of their earlier stuff), it's unlikely that you could have had Mclusky - that's the only time I hope to mention that band, by name at least, in this review - and by extension, Fight Like Apes. It's not exactly cast-iron musical logic, but bear with me.

There are a least a few fans of the m-named band on this blog, and it's likely that you will have been following the emergence of guitarist and lead singer Andy Falkous's new band, Future of the Left and their first album Curses. I have to say I remain not completely convinced (at least when compared to the to be left for another time contrasting group Shooting at Unarmed Men of bassist Jon Chapple) but I am, happy to say, far more than suitably impressed.

Support act/bill sharers Fight Like Apes, of whom I've written quite often about on the blog, played another excellent hometown show. Some of the new material is really growing on me, and the prospect of a full album becomes quite exciting. Their mid-set cover of 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues' was ferocious as usual, with the set opened with the sonically aweing synths of 'You Are the Hat' (incorrectly labelled in the previous post*) and bookended with both 'Jake Summers' and 'Battlestations' of the 7" below, the latter with extra screaming.

Here's a good post on another blog about the first gig I saw by Fight Like Apes, in Whelan's last November. It also deals specifically with some of the Mcluksy comparisons.

*the explanation for which is partially my own misrecollection - 'Can Head' is the "fish and chips, fish and chips, CHIPS!" song from the second EP and 'You Are The Hat' is the correct, "now, fight like apes!" song from the first - due perhaps to their not terribly illuminative titles, and also on account of the fact that the labels on my double EP (limited to 200 worldwide!) are reversed, meaning that when I looked over to see what the third song was, I picked the wrong one.

Now, here's the band you should really want to hear about -

(An old poster, obviously - from

Future of the Left - guitarist Andrew Falkous, bassist Kelson Mathias and drummer Jack Egglestone - took to the stage with a blistering opening trio of the first three songs from Curses, 'The Lord Hates a Coward' - violent and schizophrenic - Beastie Boys-channelling 'Plague of Onces', and proper groovey, catchy noise-punk 'Fingers Become Thumbs'. There was a fourth song I didn't recognise from the album (although I haven't listened to it all that much), but it was especially noisy and fast; in reality, it was the first really blistering onslaught from the band.

Next, Falkous switched from guitar to keyboard ("an instrument played by Rick Wakeman in the seventies") for the next track from the album, 'Manchasm'. A simple, nearly tinny melody played over waves of aggression and anarchy - this is a lot of what Future of the Left is about, the nearest you are going to get to a signature sound, if you will. Abrasive post-punk, in an hyperactive, speeding fashion and with an overbearing sense of doom twisted up in the mind-warping lyrics. It's interesting to compare it with the sound of Fight Like Apes, with both operating from similar stylistic source material, yet taking diverging attitudes to melody. Future of the Left don't do soundscapes, and they don't do - to a greater extent - pop sensibilities. Maybe it's just the dominance of aggressive masculine vocals rather than, uh, aggressive feminine vocals, but they seem far more wrapped up in heaviness as well.

But that's beside the point. I was there not just to see Fight Like Apes for the fourth time live, but to see what Future of the Left sound like outside of headphones and computer speakers. And so the show went on. The next few songs utilised the keyboard, before switching back to guitar (excessively low-slung, too, with a strap augmented by what looked like shoelaces - mr. x indeed). I have to say, as the songs continued, my attention started to drift. Possibly because I wasn't quite close enough to the front to get into the crush (although it wasn't in general a particularly physical gig, with an exception to be mentioned below) which is usually a good way to get focused on a band. Yet the gig replicated, in parts, my overall feeling towards the album, which is occasional admiration and even engrossment tempered with distance and the slight boredom of repetition.

Future of the Left have some cracking songs, and even those that don't strike an immediate, distortion-saturated chord are still packed with plenty of energy and visceral feeling. This isn't a disappointment, just a lack of conviction in my part; this band doesn't work in the same way as its predecessor - and there is no real reason why it should - and I don't think I understand it yet. And it is a pretty exacting standard I'm subjecting them too admittedly. But for the moment, all I can do is enjoy the big guitars, or at least their oblique replacement.

After that quite impressive, energetic set, the band retired for an encore (this was specifically explained to us). It was terrific, by far the best part of the show and of the whole night. Don't ask me what the song was, although I'm sure someone could tell me, because that's not important; what's important is describing the performance of it.

I'm not sure I kind describe that either, except that it came to me in three moments of realisation. First of all, was the realisation that this song was actually really good, a kind of mundane realisation I suppose, but regarding the criticism above, an important one; that this band have some moments, and longer than that, when they're totally on fire. Second, there came the further realisation, slightly less mundane, that this song in fact sounded really awesome; like my attempted description of the fourth song above, blisteringly fast and noisy. So hyperkinetic and anarchic that it seemed like what, hypothetically, seeing the original band - not to be mentioned - live could have been. And thirdly, this encore being one of those intense, drawn-out jams that often occur, as I saw Falco crack a smile at something (the first time he had done in the whole gig), seeing it was the bassist climbing over the barrier off the stage, the dawning realisation that this song was going transcendental.

Down in the pit, surrounded by people, the bassist was hurling out a deep, bottomless riff that sounded really like something off the first Ramones record - you know, the sped-up, wall-of-sound tentacled monster that ran under all the dark pop songs, and propelled America - not the UK - into punk history. Meanwhile, a whole lot of stuff was happening up on stage - I barely noticed at first - as Falkous had stopped playing any instrument and was assisting the roadie in rotating the drummer's kit 180 degrees while he continued playing in situ.

Officially, that becomes the most awesome thing I've seen all year. I know it's only mid-April, but that's over a third of the way through the year, so I reckon that stands as a pretty formidable statement.

Two 7"s to be posted sometime soon (Manchasm and Small Bodies, Small Bones).

but in the meantime, here's the video for 'Manchasm':

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