A Veritable Mcluskism of Mcluskyites:
Future of the Left - 'Manchasm'
Future of the Left - 'Small Bones, Small Bodies'
Fight Like Apes - 'Something Global'
Shooting at Unarmed Men - Triptych
Don't worry, this isn't about politics. There's a moratorium from tomorrow [polling day], anyway. (So, vote Yes if you want to improve the European Union, make it work more effectively, and to keep the ball rolling - rather than letting it drop.)
'Future of the Left' is the name of a band, and a rather good band at that. Formed from 2/3rds of the great Mclusky, and a member of the akin and supposedly pretty good other Welsh band Jarcrew, they came out in 2007 with their debut album, Curses. I went to see them perform with Fight Like Apes earlier in the year, a gig you can read about here. At the show I bought two 7"s from the merch stand, which you can see above.
Manchasm is the latest single from the band - I saw it for sale in Tower today, by the way - and probably one of my favourite songs from Curses. This is how I described it in my gig review: "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". 'Manchasm' is a really intense, heavy song but not without its own pop hooks - contributed by the keyboard, which Falco introduced at the gig by referring to Rick Wakeman. The synth - specifically a Roland Juno-60, I believe - works as a separator from the Mclusky sound, as well as an obvious avenue for experimentation.
However, it is only heavily featured in about half of their songs - a point neatly illustrated by the first B-side, 'Suddenly It's A Folk-Song'. A second of my favourites from Curses, it is primarily a guitar-driven track. Lots of shredding, bass-heavy distorted guitar and ridiculous vocal hooks - in some ways a pure Mclusky throwback, but evincing its own Future of the Left style too.
The second B-side, 'Sum of All Parts', is conversely a quiet Mclusky song - similar to 'Fuck This Band', though not quite as astounding. In fact, it's like a hidden Mclusky b-side, which were often excellent. What makes it sound so similar, I guess, is the prominence on all their quiet tracks of Mclusky (and Future of the Left) drummer, Jack Egglestone, whose percussive rhythms start to take over from Falco's subdued guitar in a particularly distinctive style.
An earlier single, 'Small Bones, Small Bodies' is again a ferociously guitar-driven song about bodies, miniturisation, courage and exoskeletons. It has the aggression and the definite Falkous mannerisms of the best songs of Mclusky Do Dallas or, moreso, their final album The Only Difference Between You and Me Is That I'm Not On Fire (yes - seriously! That is the album title). It crescendoes towards the end, in an arc of violence drawn within the confines of rhythm and melody. In other words, the band seriously rocks out but it doesn't lose sight of the hook while it's at it - rather, it just rolls with the rhythm.
As if in a nod to that sensibility - Mclusky always were a meta-referential, ironic band - b-side 'The Big Wide O' contains little, musically, but a snappy drum beat and bit of sparse guitar strumming. Yet, it proclaims "this is the song for anyone, anyone who wants it"; "this is the song to bring along/when no-one understands you... if you only buy one song, make it this one". Even the joke songs are musically solid, and even beautiful - this was true of Mclusky, and evidently of Falkous's latest endeavour as well.
(One of the greatest successes of this blog was to introduce a fellow blogger to Mclusky. Josephlovesit of Geek Down took to the singles and Mclusky Do Dallas with a shine, and in the meantime made some very discerning comments. It is always gratifying when other people are able to articulate something about an interest of yours, in a way that you've never quite managed yourself. 1 was - Mclusky - "One of the few instances where humor can completely work in the context of actual good tunes." And 2 was - on There Ain't No Fool In Ferguson -"does this band always do something really heavy and innovative with rhythm?")
Finally, the third song on Small Bones, Small Bodies is the irrepressibly jokey, yet irresistibly punk rock 'I Need To Know How To Kill A Cat'. Super-rhythmic, with strong echoes of 80s punk and post-punk - e.g. Minutemen and, of course, Husker Du's 'How To Skin A Cat' (which violates the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics, but it's a metaphor for Capitalism, so that's ok). Er. 'I Need To Know How To Kill A Cat' - good song.
Below, the reverse of the covers and scans of the records - showing an, um, idiosyncratic approach to cover art. Well, not that idiosyncratic but pretty definitely 'punk'. Pushing boundaries, like...
(Future of the Left - 'Manchasm' video)
(Note: 'Small Bones, Small Bodies', the song, is cut off prematurely. I'll post a replacement tomorrow)
Dublin band Fight Like Apes are set to release their first full-length album this autumn (September 26th), and have a single set for release on download and CD July 13th/18th. Premier Irish blogger Nialler9 has an exclusive audio stream of the song on his blog. I listened to it several times straight through, and I have to say it's good stuff.
Make no mistake, it's a fair jump from the sound of the EPs, but the same Fight Like Apes sound is in there, albeit differently packaged - better sound production, and at first a misleadingly conventional song structure - but still ready to burst out. Nialler 9 describes it as "...a 3 minute stomper. Flapes version 1.1, just tweaked to sound cleaner and shinier but with a large menacing bite safely intact. A barrage of wailing, rushing synths ride along a bolting beat". It may seem ridiculous to read too much into one single, but I'm just looking forward with great interest to FLApes 2.0, the album. It should, really, be a fascinating listen; I can still remember the first time I put in the earphones for the first two EPs, and each of them (the EPs, not the earphones) growing on me with every listen.
Phil Udell from State magazine, which is also carrying the stream - making it marginally less exclusive, since Nialler9 is on their team too - adds his analysis that "In truth, ‘Something Global’ doesn’t mess massively with the blueprint but the subtle changes are hugely important. It sounds great for a start, balancing their quirky edge with an undoubted pop sensibility, the core conflict that has been at the heart of their music from the very start. Thankfully, and unlike the last EP, it is the approachable, melodic side that wins out here - manifesting itself in a song that rages against the disposable world of pop music by creating a tune so catchy, so universal that you wonder how this can possibly fail to propel them to a whole new level." A small touch of hyperbole there - and what was so wrong with the last EP (David Carradine...)? But indeed, here's to progress.
The single - 1,500 limited edition numbered CDs, but apparently no 7", bah! - also will have as one of its B-sides a recorded version of Mclusky's 'Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues', which is a big boon for me and all other true FLApes punk rockers.
I'm fearful of flying...
And flying is fearful of me!...
Finally, I want to put in a mention for this, other, ex-Mclusky album. Shooting at Unarmed Men (Jon Chapple, bassist for Mclusky) first released Triptych, a triple-disc CD album, in Australia last year, but it got a full worldwide release in March of this year and from first listen became one of my favourite albums of 2008 so far. I like Future of the Left and all - Curses has been growing on me since seeing them live - but Triptych is sublime. It's revolutionary, pure and subvertingly simple.
Shooting At Unarmed Men - 'Sometimes The Best Thing You Can Do Is Die (I have changed my mind; this is the 7" single for the album - first and last song on Triptych. Further post here)
Triptych is a three-part set of mini-albums - about twenty minutes or so each, and twelve tracks in all. According to Road Records, "the album features a collection of three extended singles in a slight homage to the minutemen according to mr chapple ... from totally explosive garage rock to shouty post punk to a couple of slightly more mellow math rock kind of sounds". The first disc plays like a hardcore mini-record, like a condensed version of Husker Du's Metal Circus. A mixture of lo-fi, garagey punk sounds, like a mixture of 70s punk and 80s hardcore, but still definitely modern and Shooting at Unarmed Men-like (if you've heard their previous albums).
The Mclusky edge is in there as well, although probably a different side to it than is evident in Future of the Left. Each disc on Triptych as at least one, generally two songs on it with really strong hooks, while the rest is devoted - but not abandoned - to experimentation. Disc two switches from the more straightforward, atavistic rock'n'roll sound into later, early Slint-like post-rock styles; and disc three, with the maniacal, jerky post-punk opener to freakout jam 'Happy Birthday Placenta' explores the fabric of the album's varied sounds even further.
The previous album, Yes! Tinnitus!, while good, tended to drift into repetition and lengthy rhythm pieces (except the rip-roaring Girls Music single). Hence the idea of a triple album came with some foreboding, but it is the very brevity of its songs which makes Triptych so exceptional. In the end, I dig this album on many levels: the stripped-back intensity of its punk and hardcore sound; the concept of its concentrated, shaped 'bursts'; and the variety and diversity to be found within it. Triptych, I think, is a must for any Mclusky fan and for anyone interested in a progressive take on punk rock.
Shooting at Unarmed Men at Road Records (€16.99 for the excellently packaged album)