Future of the Left – “The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left” & “To Failed States and Forest Clearings”

The Peace and Truce of Future of the Left:

Grade: B

Key Tracks: “The Limits of Battleships” “No Son Will Ease Their Solitude”

With all of the line-up changes that Welsh post-punk band Future of the Left has gone through, it’s pretty remarkable that 2/3rds of their line-up is original members. That said, they are currently down to a three-piece. Andy “Falco” Falkous will run this band until it dies, and he’s currently joined by his wife, Julia Ruzicka, and third wheel drummer Jack Egglestone, who has been around since the beginning (and also played in Falco’s previous band, mclusky). Their fifth album takes a more math-rock based stance, which can be frustrating at times.

The album’s first few songs all have very complex riffs, designed not to be catchy. They’re all heavy, of course, it wouldn’t be Future of the Left without unnecessary volume. The chugging midtempo rhythm and shrieking guitar of opener “If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do” shouldn’t come as a surprise, their last album opened with a similar song. But it isn’t until “Grass Parade,” the fifth track, that we get a song with a real graspable rhythm. The first four tracks all have clunky, demanding rhythms, and while they’re all good in their own right, it does not request another listen very easily.

Once the album ‘picks up,’ which I’m using loosely, it falls more into a Future of the Left groove. “The Limits of Battleships” and “Eating For None” both have great rhythms, snuck in amidst the volume and anger. “Back When I Was Brilliant” is an effective midtempo, midalbum bruiser, and “White Privilege Blues” has an excellent breakdown in it. “Reference Point Zero” has an intense climax that fits in amidst the band’s best energy songs. And closer “No Son Will Ease Their Solitude” is a tense and building finale that’s delectably unpredictable, without going too off the rails.

Falco’s lyrics are frustratingly buried in the music at times. As a singer, he has been praised and criticized for his on-the-nose subject matter, often tackling a specific target or industry. Or, sometimes, he’ll shield himself behind satire (my personal favorite Falco song is “I Am the Least Of Your Problems”). Sometimes, the lyrics come through here. One of the better tracks, “Miner’s Gruel,” is a subtlety-lacking look at teenage privilege. Album cover included, there’s a few tracks that reference the military. As always, there’s references that seem to make sense only to him, like to curry houses on “Back When I Was Brilliant,” to asking “How many farmer’s markets does it take to change a light bulb?” on “Proper Music” and bemusing, “My bank account is not a hole, it has no purpose and a hole has one” on “No Son.” Perhaps the best lyrical moment, though, is on “Eating For None,” when he proclaims, “I am most of the time perfectly happy.” With all due respect, I’ll believe it when I see it.

To Failed States and Forest Clearings:

Grade: A

Key Track: “The Cock That Walked”

The band crowdfunded “Peace and Truce,” and gave the record to paying fans early, promising another EP soon to follow. To nonpaying customers, they came at the same time. If the full-length was designed as a progression into less punk and post-punk and more complex music, then this is the refresher. The six tracks on this EP could have fit on any previous Future of the Left album, and should have. There isn’t a weak track on this release.

Opening song “The Cock That Walked” is about, apparently, creeps who get an erection on public transit. It has a pounding, fast-but-not-too-fast rhythm ripped out of their own playbook. Four of the six songs maintain this, a more standard Future of the Left sound. Keyboards mixed in with booming bass and crunching guitar lines. “Problem Thinker” is the first of the outliers, a much more slowburning song that really takes it’s time to build to a big conclusion. Also, “There’s Always Paul” is a bit lighter, centered more around light percussion and handclaps than anything else.

Overall, this EP has a kind of goofy feeling to it. Look no further than “Animals Beginning with a B,” where Falco sings “I can’t see a baboon from where I’m currently sitting but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them at the city petting zoo.” Look, I’m not sure what angle he’s taking here. But this EP is different than the album because Falco’s lyrics are both clearer and weirder. On “Fireproof (Boy vs. Bison)” he sings, “Someone at the party said to get fucked and he had not heard of that.” The lyrics throughout this EP are the kind that would truly divide Falco’s fans and critics. It acts as a companion piece to the full-length, and it should absolutely be for any longtime fans such as myself.

Read my review of Future of the Left’s “How To Stop Your Brain in an Accident.

-By Andrew McNally

Future of the Left – “how to stop your brain in an accident”

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Grade: B+

Key Tracks: “bread, cheese, bow and arrow” “donny of the decks”

Some bands take a few albums to really find their groove. FotL’s first two albums – “Curses” and “Travel With Myself and Another” – are great releases, but they seem tame compared to 2012’s “the plot against common sense.” That album, another one of my 10 favorites*, has an unfiltered and relentless energy, sparked by production that’s both rough and loud. Very, very loud. The band’s post-hardcore is very metrical, a meter that sometimes is too fast to function. But this album is different. Their fourth album takes the tempo down, resulting in a more balanced release.

Now, that deserves an explanation. FotL has been one of the angriest bands in all of music. mclusky was an angry band, and when they broke up, some members formed the even angrier Future of the Left. Their music is satirical and politically-charged, taking on everyone from low-level British politicians to the queen herself. 2012’s “failed olympic bid” investigated the consequences of British athletes failing to qualify for their own Olympics. By saying their new album is a little slowed down, I’m not trying to imply they’ve softened. Now that they’re an independent band, they can be as motivated as they went. Their titles alone conjure a Dead Kennedys type shock reaction – “she gets passed around at parties,” “things to say to friendly policemen,” and, fittingly, “how to spot a record company.” The anger, the yelling, the satire, even bits of talking are all included and as strong as they always have been.

They’ve only slowed down musically. Opening track “bread, cheese, bow and arrow” starts off with a rhythm slower than all but one from “plot against.” But it’s a menacing riff, one that calls back to the beginning of “Arming Eritrea.” Slower and longer songs give the band some extra room to flesh out their ideas, which only brings out the anger more. A handful of songs are still blisteringly fast, but it’s more mixed this time around. The final song, “why aren’t i going to hell?” even has – gasp – an acoustic guitar. The synthesizer, oddly enough, has been downplayed (much to the chagrin of mclusky fans), but it is still a more varied listen than what we’ve come to expect.

I’ve had the pleasure to see this band three times (once in ’07, twice in ’12, the second of which was the tour with Andrew Jackson Jihad) and they’ve put on easily three of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I bought a shirt last time, that guitarist Jimmy Watkins accidentally spilled a beer on almost instantly. I’ve never been able to stop emphasizing my love for this band. “how to stop your brain in an accident” isn’t as instantly memorable as their previous album, but it showcases what the band is about just as well. And this batch of fourteen songs are like their old ones – probably best appreciated live. Don’t expect to hear for a few days.

If you like this, try: Maybe because I’ve been listening to it a lot later, but Jay Reatard’s “Blood Visions.” Miss you, Jay.

* – I’ve mentioned about 6 of my 10 favorite albums lately. It’s just coincidence, honestly, I try to keep my “10 favorite” down to 20 and not 100.

Poor Lily – “Vuxola”

(Photo Credit: Poor Lily)

Grade: A-

Key tracks: “Birdbomb,” “Railroad Spike”

Charging in at 19 tracks and 30 minutes, Bronx based punk trio Poor Lily’s sophomore release blends 80’s political hardcore punk with 90’s street punk, taking the best of both genres. Opener “Birdbomb” starts immediately with Max Capshaw’s charging guitars and Dom Baiocco’s drums that set the album’s tone of never-ending urgency. The song’s lyrics reference Slaughterhouse Five, a nice touch for the educated listeners. From there, the lyrics often switch from bleakly metaphorical to bluntly political. Tracks like “Crank Radio” and “Microwave” tell stories through their lyrics, while songs like “Send in the Drones” and “Justice Kennedy Has a Cold” tackle politics head-on. In this sense, the album resembles the Dead Kennedys, who handily switched from funny to topical to disturbing on a moment’s notice. Singer Adam Wisnieski’s voice even heavily resembles Jello Biafra’s, a natural resemblance, not faked. His voice is uneven at times, but given the album’s frantic nature, it’s easy to assimilate.

Where the band resembles the Dead Kennedys vocally and lyrically, they’re more musically aligned with street punk bands. The occasional bass breakdown (also provided by Wisnieski) would not sound out of place on a Ducky Boys or an early Dropkick Murphys record. There are hints of hardcore and post-rock included, though, so the album isn’t as formulaic as most street punk bands. Varying song lengths and lyrical switches keep the album interesting. No song sticks around too long, and no idea is too drawn-out. All in all, it is an inventive punk record that does not sacrifice any intensity for ambition.

“Vuxola” is streaming on Soundcloud for free, and drop by their website for more information and shows.

If you like this, try: There’s so many directions to go here. Future of the Left’s “the plot against common sense” (2012) is a much more metrical blending of politics and metaphors (and one of my favorite albums). The Dead Kennedys’ “Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables” (1980) is a classic. Also, a forgotten band from the mid-00’s called Cheap Sex put some decent records that resemble what Poor Lily is doing.

-By Andrew McNally