Wednesday, 18 December 2013

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

It’s nice when music and lyrics combine in a way you can relate to and end up succinctly summing up a feeling isn’t it?

“Once I dreamt of owning my own home and renting six bedrooms / to call center veterans, good tenants and better communicators / but ambition encountered in an economy dominated by forces so deep they confound themselves / I’m just a man (a simple thing).”

In fact I could more or less dedicate an entire Blog to just reciting the lyrics on this album.  I won’t.   But I could.  For example this is the delicately sung chorus of ballad French Lessons:

“Well I don’t need coy carp swimming round my feet / and auburn haired children blocking my path / as I run to the disabled bathroom / topping off a 12 hour drinking spree / The rich kids stole the ball.”

As a lyricist, singer Andrew Falkous has matured and improved with each album he has released – that’s 3 with former band Mclusky and 4 with current group Future of The Left.  Considering some of us can spend three years writing an album which retrospectively only has a couple of good songs on it this is QUITE GOOD.

Musically Falkous’ previous band Mclusky all but refused to incorporate the post-Metallica predictability of guitar chords in order to make their music stand out from the crowd, perhaps inspired by similarly bald-man-fronted Nirvana-influencing scamps The Pixies.

Future of the Left have no such quibbles, preferring instead to use oft repeating combinations of power 
chords to make their music unpredictable.  On this album this is best showcased in opener Bread Cheese, Bow and Arrow but this was also demonstrated to full effect in adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood and the superbly named Robo-Cop 4 (Fuck Off Robo-Cop).

Previous album The Plot Against Common Sense was a collection of terrific pop songs that lost a bit of the band’s customary grunge sensibilities but still maintained the cutting edge and controlled rage that are the band’s hallmark.  It was also their most complete, enjoyable and strongest collection of songs to date.

Funded by fans via Pledge the follow up How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident is perhaps a step sideways rather than a step forward.  Power chords are unapologetically back in vogue while songs like Future Child Embarrassment Matrix echo the more punk idea-track sensibilities of early Mclusky album tracks.

Johnny Borrell Afterlife would have been comfortably at home as the stand out track on The Plot Against Common Sense but feels strangely out of place in the running order of this album.  How To Spot A Record Company sounds bizarrely influenced by Blur’s Britpop bridge-too-far The Great Escape.  The first minute and a half of Bowie-esque Something Happened is haunting, unexpected and promises enormous excitement. 

Unfortunately the final two minutes are ultimately predictable and boring.

When I first heard Mclusky’s second album Mclusky Do Dallas as a spotty faced whippersnapper I was acutely aware that I either hated it or loved it.  I just wasn’t sure which.  It ended up being the only album I wanted to listen to for about a year.*

And I had a similar vehement love / hate reaction the first time I listened to this album.  I expected to love it but in truth I didn’t enjoy it as much as I anticipated.  Then I started to dislike it...

This was a frightening moment of identity loss for me.

Could it be that I had started to hate what I loved the most?

Whatever next?          

Was this the first step on a path that would end with me kicking pets, sending my friends spiteful group text messages and burning my copy of Football Manager?

Then it clicked.

There’s nothing wrong with the songs. It’s the running order of the album I don’t like.  Previous Mclusky and Future of The Left albums have been flawlessly constructed and perfectly paced.

Pacing is a key part of making a record.  It’s what makes an album an album rather than just a collection of songs.  It’s what makes Radiohead’s OK Computer a great album.

The pacing of this album is flawed.  Most noticeably the 3rd, 4th and 5th songs are simply in the wrong place.  As a man not totally unaccustomed to the occasional bout of OCD this annoyed me enough to make me want to switch it off.

Thankfully in these days of Spotify playlists I can just rearrange them.

Hey Presto Bingo.  It’s one of my favourite albums.  A masterpiece.  IN THIS ORDER:

1.       Bread, Cheese, Bow and Arrow
2.       I Don’t Know What You Ketamine
3.       French Lessons
4.       Future Child Embarrassment Matrix
5.       Johnny Borrell Afterlife
6.       The Real Meaning Of Christmas
7.       The Male Gaze
8.       How To Spot A Record Company
9.       Donny of the Decks
10.   She Gets Passed Around At Parties
11.   Something Happened
12.   Things To Say To Friendly Policemen
13.   Singing Of The Bonesaws
14.   Why Aren’t I Going To Hell?

*Might have been longer than a year     

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