Future of the Left

Back from Italy to UK. There couldn’t supposedly exist a better band to help the transition of readapting to Albion after a week full of sun and crap political debates.

Politically, Left in Italy is facing its biggest identity crisis since the second world war. It doesn’t know what to be and doesn’t have a single person who seems interesting enough to not make anyone yawn as soon as he (of course, they are all males) opens his mouth.

So future of the left is a big question overthere.
But Future of the Left is also a big band here.
A band that luckily, beyond its name, doesn’t have anything to do with Italian politics.
It just sounds perfect to open a debate which I will skip for the sake of Future of Live on 35mm!

Thanks to the best name I have come across since Bono Must Die split, I have been monitoring FOTL for quite a while.

Their first album, Curses, was released a couple of years ago following a couple of brilliant singles.
It stands out as one of the few different things to have broken through the “Great Wall” of folk stuff that hit the British shores in the last 2 years.

A breath of fresh air for anyone got annoyed by complicate vocal harmonies, acoustic guitars and improvised record studios built inside cabin sheds in the chill of North America winters.

Future of the Left music is somewhere else. Energetic, screamy, full of (positive) anger and (constructive) rebelliousness.
They have those songs that let out any constrain, free testosterone fuelled emotions, angry feelings and put your mood back in track.
After a full listening of their album you feel ready to face your boss without punching him in the face… or strong enough to do so, which may be an even better outcome.

Listen to adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood (such a good band name such a unspeakable song title, and is not even Welsh). I am probably going a bit too far but I haven’t listened to a track so powerful since Rage Against The Machine.

It might be because of the slow start that burst in the electric shock happening around minute 0.36″, or the use of verses, repeated constantly in a unstoppable escalation, or the solid bass/drum rhythm who sustains the whole, whatever you choose this is rock played at full steam.

“Wow! Who are these trains?” it’s my improbable translation from a Roman expression depicting at the same time technical skills and power. I got it from, Prince Faster, the most famous Italian Rock DJs when I introduced FOTL to him.

I’ll answer here.
Not new to the music scene, Future of the Left are a Welsh trio born from the ashes of McLusky, another Welsh post-punk trio that split in 2005.

Andy “Falco” Falkous the singer guitarist and Jack Egglestone the drummer were together part of McLusky line-up.

Admitting I haven’t been into McLusky a lot during their career, the differentiation between the bands comes from two facets.
One is the use of more synth that gives Future of the Left sound a freshness to suit current times and the other, more relevant, the addition of bassist/singer Kelson Mathias which brings additional horse power to the engine.

Curses‘ success needed to be matched. A couple of years and Travels with Myself and Another is out on 4AD.
Actually, usual story, the album leaked two months before the official release making Falco understandably very angry: “I’m not angry (in fact I don’t blame you, unless you leaked it, in which case I WILL KILL YOU)…”.

If Curses was a promising transition containing a bunch of great singles, Travels with Myself and Another discloses the band potential in a more solid cohesion.
The 12 songs are concentrated in less than 40 minutes and Future of the Left post-hardcore erupts in all its rowdy intensity and visceral brawniness.

Titles get more understandable here and some are brilliant. I love You Need Satan More Than He Needs You, Lapsed Catholics and Arming Eritrea.
The band clearly has a political inclination that emerges since the titles but the verses are enigmatic enough (to me at least) to avoid them being caught in the unproductive net of bands filed under: revolutionary and radical politic. Which is good especially if you are targeting the USA market.

Musically I can ear influences that diagonally cross America from North East, Fugazi and their Washington, to south West, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Faith No More and their California battles.

But music history doesn’t follow a straight line. It squeezes and relaxes as an accordion.
If Fugazi and RATM developed two opposite music styles, they yet have a point in common in Yorkshire: Gang Of Four.
Future of the Left are the best synthesis I can think of these influences, a mixture of post-hardcore/punk which retains an exquisite songwriting as well showing a political inclination without becoming a political reference.

Until this intimate gig upstair at the Relentless Garage in London, I never saw them live, which is bizarre considering the amount of touring. This date is a warm up night before a long USA tour.
It is nice to see a Welsh bands managing to go where the unlucky Manic Street Preachers failed. Their irreverent sound has everything to energize the American public.

On the small cosy stage of the Garage the trio fits everything they need, drums, bass, guitars two mics and, main differentiator from the past, a keyboard. Both Falco and Kelson Mathias will spend some time on it.

The set is tight, overwhelming, relentless as the name of the place they chose for the gig. There is no space for trifles. A couple of rants against Michael Jackson which are a safe play in front of their faithful fans.
The couple of hundreds people packing the room are spread over different age groups and hair length but united by the need of riotous lively show.

Thank to my pocket digital camera and my Moleskine, I can translate a setlist which I would otherwise never be able to remember.
As you can imagine the set jumps up and down over their albums without weak points.

The concert opens as Travel with Myself and Another.
Arming Eritrea and Chin Music is a perfect pair that would wake up the dead so they easily get the attention of the last few guys left queuing for another pint.
A step back to Curses with Wrigley Scott, Small Bones Small Bodies and Finger become Thumbs to please early fans standing on the front row. The sound board man sets all the volumes to 11+.
Land of my Formers from last album introduces the synth interlude.
Falco is the first to leave the guitar and step on the synth. Manchasm‘s four minutes, twice the average of a standard FOTL song, is surprisingly good even with an insistent chorus and to the ones whose level of toleration for electronic keys is very low: i.e. myself.

Another line-up change, Kelson leaves the bass to gain the synth. I don’t know which effects he turns on but the sound is completely different, the drums much more prominent. My favourite title You Need Satan More Than He Needs You becomes one of my favourite songs too.

Stand By Your Manatee is back to all guitars business and travels back in time to introduce The Lord Hates A Coward, the first single.

The final trio is opened by the guitar riff of My Gymnastic Past which culminates his persistent “Wave wave wave, I don’t wanna wave wave” chorus into the opening “roll on” of their anthemic Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood. The crowd at this point goes totally nuts. If this song doesn’t make you move is because you are deaf. There are no exceptions.

I was expecting the last single, the System of a Down influenced The Hope That House Built as a closure track. Instead I got Cloack the Dagger which I didn’t know. Thanks to St. Spotify.com I realized first they have a live album out, Last Night I Saved Her From Vampires, second the song closes that too.
After a set of 3-minutes songs, this goes on forever and is crafted to instrumental improvisations with give Andy Falkous the occasion of assaulting pitilessly his guitar, pulling and beating the six strings with a drum stick until they are all gone. Stick included. Theatrical nevertheless effective.

Check Future of the Left on their [website] or [myspace]

Photo tip

I love music photography but even more I love music.
I go to gigs, shoot the first 3 songs than stay to listen to the entire show. So far nothing special.

Repeat this more then once a week, add the closeness of my ears to the speakers and you would wonder if I wear earplugs.
Well, not really, not always, actually almost never.

I must admit. I hate the sound of music with those irritating spongy yellow things in my ears.
Any doctor would tell me I am crazy and destined to deafness, which I couldn’t argue, could I?

I refused the statement for decades but I admit my granddad was right, getting older make you wiser.
Some weeks ago I stumbled upon one of the brilliant posts of Todd Owyoung (which beyond being a great photographer is plenty of good advices for concert photographers) and I followed his suggestion for a better pair of earplugs. A quick Amazon search and at the cost of a crap 80s hits collection on sale I got the advise and bought a pair of ER-20.

Worthless saying I forgot to use them and needed some attriction to be convinced but I have never been as happy as when, after the first FOTL deafening song, I found the plugs in my camera bag.
Future of the Left gig was the loudest gig I have been since Dinosaur Jr and yes, wearing the earplugs throughout the entire show, made it into a different experience.

I could stand the entire concert close to the speakers, with a sound good enough to enjoy the show and feel no ringing once in bed.

I can see me now being the smoking parent who tell his kids not to smoke but trust me, unless you are going to covering acoustic folk, bring a pair of decent earplugs always with you. You are not forced to put them on, but if the volume goes beyond your ears tolerance they are more important than your camera battery.

~ by Valerio on July 19, 2009.

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