Review Summary: Hilarity ensues on the fourth album from noise rock originals.
When inquired about the abundance of humour in his body of work, Future Of The Left's leader Andy Falkous stated that it's simply the result of “the personality of the band coming through naturally,” nailing what makes his outfit so unique in the first place. While other current acts are too worried about the constraints of rock music to exhibit their true selves, the Welsh four-piece delve head first into their preferences, fears and obsessions, revealing a hefty dose of bitter sarcasm in the process. This unrestrained approach expectedly propels the content of their fourth full-length How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
. It's no mistake that one of the record's most biting tracks 'Singing Of The Bonesaws' starts with the line “the music industry is lying to you” before skewering listeners for “confusing excitement with the fear of missing out.” What later on transforms into a hilarious tale featuring Kim Kardashian, a masked bear and self-inflicted ocular injuries is too disjointed to work on any other artist's album. But here it feels right at home amidst the unhinged lyrics of Falkous who once again proves peerless in his no-frills examination of popular culture. He's an articulate and observant lyricist who refuses to pull any punches.
Given the album has been financed entirely by the group's ardent fans through Pledge campaign, the disillusionment with traditional ways of distributing music takes centre stage in 'How To Spot A Record Company.' Falkous howls “Teenage me is disappointed / in the fucked-up record buying public” in this raucous display of the ongoing frustration that's transcendent due to its blissful departing coda. The frontman doesn't shy away from burning social issues, either. While 'Anchor' from The Plot Against Common Sense
was a disarmingly honest take on alcoholism, here the claustrophobic mind-fuck of an arrangement accompanies a trenchant critique of cold marriages in 'She Gets Passed Around At Parties.' “He got married for direction, she got married for the cause / They agreed to find the compromise which somehow didn't suit them both” sings Falkous in devilish falsetto, yet he's also far from mocking his characters completely, finding a dash of empathy in this sad story. The outfit's trademark dark humour is also as prominent as ever. Harking back to the ballad-like 'She Will Only Bring You Happiness' from the last McLusky record, 'French Lessons' showcases the vulnerable side of the quartet with its smoothed-over instrumentation that provides a stark contrast for such hilariously offensive lines as “You could kid yourself that your dreams amount to more than counting backwards from four” and “I’m reading you like a pamphlet that I picked up from an idiot.”
Aside from the lyrics which are even more berserk and eminently quotable this time around, How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
is distinctly Future Of The Left's endeavour music-wise. It's a meticulously crafted collection of tunes calculated for maximum visceral impact. The abrasive brand of noise rock shows further expansion through more extreme and more mellowed-out arrangements in equal measure. 'Future Child Embarrassment Matrix' blends the quartet's signature discordant stabs with detours into funeral doom metal to terrifying effect, while Cop Shoot Cop-echoing 'Things To Say To Friendly Policemen' makes great use of kazoos that only amplify its ferocious outbursts built around the clapped-out rhythm. The outfit's inclination towards hook-laden, danceable tunes makes its presence felt in the Stranglers-influenced 'Donny Of The Decks' and the playful indie pop of 'The Male Gaze' coloured with cookie-cutter backing vocals which somehow don't sound tacky.
Future Of The Left are certainly not afraid of taking risks, perpetually experimenting with new dynamics and textures. Their songs are never formless or overly derivative, though. 'Something Happened' is this album's main curveball that finds the apt line “things are awkward” chanted monotonously over twangy acoustic guitars, hypnotic bass lines, static piano and a random applause track to truly unsettling effect. Almost equally unexpected is closer 'Why Aren't I Going To Hell?' which revives Falcous' beloved vintage synthesizer, Roland Juno-60, to create a spooky atmosphere. This slick spin on Tom Wait's balladry peppered by spaghetti western embellishments interestingly manifests a firm denial of human evil with lines like “I’ve slept with the beasts of the far flung East / I made a pact on my back and it suits me well,” menacingly whispered by the singer.
Not only is Falkous in top form with his broadened vocal palette, but also his collaborators deliver inspired performances. Julia Ruzicka's bass imbues the songs with the snarling low-end and permeating groove, while Jack Egglestone’s pounding drums are inventive without being overly complex. In addition, Jimmy Watkins' hefty broken riffs pepper the album with a crunchy feedback. At this point the second incarnation of Future Of The Left works like a well-oiled machine, displaying enough eclecticism, invention and vitality to make a meaningful, though bleak statement in the stagnant rock music scene. Even more than any of their previous outings How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident
bridges the gap between efficient noise rock, whip-smart comedy and timely social commentary. Not enough bands working today attempt to combine these seemingly unrelated realms, which only makes Future Of The Left's output more precious.