Review Summary: Noisy rock and quotable lyrics are present and correct in FOTL's latest album as well as few successful curve balls. Their best work to date.
Whenever I introduce a friend or acquaintance to Future Of The Left I usually tell them that "If you can't find something to love in this band, I can't help you".
Some, like I did, fall in love immediately. Some come back and report "a difficult listen", or "good lyrics but don't like the music". To these people I say, good luck, you're on your own. Granted FOTL are not the most ‘easy listening’ of bands, I wouldn't expect my mother to clamor for concert tickets. They are not classic song writers. But they write classic songs. Andy Falkous' status as one of the greatest lyricists alive today is surely not in doubt. He has consistently produced some of the most biting, incisive and downright funny lyrics of any band, and with this album he's topped the lot.
Despite admitting than his experience with working with record companies never forced him to modify or dial down any actual music (what would be the point?), FOTL decided to fund this latest album themselves through a highly successful pledge music campaign. The total was exceeded in less than 24 hours. An indication that those who love FOTL, really love FOTL. And why not? They are basically alone in their field. They mean it. They actually are better than your band.
Perhaps this is why, off the back of the new album, they have not been invited to perform on the latest run of Jools Holland, they certainly deserve it. Maybe it's because they can make everything else feel rather silly in comparison. If I was Rihanna (or any other pop act) about to perform in Jool's studio with fully choreographed dancers, stage design etc., and I had to follow "How to Spot a record Company" I would feel awkward, self-conscious and a bit silly. The key is taking their art seriously while not taking themselves seriously at all. FOTL's style cuts through the mystic, naval gazing and tortured artist image deployed by musicians since time immemorial. Their songs, by name checking popular culture firmly exist in the real world while neatly sidestepping the tendency some bands have to document the minutiae of daily life. The songs are not about looking forward to the weekend or a '22 grand job’; they are questioning your weekend and '22 grand jobs'. They act as an insightful outsider asking the questions we should be asking ourselves. How could you follow them on a TV show?
With great difficulty on the evidence of the new album. Despite never feeling 'constrained' artistically by record companies there is a detectable air of confidence and experimentation on the new album, all of which pay off. "Singing of the bonesaws" is an almost krautrock construction based on a twisting bass riff courtesy of Julia Ruzicka over which Falkous recounts a tale in the manner of a 40s radio announcer. An amusing, surreal and biting criticism of modern culture ensues. It's unlike anything they've done before and it is outstanding. In a similar vein of trying new sounds the final track 'Why aren't I going to hell' builds over a bluesy Nick Cave style verse to an Isaac Brock style freak-out. Another example of an experiment reaping rewards. Elsewhere there are more familiar FOTL songs with 'pop hook' firmly in place, "Donny of the Decks", "The real meaning of Christmas" and "things to say to a friendly policeman" are insanely catchy.
The guitar riff on "I don't know what you ketamine" is a perfect example of how some might find this band a hard listen. It's abrasive, spiky, almost math rock. It's a perfect example of why I would disagree with them. Despite the aforementioned descriptions the music on the album is never willfully difficult. It merely asks the listener to pay attention.
There isn’t a weak song in this set, even the decidedly oddball "something happened" which features a chorus of chopped in crowd cheering works perfectly, not least because of the melodic coda.
You may perhaps have noticed that I haven't quoted any actual lyrics despite this being one of the main attractions of this band. The simple reason is, there are too many to attempt to crystalize the album in a line or two. Do yourself a massive favor and go and check them out for yourself.
Album number three for FOTL collects heavy riffing, catchy melodies and quotable lines to challenge for Anchorman’s crown. If you don't like it, I can't help you.