Monday, August 25, 2008

Future of the Left. Curses! (Too Pure, 2007)

"Face the facts we're back in luck/ Turn on the light and wake me up/ Now we are not burdened by love."

I miss few bands the way I miss Mclusky. Those Welsh freaks cranked out some of the most harrowing, howling, punishing guitar rock in recent memory. They sounded like the Pixies in full-on redline mode at all times. 2002's Mclusky Do Dallas alone is so full of contemptuous, razor sharp wit delivered with the instrumental subtlety of a Mack truck, it's bound to leave an impression on anyone with the good fortune to stray into its path. Its incredibly loud, terrifying, and hilarious path. Some choice Mclusky bon mots:
  • "Nicotine stained on account of her crutch and I'm aching from f**king too much."
  • "It's easy to say now their trainers seemed fine and their hair was a f**king delight."
  • "My band is better than your band/ We've got more songs than a song convention."
  • "All of your friends are c*nts/ Your mother is a ball point pen thief."
  • "Our old singer is a sex criminal."
And while these lines are pretty impressive (offensive?) on paper, you really need to hear them delivered from the mouth of singer/guitarist Andy Falkous to get the full effect. His derisive, sneering, sometimes frantic wail fit the words perfectly.

Alas, after releasing their swan song, The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire, in 2004, Mclusky parted ways, its members going on to form two new bands. Bassist and occasional singer Jon Chapple re-emerged in Shooting at Unarmed Men (see their decent LP, 2006's Yes! Tinnitus!), while Falkous now heads up Future of the Left, who released their first record, Curses!, on Too Pure last year. And listening to Curses!, there's no doubt that Falkous was the key component of Mclusky's brilliance: Future of the Left brings back much of Mclusky's lyrical genius and musical aggression, a soothing balm to those of us left licking our wounds after Mclusky dissolved.

Though Future of the Left is less straightforward than Mclusky, occasionally introducing pianos and keyboards into the mix, the overall approach is basically "Mclusky with some pianos and keyboards." The guitars twist and slash, and the rhythm section is always set to "pummel," the distorted bass and gut-punch drums relentlessly blasting away. Check out the churning guitars on "The Lord Hates a Coward" and "Fingers Become Thumbs!" for the archetype. The stop-start dynamics, caterwaul guitar solo, and frenzied shouting of "Small Bones Small Bodies" probably comes closest to capturing the old Mclusky magic, though the slightly gentler, more melodic "Suddenly It's a Folk Song" gets my vote as the best tune on the album.

And, perhaps most importantly, Falkous delivers some choice lines throughout the LP. Some of my favorites:
  • "Violence, she solved everything."
  • "Why put the body where the body don't want to go?"
  • "All he ever wanted was a detonator."
  • "Kept by bees in a glass case/ Next to Atlantis rendered badly by my oil paints."
  • "Your pity sets the bar so high/ I can't believe it believe it myself/ What a guy!"
Again, you can't really get the full impact without hearing Falkous. He's got one of the best voices out there, and his sense of timing and delivery is enviable.

So, if we have to soldier on in a world without Mclusky, Future of the Left is a pretty good substitute, I suppose. And Curses! is, no question, a great record. But man, I miss Mclusky. Sniff.