Cardiff-based alternative rockers Future of the Left have been a band I’ve used as a bit of a barometer for some time now; if they ever come up in conversation I’m pretty confident that I’m going to get on just swell with whomever I’m talking to. The surreal sarcasm and fixation with proper nouns on the lyrical side layer up perfectly with brutally fuzzy guitars, bass and synths and pummelling drums to produce one of the freshest and most identifiable sounds in British music today.
They return now with their fifth studio album, that was again financed by a ludicrously successful crowd-funding campaign, this time reaching the 100% mark in a grand total of 3½ hours. Entitled The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left, it is due to be released on 8th April via the band’s own Prescriptions label. The album is noticeably darker and dirtier sounding than 2013’s How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident and generally feels a bit more streamlined than its predecessor.
As well as shaving over an hour off of their previous pledging record, a band member has also been shed in the build up to this album. Guitarist Jimmy Watkins is the no-show so the 3-piece setup of the first and second albums returns, with former Million Dead bassist Julia Ruzicka still lining up alongside ex-Mclusky duo Andrew ‘Falco’ Falkous and Jack Egglestone. Perhaps as a result of the line-up shuffle, there is (to my ears at least) no appearance from the synth in any of the 13 songs, the use of which has been in steady decline ever since debut album Curses and finally seems to have been cast aside for now.
The production, whilst still not corporate slick, is spot on for the selection of songs that have made the cut; the bass in particular sounds huge throughout, providing a perfect foundation for the buzzing and crunching guitars. Falco’s renowned sardonic wit is certainly present and correct, most noticeably on ‘White Privilege Blues’ and ‘Miner’s Gruel’. The former makes a solid case for being the best song on the album, starting with an angular bluesy riff before picking up speed and hurtling towards a ferocious ‘Mulberry Bush’ inspired ending.
Personally, I’ve never been entirely sure why Future of the Left didn’t become tremendously successful around the time of their first two albums. Coming off of the back of the cult classic, Steve Albini-recorded Mclusky albums, Do Dallas and The Difference Between You and Me Is That I’m Not on Fire, they burst onto the scene with ridiculously catchy songs such as ‘Manchasm’ and ‘The House That Hope Built’ and seemed destined for the top. The top of what I’m not entirely sure, but it seems like a good direction to aim for in general.
As it turned out, the adventures with a larger label ended after second album Travels With Myself and Another and, after a brief flirtation with a smaller label, they’ve now settled on the crowd-funding/self-releasing model. To their credit (and that of their fan base) they’ve made this model work exceedingly well so far, although it must be a world away from the luxury of having a label back you with advances and marketing budgets for each release.
Fortunately, these industry knocks don’t seem to have negatively affected the band’s musical output*, if anything perhaps they’ve just served to add more fuel to the fire that powers Falco’s songwriting. This is the 10th album he’s been involved with (five with Future of the Left, three with Mclusky and two with one-man band side-project Christian Fitness) over a career that’s been going for around 20 years and his passion and drive doesn’t seem to be even close to dimming.
I find it a comfort to have bands such as Future of the Left around, consistently putting out great music whilst being seemingly impervious to any opinion from a record executive. They fly the flag for bands that relentlessly tour the venues perpetually being threatened with conversion to cushty flats or closure because of sound complaints from nearby residents of cushty flats (why is it always people who live in flats that hate live music?) and that fund their recordings and tours with temp jobs.
If you consider yourself a fan of this band, please please go and buy this album. I, for one, don’t want to wake up one day to a message – as cutting and hilarious as that message would undoubtedly be – from Falco explaining there will be no more music as he’s had to take a full-time job as a hedge fund analyst or something else equally as depressing. Remember; we need Future of the Left more than they need us.
*Their financial security is probably another matter altogether though, with Falco singing “my bank account is not a hole, it has no real purpose and a hole has one” on closing song ‘No Son Will Ease Their Solitude’.