Does anyone write lyrics like Andy Falkous? A couple of albums ago he commented that his work with Future of the Left, and before then Mclusky, had seen them pigeonholed as something akin to a comedy band. Unfair, clearly, but the sort of pigeonholing that results when a rock band aren’t deadly serious at all times. Falco meanwhile peppers his lyrics with Olympian levels of satire and snarkiness laced with purest razorblade vitriol, sharpened fragments of wordplay and brainstorm, like some unholy union of David Yow and Nigel Blackwell, of Steve Albini and Sam Kinison. It’s had the unfortunate side-effect of his being arguably more famous for his interviews and the blog rant after the last album was leaked, later used by UK Music in an anti-piracy advert, than for the pummelling roar of the music. Regardless he hasn’t let up on FOTL’s third album, skewering targets with dead-eyed inscrutability.
Since 2009 album-of-the-year contender Travels With Myself And Another there have been some change in the ranks, kamikaze bassist Kelson Mathias moving on to Truckers Of Husk to be replaced by Julia Ruzicka formerly of Million Dead. At the same time extra thrust has been added by the addition on second guitar, counter-vocals and loon tendencies of Jimmy Watkins, frontman of Strange News From Another Star. (This writer saw SNFAS’ chaotic set at Swn last October and just before the end Falco passed by with a look that suggested he’d seen far too much).
What that means is while the things broadly learned from American post-hardcore of a Big Black/Shellac foundation are still there – angry low end, roaring guitar sounds, left turns that sound like the whole band breaking the sound barrier at once – they seem much more so. ‘Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman’ roars out of the blocks with a drum roll crashing headlong into a wall of distorted guitar and Falkous into the void on corporate appropriation, none of which lets up for two minutes of impacted ferociousness.
And, in the best possible way, that’s about how it goes for a comparatively marathon fifty minutes. Slithering bass at undersea level (‘Beneath The Waves An Ocean’), evil keyboard sounds (corporate Games treatise ‘Failed Olympic Bid’, where it fights with percussive feedback), jackhammering riffs set on levelling cities (‘I Am The Least Of Your Problems’; ‘Camp Cappucino’, which seems to be smuggling in some smart and actually near enough pop vocal melodies) and Falkous railing against modern culture and societal complacency, taking minutiae to task as part of the bigger problem, commerce and commerciality a notable concern. At one juncture he’s railing against cosmetic surgery and fake tanning on ‘Cosmo’s Ladder’, where Watkins offers the advice “I have seen into the future – everyone is slightly older”, then ‘Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots’ takes aim at trustafarians pitching themselves as anarchists “with a photographer from Kerrang!”
‘Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop’ isn’t as good as its title – also, the earth revolves around the sun – but it does provide the answer to the never asked question of what would happen if Part Chimp were locked onto a rollercoaster and forced to come up with a song about ridiculous blockbuster sequels on the spot. That said, they’d never come up with a bridge like “Pirates Of The Caribbean 47/Johnny Depp stars as the robot pirate/Who loses his wife in a game of poker/And tries to win her back with hilarious consequences”. ‘A Guide To Men’, as well as featuring computer voices, a bassline you could almost dance to and the album’s second threatening reference to “total war”, pirouettes around the apparently apropos-of-nothing line “civilised people don’t fuck bears”. How odd to think in this company ‘Polymers Are Forever’, returning from last year’s EP of the same title, would seem like a comparative arena anthem with its repeated chorus and heroic synth tones. Five minute closer ‘Notes On Achieving Orbit’ does what ‘Lapsed Catholics’ did on the last album, being just slightly different while still coalescing everything into a rancorous whole. Having opened with “Where were you when Russell Brand discovered fire?” it hits new peaks of fervent noise release as Falkous portents the end of everything culturally useful (“any old shit was the new Nirvana”), while dropping in a reference to “fearing tie-dye… and Douglas Hurd”.
It may come from similar starting places, but the album really doesn’t feel as one-paced over time as a record of longer than usual length and broadly similar production values usually would. There’s always something to pin you to the wall through sonic ferocity, always the promise of something angular suddenly making its distorted presence felt, always something intriguing in the sentiments, always righteous ire and splenetic, often absurd acerbicity. This is what they, and Falco, have always done much better than anyone else.