Everyone has that one friend who’s just a little bit of an asshole. He’s the guy who knows just the right moment for a dick joke in a sentimental situation. He’s the guy who calls you a `pussy’ when your guilty pleasures are made public, and inevitably, he’ll end up the loudest guy in the room by closing time. But, no matter how obnoxious, he’s still your bud, and beneath that abrasive exterior is a heart of gold (this actually describes a combination of friends, come to think of it). Future of the Left, just like frontman Andy Falkous’ former band McLusky, is kind of like that friend. Unlike genuinely uncomfortable and borderline sadistic acts like Clockcleaner or Pissed Jeans, Future of the Left is unfiltered in an approachable way. They’re loud and vulgar and maybe a little insulting, but when it comes right down to it, like that friend, when in their presence you can’t help but have the time of your life.
With second album Travels With Myself and Another, Future of the Left is as fun and as playfully misanthropic as ever. Yet Andy Falkous & Co. aren’t as directly confrontational or brutal. Rather, Travels is an impeccably crafted pop album under the guise of prodding, scathing post-punk. Falkous’ guitar and snarky screech are exactly as we last heard them on Curses, while drummer Jack Egglestone and bassist Kelson Mathias still pummel with maximum intensity. That certainly hasn’t changed; what has is the band’s focus, which has become a lot more intense and precise. Their riffs are more streamlined, their hooks just that much catchier, and their instrumental interplay has become much tighter. They’re a well-oiled and quartz-precise mechanism now. Or, like that loudmouth friend of yours, only with a $300 haircut and John Varvatos suit.
On 11 of the album’s 12 songs, Future of the Left dishes out impeccable, vicious rockers, plowing through each two-and-a-half minute track at full throttle. Falkous’ yelp of “I’m an adult!” may sound humorously out of place in the furious opener “Arming Eritrea,” but once he belts it out, the group drives straight into one of the most mesmerizing, melodically stunning choruses they’ve ever crafted. Similarly, the jagged guitar tone in “Chin Music” cuts through the bass heavy verse to create a manic hook that’s dangerously infectious. On “The Hope That House Built,” FotL slow their roll just enough to chug through a punk rock sea shanty of sorts, with a fatalist chorus of “come join, come join our hopeless cause” that nonetheless makes me smile like a jerk. And the hysterical “slight! Bowel movements!” opening to “Throwing Bricks at Trains” is just the beginning to one of the album’s most fun pop numbers.
Falkous sounds a bit more menacing on “I Am Civil Service,” even as he rhetorically asks, “if I eat what I fuck and I fuck what I eat, am I worthy?” The high speed guitar assault of “Land of My Formers” recalls the intensity of McLusky’s “Lucky Jim” or even “To Hell With Good Intentions,” while the syncopated synth stomp of “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You” more than lives up to its name with hilarious couplets like “yeah, sure, Satan rules/ but that doesn’t mean I can’t be practical.” The escalating, jangly riffs and keyboard throbs of “Yin/Post-Yin” make for a bit more of a playful approach, while the group surges into a rippingly grumpy chorus of “these kids/ I swear/ drink Nike,” easily one of the album’s best.
The one track here that doesn’t explode out of the gates, “Lapsed Catholics,” sees Future of the Left going acoustic for about two minutes, but even that’s a temporary pause from the fireworks, as the group ignites a soaring denouement for this triumph of an album with an epic surge of distortion and enthusiasm. Of all 35 minutes on Travels With Myself and Another, not one isn’t thoroughly enjoyable. Some peaks are higher than others, and some hooks stay in just a little bit longer, but when Future of the Left sets out to make a bilious, smirking, adrenaline shot of an album, they leave no minute wasted. Still pushing buttons but maturing with their acidic wit rather than against it, Future of the Left, like that obnoxious friend, provide more enjoyment than more polite bands ever could.
Les Savy Fav – Let’s Stay Friends
McLusky – The Difference Between You and Me Is I’m Not on Fire
Big Black – Songs About Fucking
MP3: “Arming Eritrea”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.