Music

Future of the Left: The Plot Against Common Sense

Andy Falkous (formerly of Mclusky) returns for another sharp, laugh-out-loud record of pummeling rock.


Future of the Left

The Plot Against Common Sense

Label: Xtra Mile Recordings
US Release Date: 2012-06-12
UK Release Date: 2012-06-11
Amazon
iTunes

Recently, the fine folks at Cokemachineglow introduced us to what I’ll call the Jamie Stewart Principle, named after Xiu Xiu’s heart-on-sleeve maestro. According to the Jamie Stewart Principle, outlined in Conrad Amenta’s great review of the latest Xiu Xiu record, Always (2012), there are certain artists for whom it just, you know, sucks to consider in terms of a record review’s numerical score. About Stewart and Xiu Xiu, Amenta writes, “Subjecting Jamie Stewart’s public catharsis to the pithy whiles of music criticism seems insensitive.” So, while his review discusses Xiu Xiu’s unique place in our musical landscape, it also discusses the difficulty of discussing that place. If a writer can be as unique -- and uniquely honest -- in his or her work, doesn’t it reduce that work to assign it a score of 8.7, or 78%, or 9 out of 10, or Best New Document of Sexual Exploitation and Nipple Clamps, or whatever? Thus Amenta doesn’t give Always a score.

This is just to say: that number down there is somewhat arbitrary, then. Like Xiu Xiu and Jamie Stewart, Future of the Left’s (and, formerly and gloriously, Mclusky’s) Andy Falkous possesses such a uniquely sharp, incisive voice and consistency in his material as to deserve a mulligan on the whole Dewey Decimal thing. (I’m talking about his writing voice, though his singing voice, a warped nasal squawk, is equally lovely and precious.) Falkous once famously claimed stand-up comedy as a greater influence on his songwriting than, say, songwriters, and he’s more Zach Galifianakis than Dane Cook (and if he weren’t, I’d hope you wouldn’t be reading, for Christ’s sake) -- deadpan, often inscrutable, playing on discomfort for laughs more than on punchlines, though he can write a one-liner with the best of them. For a tasting menu of the Best of Andy Falkous, plate up Mclusky’s “To Hell with Good Intentions”, “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues”, and “She Will Only Bring You Happiness”, as well as Future of the Left’s “Manchasm”, “Lapsed Catholics”, and “Stand by Your Manatee”. The words will sting and charm, and the music -- a stew of the nastier bits from pop, punk, metal, and all things loud -- will hiss and churn as if boiling. It will be a dish all its own.

With The Plot Against Common Sense, Falkous continues to skewer targets in his indelible way, and Future of the Left continues to provide meaty, frenetic rock music behind its frontman’s yowling. The most notable change here is Falkous’ subject matter, which has moved from the abstract to the concrete in much of the material here. He skewers a good deal of pop culture fare, from trust fund liberals to trite Hollywood sequels, from London’s Olympic Games to the band t-shirt industrial complex. Opening track “Sheena Is a T-Shirt Salesman”, all teeth and nails, picks on punk’s holy forefathers, and rightfully so -- surely there as many copies of that black Ramones logo t-shirt in the world as there are Kalashnikovs. Similarly, the bouncy, pop-centered “Sorry Dad, I Was Late for the Riots” calls out fair-weather activists, the ones who join the protesting crowds for a nice afternoon before retreating to “a penthouse flat in Kensington” (and featuring my favorite line of the record, “I tried to catch a cab on Camden High Street / But the driver smelled the paraffin and ran”). In other words, Falkous isn’t just shooting ducks in a barrel -- the punks and the progressives are likely his bread-and-butter audience, and it will take some humility for them to laugh along with him.

Other songs, though, don’t hit quite as hard. Falkous is on record as thinking “Robocop 4 -- Fuck Off Robocop” is the best song, lyrically, on this album. It isn’t, though it has some wonderful lines; I won’t ruin them for you by quoting, but suffice to say Ralph Fiennes might have a new job in a cover band, if he so desires. Really, it’s the tone that seems off here. Why get so upset about Jaws 4? (It put money in Michael Caine’s tweed pockets, anyway.) If it’s tongue-in-cheek, the tongue’s just barely touching the flesh there. This track -- and others, like “Failed Olympic Bid” -- doesn’t seem particularly bilious for Falkous, just odd in his choice of where that bile gets spat. (Admittedly, I’m an American and have no idea whether the soccer talk in “Goals in Slow Motion” is a highlight or lowlight.)

But even if you’re not sold on every exclamation in “Robocop 4 -- Fuck Off Robocop,” the music -- let’s not forget about that, even with a lyricist as sharp as Falkous -- on Plot usually keeps things moving. “Polymers Are Forever”, possibly the album’s strongest track, combines start-stop chords with an ea -candy, almost wordless chorus from Falkous to create one of the finest pop songs in the man’s catalog. And it is his catalog. You won’t mistake it for anyone else’s, and an artist as singular as Falkous always deserves our attention.

7

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

Trey Anastasio sings the new "Everything's Right" with the ladies harmonizing behind him to generate both an uplifting anthem of personal empowerment and a melodic jam vehicle that brings the entire audience into a collective groove of spirit family unity.

It's All Hallows Eve in the City of Angels, and the historic Wiltern Theater is the place to be as guitarist Trey Anastasio leads his solo band into town for a celebratory performance. The show isn't drawing fans from all over the country as when Anastasio's primary band Phish played Halloween in Las Vegas last year, where the promise of a musical costume set saw the band deliver a truly transcendent performance for the ages with David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. But this show from the Trey Anastasio Band is still the top Halloween ticket in California, drawing in fans from across the state for what remains a relatively rare visit from a musical hero whom many fans consider to possess his angelic aura.

Keep reading... Show less

"I'm proud of coming in second for my high school's alumnus of the year award to Mitt Romney. I would've liked to have beaten him, but he has lost enough for a lifetime."

So what the living heck is the gang up to now? Well, they won't tell us, but boy is it exciting.

You see, for Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott, each new phase of their career is marked by some sort of wonderful thing. Their first two albums together under the band name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., gained a small but respectable cult following, but with 2015's self-titled re-envisioning, the guys streamlined their pop sensibilities into something that required a bigger studio budget, resulting in the biggest hit of their career with the song "Gone". They even placed in PopMatters Best Pop Album ranking for that year, which is no small feat.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image