Mclusky: The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire

Todd Goldstein


The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire

Label: Too Pure
US Release Date: 2004-05-18
UK Release Date: 2004-05-17

Mclusky will eat you for breakfast. They will stomp on your ugly face and make fun of your stupid band. They will aim their amplifiers at your ears and blow your brains out with a fuzztone squonk. They will spew witticisms like spitballs all over your still-twitching frame. And the best part is you will love every minute of it. Mclusky's music is a sublimely masochistic listening experience, a deafening barrage of spazzy post-punk and blindingly articulate hardcore; lead singer Andrew Falkous spits like Frank Black on a diet coke binge, so angry and funny and fricking hostile towards his audience that it makes you wonder why one would ever listen to Mclusky in the first place -- but then you remember: Mclusky rocks smarter, harder, and more efficiently than just about any other band out there, and they're not afraid to let you know in the most abrasive way possible. And that's a good thing.

The Welsh trio's definitive statement, the Steve Albini-produced Mclusky Do Dallas (2002), kicked parts of your ass you didn't know you had. Mixing a Pixies-like dynamic sense with a puckish attitude and frenzied, painfully funny lyrics (rock bands getting boob jobs, b-boy-style braggadocio re: how awesome Mclusky is, and the brilliant "your mother is a ball point pen thief"), the band established their boundless energy and ever-present shoulder chip as the new gold standard for edgy indie rock. Falkous and Co.'s new album, the excellently titled The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire, showcases a slightly more "mature" group (if such a thing is possible), exploring the outer reaches of their stylistic potential. A varied and engaging record, The Difference... still lacks the immediacy of Dallas, though the group continues to exude the same appealingly unhinged qualities that made their previous album so damnedably riveting. That said, Mclusky's new album will melt your face.

The differences between The Difference... and Mclusky Do Dallas manifest mostly in Steve Albini's production, coupled with a growing dark cloud on the band's stylistic horizon. While the production style is far from murky, The Difference... lacks its predecessor's oomph, that right-up-in-your-ears clarity that has defined Albini's best work. Mclusky Do Dallas punched you in the gut and spit in your eye; The Difference... takes that energy and puts a cap on it, as if you've already been pummeled and now the band is jeering at you from afar. From the moment "Without MSG I Am Nothing" buzzes out the album's opening riff, it becomes clear that the fun is far from over, though its purpose has shifted. The once-giddy Mclusky has added menace to the mix, and the song's "Everywhere I look / Is a darkness" refrain, offset by creepy catcalls, sets the album's subsequent tone.

That, sludgy, distanced feel carries over into the songs themselves, which retain the previous album's unhinged attack, but tone down the screwball humor. Mclusky's songs have always been hectic, jarring affairs, pop through a punk kaleidoscope, but on The Difference... they take on a more ominous tone reminiscent of the Fall or the oft-mentioned Jesus Lizard. As much as the members would probably hate to admit it, Mclusky is at its core a pop rock band, and, just as "Without MSG I Am Nothing" juxtaposes the joyous and the moribund with its silly whooping and morose chorus, so does the album as a whole temper its pop lightness with an insistent darkness. "She Will Only Bring You Happiness" is the sweeter side of Mclusky, with its aching (I hesitate to invoke "emo") opening lines, "Note to self / Be erect by half past ten / Be strong / Be proud / Be charmed," and sunshower-jangle guitars. However, the band undercuts that moment of tenderness by following it with "KKKitchens, What Were You Thinking?", a buzzsaw attack of distorted vocals and razorblade riffage. Mclusky loves to play, in every sense of the word, and that element of surprise and ironic juxtaposition typifies their musical mission.

Unfortunately, though all the elements of Mclusky's musical arsenal are present in The Difference Between Me and You Is That I'm Not on Fire, making the album an overall enjoyable experience, the latter half still suffers from some stylistic overreaching, as lengthier songs bog down the frantic pace and Albini's production compresses the band's machine-gun tightness into a smaller space than may be necessary. Shortcomings notwithstanding, Mclusky's new album is a formidable companion to its kickass predecessor, brimming with tingling musical ideas and exuberant lyrical wit (wouldn't we all like the opportunity to scream, "Everywhere I go / I want to travel by X-wing!"? I sure would.), all delivered with a perennial shit-eating grin. Though the mix of humor and aggression has been slightly recalibrated for Mclusky's new album, it still hits in all the right places, and kicks in all the right faces.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.