Mclusky: Mcluskyism

With the collector's version coming in at a robust three CDs, Mcluskyism is as comprehensive and well put together a parting shot as you're likely to see this year.



Label: Too Pure
US Release Date: 2006-03-21
UK Release Date: 2006-02-27
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate

It's no wonder, really, that Mclusky disintegrated when it did. As the Sex Pistols showed nearly 30 years ago, something that truly burns bright and hot is destined to quickly extinguish. Mclusky actually managed to last a solid eight years, surviving a name change, a drummer change, and some of the most adrenalized performances and recording sessions that a little three-piece band can go through without killing each other or their audience. Not only that, but they were clever about it, and just boorish enough to be charmingly edgy. The only thing they didn't have that would have catapulted them into the commercial stratosphere was the polished sheen that only a major label can bring (see: Nirvana, Nevermind), but chances are, they couldn't have cared less about all that.

So alas, Mclusky is dead, and as such, they hath bestowed upon us a parting shot, and it is named Mcluskyism. And it is good.

Mcluskyism comes in two flavors: the highly caffeinated three-disc version with all of the sugar, additives, and a touch of ginseng (in the form, of course, of an all-too-short greatest hits disc and over two hours of B-sides, lost tracks, and live versions spread over two discs -- yes, that's a total of three CDs), and the non-fattening diet version with just the greatest hits disc.

The "greatest hits" disc is simply a compilation of every single Mclusky released over the course of their career. The good news is that, generally, Mclusky's singles were their best and most beloved songs, so the disc actually functions fairly well as a "greatest hits" -- even if I wish, say, "The World Loves Us and Is Our Bitch" were included, it's hard to argue with what did make it. When not thrashing around recklessly to Mclusky's screamy, vaguely grungey sound, it's interesting to note the incredibly pronounced development of the band. Two singles whose total running time doesn't even break two and a half minutes comprise the entire contribution of Mclusky's debut My Pain and Sadness is More Sad and Painful than Yours, yet the all-too-short run time perfectly encapsulates a time when Mclusky's "songs" were more like tantrums, repeated, screamed, driven into the ground, and summarily executed.

It was on 2002's Mclusky Do Dallas that the band gained its footing, learned to write songs, and figured out the precise balance between pure, unadulterated noise and melody that allows them to be simultaneously badass and catchy, all while sounding like they were having a blast being the most lovable bunch of pricks in indie rock. "To Hell with Good Intentions" could be the greatest moment of Mclusky's recorded career, reconciling the humor often relegated to their song titles with a more restrained vocal and a delightfully cacophonous repeated guitar line. And who can forget lines like "When we gonna torch the restaurant, sing it!" and "My love is bigger than your love, we take more drugs than a touring funk band, sing it!", even if the latter is more a Bill Hicks lyric than an Andy Falkous lyric. The singles from The Difference Between You and Me is that I'm Not on Fire display that album's move into darker, more sinister territory -- the formula for success remained the same, but a song like "Without MSG I am Nothing" is more frightening than comically aggressive.

Strong as it was, The Difference... was just the sort of album a brilliant band puts out when its members are about to either kill each other or break up. Mercifully, they didn't kill each other. That the change in attitude from My Sadness... to The Difference… is played out on Mcluskyism in under a half hour simply accentuates the speed at which the evolution and incineration of the band took place.

The completists who buy the three-CD edition won't be treated to any additional revelations about the band and its short recorded life, but they will get a glimpse of just how prolific Mclusky managed to be while it was around. The recorded B-sides don't offer any revelations, really, unless you count the demo of "Exciting Whistle-Ah", which gives us an idea of just how raw Mclusky's recorded work is by showing us that a demo can sound almost identical, production-wise, to an album track. Just what did Steve Albini do in that studio, anyway? "Balbos Theme", an old B-side for "Joy", shows the rarely-seen tender side of the band, distortion-free even, and things like "Rope!" show that, yes, the patented Mclusky tantrum could get even more tuneless than the early singles indicated.

The true draw of discs two and three, however, lies in the live set at the University of London Union that takes up the last nine tracks of disc three, particularly the fantastic banter between Andy Falkous and a belligerent member of the audience who has occasion to ask (shout, actually) the following burning question: "Why does your drummer play like a pussy?" Falkous proceeds to spend the next two minutes laying into this guy, his most inspired moment musing wistfully about putting the heckler in a locked room with Ron Atkinson and a grenade. After a few more jibes at the man's expense (and a few added shots from bassist Jon Chapple), the band launches into "You Should Be Ashamed, Seamus", the diatribe now as much a part of the show as the songs Mclusky chose to play. Sure, it's a display of power and caustic venom from the lead vocalist of a band about to split, but more importantly, it shows us that Mclusky was just as clever and constantly angry as its recordings would indicate.

That moment is perhaps the most important part of a set that defines Mclusky as well as any compilation likely could. Mcluskyism's three disc incarnation will be essential for completists, its single-disc version perfect for newcomers, but what both versions make clear is that the members of Mclusky might not have been virtuosos when it came to technical proficiency, but they were positively prodigal when it came to attitude.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller

18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr

17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr

16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

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

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