British groups don’t do rock music.
It’s something in our blood, something that searches for peace in the pastoral, rather than salvation in an amplifier turned up to eleven. Hell, even AC/DC went downhill once they took on board an Englishman, losing much of their sleazy charm in the process.
But Future Of The Left rock, and they do so in a peculiarly British way. The Welsh trio have guitars that rock like a massive chunk of granite bouncing on your head for a half hour, while the drums skitter along like a three year old demolishing their first kit. Yet beneath the sheer visceral pleasure of the music lies a beating heart, quivering in defiance against a modern world that would replace it with a modem.
Escaping their previous outfits – Mclusky and Jarcrew – Future Of The Left’s debut album ‘Curses’ succeeded in its full frontal rock ‘n’ roll assault. As unforgiving as that album was, ‘Travels With Myself And Another’ is even more brutal, and yet even more inspiring. Clocking in at just under 33 minutes, it uses brevity as a tool – when you’ve made your point, shut up.
Opening track ‘Arming Eritrea’ combines feral riffs with a series of colliding in-jokes that hint at a new definition of manhood. Singer Andy Falkous searches for “a common purpose, a common goal” over music so unified and direct that it sweeps you along in a grand statement of intent. Yet Falkous never pretends to have the answers, his voice battling against the music before being finally submerged.
‘Chin Music’ is apparently inspired by West Indian bowlers, but really you would either need to be the world’s biggest cricket fan or have an astonishing faculty for guesswork to figure that out. A throbbing bass-heavy monster, Falkous screams: “I only hit him cause he made me mad” in an absurd parody of the local pub hardman – “a one-man town with a one-man wife”. The supposed codes and loyalties of the brute are laid to bear, before the track hits a sudden false stop, a jarring split-second silence that’s the most intense moment on here.
Sure, like ‘Curses’ a lot of the lyrics on this album can be regarded as throwaway. Falkous admits that he makes most of them up on the spot when recording, insisting that they don’t really mean anything. However the beauty of rock often lies in its idiocy – Iggy Pop ain’t got no diploma, and neither does Chuck Berry. ‘Throwing Bricks At Trains’ could well be a political treatise on a bloodless coup, or it could be some kids play-acting. The point being that amid a cavern of drums and wires such meanings blur, and the simplest things become profound. “The bricks they are just sad reminders of former glories,” Falkous sings, partly disgusted with the modern world yet also mourning his childhood. Always on this album there is a self-mocking strain, a hint within their voices that genuine passion within rock music will also be misinterpreted.
‘The Hope That House Built’ was the first track from this album to be released; a song that reaches towards being over the top yet never passes the point of absurdity. Sure, the bass tone alone is the sort of thing to give your grandmother nightmares, but when it’s matched with such passion it becomes impossible not to get caught up in its grandeur.
Album finale ‘Lapsed Catholics’ contains the few brief moments of respite on here. Over a gently plucked, near-flamenco guitar, the group intones a series of reminiscences from their favourite films. Voices intermingle, and the simple lyrics begin to creep over one another, distorting the meaning before an electric guitar rears its head and screams. “I can’t stand still for the rest of my life,” sings Falkous, and you feel that this is one of the album’s most direct moments. “Be aware, be alert!” he shouts, desperate for a life without compromise. Seemingly answering the opening track’s call to arms, the band gently speaks the final words on the album, saying “it’s part of who they are, and who they’ll be again”. The lust for purity, for something unique and distinct, runs through the record like electricity running through a guitar.
Sure, I could just list my favourite tracks and say how they make me feel packing in my job and running away to the Outer Hebrides, but that wouldn’t really do the album justice. ‘Travels With Myself And Another’ contains enough visceral thrills to keep the biggest noise addict happy, but the songs hint at much more than that. Grappling with the dilemma of defining the modern British male, it never quite finds an answer yet never shies away from the problem, leaving questions that linger for hours, or days. Of course there is a simpler way to enjoy this album – just buy a copy, and PLAY IT FUCKING LOUD.