Friday, 22 June 2012

Future Of The Left - The Plot Against Common Sense


 'No way you'll ever find peace/You'll never find peace with the name you've got', lead vocalist Andrew 'Falco' Falkous grits between the jaggedness of his band's noise rock, punk-aesthetic, edge on 'Beneath The Waves An Ocean'. It's a statement that's never been more truer for a band like Future Of The Left. The Welsh quartet play in the midst of a social surrounding painted in the bold enriching colors of a bloody red - or a stale lifeless blue - it's almost draining. While the band are in no way a political metaphor or preacher for all this motivational drivel regarding 'change' - and anything else the infrastructure of politics can hope to claim they stand for - there is something remarkably relatable between the band and the context of which their sound fits itself in. While this does feel as if it takes place against the gritty backdrop of monotonous working-class Britain, Future Of The Left, musically, stand as a tour de force of modern-day noise rock alternatives in a country where bands like Ash and Feeder feel both irrelevant and 'past it' in post-noughties rock. 'The Plot Against Common Sense' therefore is a double-meaning of a contemporary band's continuation of similarly heavy rock energy, and in equal measure, a stand-up-and-take-notice nod to the modest honesty that has grown and risen through the ranks of British rock music.

Looking at this album - fifteen tracks, most of which are labelled with titles you'd scribble down during a brainstorm rather than a finalization - it's easy to assume the album will, at some point or another, falter in achieving any significant achievement in its sound, whether individually as tracks, or collectively as a record with an undertone of bearing a 'theme'. 'Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman' may not exactly be ambiguous about its themes - the concept of band merchandise galore here - but for a track that opens the album with such unrivaled raw energy, you'd be forgiven to lose track of the lyrical context. Underneath the clashing of electric guitars and percussion, Falkous' vocals are immense in their scale yet striking in the way they so easily cut through the thrust of noise the track finds itself expressing. Like a impetuous knife through butter, I suppose. It's the lingering repeats of 'autistic-tistic-tistic radio, autistic license...' which stand out the most (and not just for the somewhat bold suggestion of lyrics here) for the way Falkous can immediately take command, neither hesitance nor alteration in his gritty pure-and-simple honesty.

'Failed Olympic Bid' opens up with an equally gritty pitch of synths, but is quick to be pushed aside by the roaring wave of electric strings and pounding drums. Falkous' vocals here a lot more soaked into the music, but he loses none of his truthfully analytical edge. The riff and chord progressions are simple, yes, and flicker back and forth between the tide of instrumentation, but it's nothing that leaves anything but a striking drive in the band's sound. Soon though, the guitars are added to with more rougher edges of fuzz-applied electrics that drive the track on until its eventual end. 'City of Exploded Children' for all those unacquainted with the noisiness of previous yet, will be pleased to find the band exploring more outdoor americano-style alternatives. Falkous' lyrics too are less bold and extroverted than before - here feeling more attuned to that of the likes of R.E.M - and instead show the man's more consummate tone rather than that of one intending to break out and tear apart.

Synths open up in a similar twitch on 'Polymers Are Forever' which sees the guitar usage more scaled-back and coated, jagging themselves atop the elasticated buzz of electronics that continues throughout. The mumbling of bass underneath soon begins to kick into another gear later on, giving the track that seemingly uneasy bottom to its stature. But if you want to talk uneasy, then maybe it's best we move on to quite possibly the album's worthy talking-point in the shape of 'Robocop 4...' or to give it its full title: 'Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop'. Reading off as both a cinematic big-budget parody, while at the same time dressing itself in gross showings of opinion and emotive belief. There's something quite rebellious about Falkous' singing in this track; what starts off as seemingly youthful blurts of free-thought, soon passes between debating undertones of sarcasm and later, this OTT-esque storytelling that only emphasizes the track's interconnecting themes of vulgar american media culture. Here, Falkous listing (to name a few), Michael Bay, Johnny Depp & Billy Corgan in his list of rampantly rambled names. By the end, it all feels surreal in regards to how anti-climatic it leaves itself ending on, yet it showcases quite charmingly how unafraid the band - Falkous especially - are willing, quite boldly, to take lyrical content to its structured extreme.

It's only here when you come away from this stand-out composition that you realize that there is this undying unwilling nature to refute honesty and withdraw such a thing from the means of song structure. In 'Anchor', Falkous takes on a more jumbled looping of passing his voice over the soundscape while the guitars of both electric and bass alike remain letting out this moody strum of solitary notes and erratic windings. All the while, there is this feeling that this is all building up to something more immense and grand-scale, but the reality is that it doesn't. But it doesn't come off as a disappointment, and it's because the band are able to make this stable/unstable indecisiveness in their music, interesting. It may not be the most progressively-changing and impacting of their discography, but the way the music can pass across this challenging test of vocals and instruments actually works really well. 'Notes On Achieving Orbit' stands as a testament to Falkous' varying between honest and submersing presentation of lyrics, as an element of sound to the overall track's output. Even the chorus hooks, where vocals become less-lyrical and more self-explanatory in their usage, actually perform really well amidst the abrupt loosening of noise and punk rock that has found itself (overall) spilling across throughout this record.

I admire a band like Future Of The Left who can pull off this idea of no-holding-back intensity, without becoming bloated or too self-indulgent, in their sound. It would be easy to come to a record thinking the task merely involved screaming as loud and as hard as you could, whilst at the same time talking about subject matter that lacks in any form of poetic whirl. The themes on 'The Plot Against Common Sense' may well reflect the title of this album in that they are potentially all over the place and without justification. But what makes this workable and viable for a Cardiff-born band such as this, is not so much the themes that are involved, but the way in which it reacts with the people who discuss them. There may not be another individual born on this Earth who shares Andy Faulkous' typically British sarcastic honesty, but I guess it's better to have one narrator on such matters, than none at all. It's a sign that there are those who are willing to show us what 'the deal is' with such trivial debates as movie sequels, consumerist merchandise and public riots. And here, across an album that spells out both how quick it is to respond, yet how slow (and unwilling) it is in its acceptance of the present reality, the honesty addressed on this album leaves only a deep and direct sense of abruptly humble understanding.
~Jordan

8.3

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