By Cathal McBride
October 29, 2013
The term ‘The Most Underrated Band In Britain’ is thrown idly at many acts, whether deserving or not, but Future Of The Left‘s label trouble over the years is one reason it can be justifiably directed at them. Having released their 3 previous studio albums on 3 different labels, this time they finally go it alone with the help of fans on PledgeMusic. Many will continue to debate whether crowdfunding an album is the future or a sign of desperation, but when the resulting release is as good as How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident, the latter can be safely ruled out.
It’s tempting to call this album a return to form – previous effort The Plot Against Common Sense was still better than most other albums released last year, but admittedly it fell a little bit short of matching up to its two predecessors. There were worries that the departure of original member Kelson Mathias in 2010 – a presence so huge it took 2 new members to replace him – had spelled the end of their creative peak, and that they may never make an album quite as entertaining as Travels With Myself And Another again. As it turns out, such fears were unfounded – Plot… was simply the sound of the new lineup finding their feet and trying new things. On How To Stop… their feet have been firmly found, and the resulting album is a triumph.
Plot…‘s undeniable highlights were the riff-heavy guitar workouts, and they’ve had the good sense to build on those here. They set out their stall right away with ‘Bread, Cheese, Bow And Arrow’, a song that more than slightly recalls early single and live favourite ‘adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood’, all gargantuan riffs, pummelling drums and ear shattering bass (two of them in fact). Other tracks too evoke the spirit of their 2007 debut Curses. The obnoxiously loud detuned guitars have reclaimed center stage, sounding absolutely filthy on ‘Future Child Embarrassment Matrix’ and the wonderfully titled ‘I Don’t Know What You Ketamine (But I Think I Love You)’, and there’s plenty of the slightly demented silliness that album possessed in bagfuls. Not that they aren’t still trying new things. ‘French Lessons’ is a rare foray into balladry, and is surprisingly moving as well as hilarious (“You could marry yourself to an orphan girl/And overcompensate on her birthday”), while album closer ‘Why Aren’t I Going To Hell?’ is full of bluesy slide guitars and gravelly vocals, sounding a bit like a Nick Cave parody, only too good to be dismissed as such. While four tracks here (including the infectiously melodic ‘The Male Gaze’) will already be well familiar to fans as highlights of two recent EPs, their inclusion is welcome, as they were always far too good to remain as rarities for no good reason.
None of the above, however, compares to standout track ‘Singing Of The Bonesaws’ – while it will likely divide opinion between those who see the 1950s BBC public service announcement-style vocals as irritating novelty and those who see it as one of the finest things they’ve ever committed to tape, those in the former camp are not to be trusted. What’s not to enjoy about a repetitive Fall-esque bassline underpinning Falkous’ rambles about everything from the music industry (a subject understandably returned to with derision on ‘How To Spot A Record Company’) to a fictional reality TV programme starring Kim Kardashian being chased by a disgruntled bear in a Michael Winner mask? It easily adds up to his most entertaining lyrical outing to date.
Where Plot… felt overlong, How To Stop… feels like it whizzes by in mere minutes, as it simply never loses momentum. The keyboard being largely absent this time out also comes as a surprise, and (without meaning to sound like the kind of tedious bores who walked out of early FOTL shows at the sight of the ex-Mclusky frontman occasionally wielding a synthesiser instead of a guitar) it comes as a bit of a relief, as what was a fun change of gear now and then on the first two albums became overused in Plot…’s experimentation to the point where it almost began to grate. Whether it was a conscious decision for the band to go back to basics and let themselves simply sound more like Future Of The Left this time round or whether things just turned out that way, it’s a welcome return. Three cheers for The Most Underrated Band In Britain.