Friday, November 29, 2013

Album Review: Future of the Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident

Album Rating: B+
My first encounter with Future of the Left came from their surprising opening slot on Against Me!’s American New Wave tour, where many of the older attendees were just as confused as I at the unexpected pairing. At 16 years old and just barely beginning to deviate from my Orgcore-centric musical tastes, Future of the Left’s amazingly unconventional acerbic bite was certainly not something for which I was prepared, though, to this day, I am still kicking myself for not appreciating and savoring Andy Falkous and company’s remarkable performance (synth and all) that night. Perhaps my appreciation for the group’s newest effort, How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident, will serve a bit of justice, though, and get the band’s name passed around in the air at parties tonight—in the good way.

Compositionally, Future of the Left is at the top of their game on How to Stop Your Brain, offering an exceedingly wide array of styles and genres throughout its 14 tracks, from hardcore to indie pop to vintage 60s rock to even—doom metal? “Johnny Borrell Afterlife” is an early lighthearted, poppy cut soaked in lo-fi production and dry snare hits that immediately precedes the heaviest track on the album, “Future Child Embarrassment Matrix,” in all of its mclusky-era likeness and genital lyric glory. Discordance continues on “I Don’t Know What You Ketamine (But I Think I Love You),” with a Refused-esque riff carving its way over the nasty bassline, but then the band does a complete stylistic 180 on “French Lessons,” a quiet, melodic ballad with a rare subdued delivery from Falkous. No other group in the world can get away with experimentation this consistently blatant other than Future of the Left, and it’s great fun to hear these Wales alchemists reveling in their outlandish cause.

As always, the lyrics provide endless entertainment and insight, and with lines describing the “Carnage at the petting zoo” or how Matthew (a character in “She Gets Passed Around at Parties”) “didn’t want to be that guy who shows up with his balls out,” how couldn’t you love How to Stop Your Brain? Falkous’ anger and cynicism is as palpable as ever as he barks at “the fucked up record-buying public” in one of the most straightforward cuts on the album, “How to Spot a Record Company.” The band actually rocks out in the pocket for a few minutes here as Falkous continuously repeats the song’s title, interestingly tying into the actual composition—a repetitive, catchy and approachable blend of melodic instrumentation in 4/4 time. As if the lyrics aren’t entertaining enough, the well-disguised intelligence behind them will continue to humble all those eager to invest time into uncovering it. Underneath the initially confusing inclusion of the “Singing of the Bonesaws” lies an increasingly insightful painting of the cultural molding achieved through televised mass media—definitely not something I expected to learn from a song about Kim Kardashian being chased through the woods by a bear.

After 13 tracks of madness, the bluesy swing-vibe to album closer "Why Aren't I Going to Hell?" feels like nothing other than unconventional perfection, proving that How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident is, once again, yet another fantastically bizarre mix of Future of the Left’s signature formula of off-the-wall experimentation combined with humorously masked insight.  While the diverse, but somehow together music comes to warrant the most attention this time around, Falkous is still as strong as ever, lyrically.  At this point, his band has simply risen to the occasion.

Official Website

Track Listing:
1. Bread, Cheese, Bow and Arrow
2. Johnny Borrell Afterlife
3. Future Child Embarrassment Matrix
4. The Male Gaze
5. Singing of the Bonesaws
6. I Don't Know What You Ketamine (But I Think I Love You)
7. French Lessons
8. How to Spot a Record Company
9. Donny of the Decks
10. She Gets Passed Around at Parties
11. Something Happened
12. The Real Meaning of Christmas
13. Things to Say to Friendly Policemen
14.  Why Aren't I Going to Hell?

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