FOTL - Travels With Myself and Another
Travels With Myself and Another is precisely the kind of honed, aggressive offering that you would expect from Future of the Left. And yet it has, for them, a different quality: it's commercial. Don't get me wrong the band haven't overnight turned into Bono & Co. Ooooh no. With Falkous's rottweiler delivery and lyrics as cryptic as ever they remain firmly in the cult camp. It's just that, well, there are some damn fine pop moments lurking here too.
I don't know what Eritrea's national anthem is but they should consider changing it to Arming Eritrea. They would win all future conflicts. It's certainly a great way to kick-off an album, the song proceeding as it does from the interrogatory to a quite glorious sonic crescendo.
Many of FOTL's songs seem to be concerned with violence but trying to decipher Andy Falkous's lyrics is a fruitless exercise. Much better to just enjoy his phraseology: "turn around, face our deepest fears/re-imagine God as a mental illness" on The Hope that House Built, for instance. I love the sinister theatricality of this song - it has a show tune feel but, don't worry, Les Miserables it most definitely ain't!
Land of my Formers is perfect. Listening to it is like being shot in the head with one of those bullets that explode on impact. Apparently it's about ex-girlfriends.
You Need Satan More Than he Needs You doesn't quite live up to its title but demonstrates better than any other track here FOTL's dark comedic quality. Ah, the mundane drawbacks of practising Satanism in the modern world: "clean up, fetch the goat/if he's sober he can travel in the boot."
You'll find more sardonic humour in Stand by Your Manatee which reveals Emma's common shame: that her mother and father used plastic forks. Falkous's vocal here is both mischievous and teasing. It's worth noting just how versatile his voice is throughout this recording.
Talking of variety, last track, Lapsed Catholics begins in pleasing acoustic fashion with a curious discussion on cinema and Rupert Murdoch, before a buzz guitar rips in and cuts the whole thing to shreds. And it feels so right. Not so much an ending as a complete rout.
Don't be fooled by its brevity (33 minutes) Travels With Myself and Another is a considerable piece of work which stands up to repeated plays. Kelson Mathias and Jack Egglestone deserve more than just a mention in despatches - they form the rhythmic glue which holds this magnificent sonic edifice together.
Travels With Myself and Another is out now on 4AD records. Near faultless - you really should buy it.