I chased Andy Falkous across Europe for nearly two weeks. Alas, “Falco” was always one step, one city, one concert and one reliable telephone line ahead of me. You see, his roving band is constantly on the move—like nomads, fugitives or tiger sharks. Cologne, Sept. 22, was the last verifiable communiqué I had from Future of the Left.
“Germans, as they do, smoked and cheered,” Falco, the band's frontman, wrote in an online missive chronicling that night's show. “Afterwards, everybody smoked (except for me). EVERYBODY smokes here, even babies. Smoke for breakfast, lunch and tea. Smoke snack. Smoke-a-trition. I love playing rock shows.”
And then, like a cloud of puff—poof—he was gone. On to Berlin. Hamburg. Brussels. Munich. Handlers reported back with grim tales of missed connections, shoddy Skype hookups and the irregularities of van travel. In a way, it was poetic. After all, the man, his band and the music they play are all hard to pin down.
One might argue that Future's new album, Travels with Myself and Another, is slightly more accessible than their acclaimed 2007 debut, Curses. But the moment you think you have FOTL figured out is right about the time the slightly schizoid Welsh rockers creep up from behind and crack you on the skull.
They play hard and loud, but in lurching, loping fits and starts. Their music has purpose but no real pattern. It has melody without being melodic. It's aggressive, even angry, but almost always delivered with biting wit and a wicked Kafka sense of humor.
And then there's Falco. Half-man, half-WTF. He speaks and shouts and sings and howls with a Bon Scott timbre. His song titles smack of playful juvenility (“Stand by Your Manatee,” “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You”) while his lyrics often land somewhere between obscure invective and surreal stream-of-consciousness.
“Goddamn it, what's the time?” Falkous snarls on “You Need Satan…” “The babysitter needs a lift by nine. What's with that fucking kid? Now who will wash my crucifix? My girlfriend brought me here. I've got to get her on the telephone. Clean up, fetch the goat. If he's sober he can travel in the boot. What kind of orgy leaves a sense of deeper love?”
I have absolutely no idea. But the primal appeal of FOTL is truly less about the destination than the journey. And Travels is a trip to be sure. If the album has an anthem, it's probably “The Hope That House Built,” which includes both the captivating refrain “In the end, everybody wins” and the catchy-as-hell cadence “Come join, come join, our hopeless cause / Come join, come join, our lost cause.”
Done and done. The band has a fervent allegiance partially due to Falco and drummer Jack Egglestone rising from the ashes of cult-fave Mclusky but mostly because FOTL is remarkably distinct without being overly inscrutable or excessively strange.
There are messages hidden in the madness, but when Falco profoundly declares, “Re-imagine God as a mental illness” (“The Hope…”), he then follows it up with “The night might hide my shame, but shame won't dry my balls” (“You Need Satan…”).
Balls or not, the critical fawning that greeted Curses has carried over to Travels although the album's commercial prospects took a shot to the testes when it was leaked well before its June 22 release date.
“I drank a bottle of Jameson's and began to lecture the cat on copyright control,” Falco lamented in a blog post after the leak was uncovered. “To her credit, she simply fell asleep as Law & Order went about its business in the background.”
Underlying the band's serrated humor over the treason is seething hurt and anger that has spilled out publicly more than once with Falkous threatening (hyperbolically, I think) to murder anyone who illegally downloaded the album.
But now, I just wanted Falco to open the fuck up. For a fleeting moment, it looked like I had him cornered in Zagreb, Croatia. But, no. He was on to Stockholm. Oslo. Toulouse. Los Angeles. Finally, a glimmer of hope on the calendar emerged. There, Oct. 9, San Diego.
In the end, everybody wins.
Future of the Left plays with … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead on Friday, Oct. 9, at The Casbah. www.myspace.com/futureoftheleft.
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