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Future Of The Left
How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident Nancy Bennie , November 15th, 2013 05:45

The one hundred percent price increase of a Freddo, the thumb-sized chocolate frog. The continued use of the phrase "winning" when nothing has in fact been won, apart from probably first place in a cunt contest. The swift decline of our friends the bees, the ecosystem-sustaining pollinators. Selfies. The unfathomable decision to alter the English Dictionary's definition of 'literally' to the completely wrong one. Looking at today's society, it's not only up shit creek without a paddle; the raft itself is one giant, leaking colostomy bag.

However, when the criminally undervalued, post-hardcoreish, should-be world autocrats Future Of The Left politely asked for financial aid from the public via PledgeMusic to record their fourth album, the forthcoming donations were overwhelming. To the band's surprise, their target was reached in just five hours. That's quicker than the average time it takes for a cervix to fully dilate and expel a tiny person. So yes, the idiots are winning, but this kindness undoubtedly confirms that not everyone currently alive is the human equivalent of pork pie gelatine. The follow-up to last year's The Plot Against Common Sense is their most diverse and cohesive body of work featuring a "love song", a dark country-rambler fit for a spaghetti western, a choir of kazoos and the violent chasing of Kim Kardashian by a giant bear wearing a Michael Winner mask.   Where many bands fall apart at the seams after a given amount of time, like a cheap Primarkian suit, FotL have consistently churned out throat-garottingly sharp records gushing with humour and hostility. In a perfect parallel universe, where cats could talk and mind-bullets were an actual thing, flop-haired, non-entity "buzz bands" (whose attempt at 'music' is less fun than developing macular degeneration in a motorway service station) would be the ones working temp-jobs between touring instead of FotL, whose rim would be permanently licked by the "fucked-up record-buying public." Unfortunately, this is not the case. FotL seem too old to generate huge music industry hype, yet have a legion of admirers that would form a testudo to defend them without hesitation. Perhaps they prefer it this way, now releasing from their very own Prescriptions label, with greater control over music delivery and obscene amounts of paperwork.

Andy Falkous' lyrical prowess has always spawned chronic inner-smirks and spoken a painful truth of sorts that is both relatable and assuaging, like a dependable bullshit-sniffer dog. My heart has gone the colour of coca-cola, Sky News is a gung-ho technicolour crapfest and, yes, I've often eaten sausage on a stick. However, this new LP is way more than 'The hahaha honk honk Funny Lyrics Falco Show' (although there's an impeccable TV idea that should be pitched to the nearest commissioning editor forthwith – Falco sits aloft a throne emblazoned with the words 'we are not worthy of pith', jaunty-angled crown perched on his head as he berates and pelts furried fruit at those most deserved of a pulping, starting with Louise Mensch.) 

How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident is the amalgamation of the group's four members into a sturdy blob of T-1000 mimetic polyalloy bulk, all emerging as self-assured songwriters. Julia Ruzicka's bass elbows its way into the foreground more prominently than on The Plot... alongside the reliably thunderous drums of Jack Egglestone and Jimmy Watkins' impressively heavy broken-riff selections litter the album with a truly crunchy, pork scratching-esque chomp. FotL have been as uncompromisingly taut as Gang Of Four sharing a two-man tent with Kid Millions (that's being pissed on by Todd Trainer) from their very beginnings, but here they sound more finger-stabbingly pointy than ever before. The overall production is seriously beefed-up and slick, but not saccharine. Keyboard bleeps and bursts have somewhat dwindled, although an undercurrent of irregular bastard-melody is always present.   Their airtight confidence is more than evident from ossicles-walloping opener 'Bread, Cheese, Bow and Arrow', a union of off-kilter riffage, boombastic drums and Falco at his most restrained and simultaneously noxious. The gloriously sunny "ooh-ooh-oohs" of 'The Male Gaze' could easily be hummed back-and-forth by Judith Chalmers and her fat-faced son. Similarly, 'Johnny Borrell Afterlife' is so infectiously rattling, it penetrates the blood-brain-barrier with ease and stays there for a very long time, even the bit about seeing Bobby Zamora on the bus. 'I Don't Know What You Ketamine (But I Think I Love You)' is an extremely satisfying Hundred Hand Slap to the face and one of the album's more Electrical Audio–tinged moments, eventually wrapping itself in an unforeseen harmony hornet-swarm.

A few songs could sit comfortably within their back catalogue, but never, ever suggest FotL are stuck in their own past. What's more, the band has (consciously or not) expanded their riff rulebook beyond noise-rock rumbles, and grow all the stronger for it, akin to a fully-evolved Charizard that maintains all the original charm of its previous forms, but now has the excellent ability to melt boulders. 'Singing Of The Bonesaws' is a surreal, chorus-free gauntlet-throw taking no prisoners; MTV, misogyny, trend-chasers and Apple store receipts are all slain by Falco's narration over a bass-led backbone, adopting the voice of 'a BBC newsreader from 1952' explaining why the aforementioned are seriously fucked. Some may argue it slightly dangles into self-parody territory but, for me, its classic FotL-satire cranked to eleven, in a good way.

'French Lessons' might initially be mistaken for a lachrymose, Chris De Burgh menstruation ballad, with its gently-sung tales of marital domesticity ('family engagements and trips to the garden centre') and chiming guitar twinkles, but it stays on the right side of slow jam, piercing in all the right places and is very much a natural progression rather than illogical foray into schmaltz. This slight wander into previously uncharted lands continues on 'Something Happened' – a mixture of chilling piano-stabs, rapturous applause and a Van der Graaf Generator-endorsed closing chord sequence (if Peter Hammill took to licking flies off feet). The album concludes with the sinister country-swagger of 'Why Aren't I Going To Hell?', reminiscent of dead-era Johnny Cash and a potential personal anthem for Clint Eastwood's bellend protagonist in High Plains Drifter. Beginning sparsely with minimal acoustic slides and Falco's almost-whispers through gritted teeth, it unexpectedly transforms into a rousing, sing-along finale, like a 'Hey Jude' for pissed-up pirates.

How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident is right up there with the giddy heights of Travels With Myself And Another and proves how downright essential FotL are, leaving the scores of bad-shirt-wearing, piss-poor, spam-fisted guitar 'bands' that saturate our musical landscape for dead, choking on their own swollen tongues. Where they will go next musically is unclear, not because they're having a Babe The Sheep-Pig identity crisis, but because they can clearly take on anything and still be their unique, hilarious, perchloric acid-selves. Falco once said "the aim is to be the greatest rock band in the world." This honour obviously belongs to Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem but, with song-craftery of this class, FotL literally can't be far behind.