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GIG REVIEW: Future of the Left @ Tunnels, 17/1/09

7:21pm. A well-meaning front blows in; pressure generally depressed.

Openers 'Turning 13' aim for a Fugazi slink but don't have the mean drama that sort of thing demands; the sub-Weezer vocals particularly let them down. When their unassuming guitarist fills in the regular tuning intervals in the manner of a very embarrassed Sonic Youth, we note something else; they're local bairns, but they bear no hint of any culture underneath the breathy Billy Corgan vox and workaday dual-guitars. Praise them faintly: not disagreeable.

8:10pm. Prospects changeable; chances of hail are good.

"It's impossible to look up while playing a Telecaster, see." notes a friend of followups 'This Familiar Smile'. The cultural abnegation goes on: these stalwart Glaswegians throw more American/Nowhere disjointy post-hardcore at us. They are At The Drive-In without the psychosis which was the most compelling thing about that lot. The high, high but non-falsetto vox owe as much to Pete Wentz as Cedric Bixler-Zavala. Say that they mean it - the singer in particular fully expressive of something or other - but there's nothing but that to distinguish them. Emocore, even five years past its peak, is still the most surplus genre.

At least there's some space in their sound, some respite from the schizoid split-rhythm dual-guitar thing, in service of the idea of the "experimental" as it was in 2001. Some of the chords progressions are sorta convincing, but most are intricately crashing bores: the frenetic wears thin. The respite is their song "Red Wine", adding Snow Patrol to the mix before the set mumphs back to hysteria-rock and leads out.

9:08pm. Outlook humid with a good chance of volcanoes.

Now. Premier Welsh iconoclasts would be allowed a bug-eyed, ranty Bad Seeds stalk-onstage - especially seeing as Cave's Grinderman are cousins in primality to this lot. Instead Future of the Left sidle on, offer the barest of banter and tear into new album-opener "Arming Eritrea."

Right! Being suddenly, obviously, children in wartime, we're evacuated, but sent the wrong way, into the bomb corridor of a set of Cardiff bastards. FOTL take everything right about metal - the iconoclasm, eye on the extremes of human experience, and most of all the seethe - and lose the Tolkienian-Lovecraftian posture and forced immorality. Falkous' quotidian bark's as spiteful and triumphant as any bark of any genre. He goes bright red all over from bellow #2 to the end an hour later.

This is battery music; big riff-drones with monstrous bass transforming skronk cadences into dark grooves. It's exhilarating, ex nihilo. They strut through the fury, holding court above their own storm. Each song's choked off, as if before ripe; they switch songs clinically, the next instantly after each applause round peters out. This makes it seem like the band has a grudge against us, though perhaps it's nothing personal and it's everything under the sun at fault. You will be human, won't you?

Between being buffeted about, I play an awful game, the genre-generation game, but, as usual, can't come up with anything for FOTL that doesn't sound like slander: What are they? Sludge-punk? Industrial classic rock? Indie-metal? No; this isn't sleaze, it isn't sludge nor metal. This is what post-hardcore should have been.

The relentless crash begins to drag, but as soon as it does Falkous moves to keyboard for the "Manchasm"'s lecherous groove, and "Youneedsatanmorethanheneedsyou" - Portishead if Portishead were to cross a holiday-cottage-burning posse on a moor.

The trio channel are bigger and more mordant than three men ought be able. I remind myself that they are only bits hitting bits against bits, but it doesn't help, doesn't detract from the affront of them. Kelson Matthias' continental bass chords and drummer Jack Eggleston ("The 300 Spartan who went to Gregg's for four months instead of Thermopylae") are the basis. But Falkous has the singleminded, licentious power Henry Rollins used to have, underscored (somehow) by his deeply unnerving sense of humour. He spouts things like "Suddenly these ostriches / do not seem so interesting" or "She's got a lot of pickled onions. / Hanging from her thighs", without a hint of affectation; who can be this nasal without seeming petulant; or tote potency lacking arrogance? We're not even being lectured here.

"Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood" erupts into a massive White Stripes/Pantera riff after acapella, and since those two broke (presumably under the weight of their own riffs) there's little to match it. Anyone who can carry off the chords to "Adeadenemy" as dance music can have no fear or beast nor man nor sound.

We are warned, in a tone brooking no contradiction (ie. enthusiasm), that we have reached the last two songs, and that the last one will take months - we will in fact age during the course of it, and that if we want encores, we should go away and play them in our heads. "In an alternate world not much like our own, this is the single", said of "The House That Hope Built", an almost folksy thing with much of their venom retracted, like those sea snakes that feign death to attract prey.

Then a mythical rock phenomenon: an actually interesting 10min jam, of their "Cloak The Dagger". Falkous grows more and more disillusioned with his guitar, torturing the thing, parading it, shoving a drumstick under the bridge and producing merciless wails. Eggleston is trance-fast, desparate to get shot of his arms. Matthias spirals into his own bassline, complementing nothing but human nature. After a psychotic stint on keyboard, Falkous begins to steal Eggleston's kit in the manner of a parent removing an overused toy. He waves it around, teasing with a hihat. The drumline doesn't falter, the flow on the remaining pieces instead intensifying.

With a light conductor's flourish, Falkous cuts off the "song" in sync and they go.


1. Arming Eritrea
2. Chin Music
3. Wrigley Scott
4. Plague of Onces
5. Small Bones Small bodies
6. Manchasm
7. Youneedsatanmorethanheneedsyou
8. Stand By Your Manatee
9. Land of My Formers
10. Fingers Become Thumbs
11. Yin/Post-Yin
12. My Gymnastic Past
13. Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood
14. The House That Hope Built
15. Cloak The Dagger