It’s been a while since Future Of The Left last set foot in Brighton; major lineup changes over the last couple of years mean that the only surviving members from their last outing are singer Andrew Falkous and the drummer, fellow ex-Mclusky member Jack Egglestone. However, they’ve got a new album out and anticipation is high to see them perform new material, and one or two of the “hits”. This is an early show, and unfortunately I’m too late to catch the first support, Clowns. I arrive just in time for Fever Fever, last spotted taking the Great Escape by storm.
Shrouded in smoke, Fever Fever’s spiky punk is a perfect warm up for Future Of The Left; guitarist Ellie seemingly has every available knob turned up to eleven; the sound she is making is blistering away so much it sounds like her amp is going to burst. When she gets into it she looks positively unhinged; under the blur of hair we get the occasional glimpse of her intense, wild-eyed stare and have to look away immediately. Singer Rosie begins the set in a bad mood, and as things progress, so does her scowl until she just looks puzzled. Puzzled and angry. And she seems to be puzzled about what she’s angry about. Is it the seagulls that stole her chips? Is it the chavvy boys with catapults attacking the seagulls? I feel like it might be me and so I edge back a little as I know what’s good for me.
Clad head to toe in black, and taking to the stage to a slightly unusual choice of intro music (Jimmy Nail’s “Crocodile Shoes”) Future Of The Left launch straight into “Arming Eritrea”, the opening track from the Travels With Myself And Another LP. An unsettling jazzy guitar line sets the pace before the song erupts into life with round upon round of pummelling riffs; the veins in Falco’s neck almost popping right out as he yelps his way through the verses, coming to a climax in the final chorus with the help of new(ish) guitarist/screamer Jimmy Watkins; a man whose terrifyingly powerful gut-roar makes the snarling yips of Falkous sound like Bon Iver in comparison. This is followed by the demented chugging crunch of “Chin Music”, but before we get chance to wonder if a complete run through of TWMAA is on the cards, the band break the cycle with “Small Bones Small Bodies”; and permission is granted for moshing to commence.
“Beneath The Waves An Ocean” begins a clutch of songs from the recently released Plot Against Common Sense album, but from the reaction they get anyone would think they were old favourites. The arrhythmic pounding of “Robocop 4” provides a brief respite from all the jumping about, but recent singles “Polymers Are Forever” and “Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman” are designed for the dancefloor.
It’s a few songs in before we are treated to any of Falco’s legendary between song banter. A few of the more foolish members of the audience are tempted to heckle but are soon knocked right back with typically scathing put-downs. Note to Future Of The Left audiences: do not attempt to heckle Falkous, it will not go well. His caustic quick wittedness makes him a fearsome presence and acts as an impregnable emotional shield, the equivalent of the barrier Henry Rollins created by getting physically massive; “don’t come too close, I can destroy you”. However, we get a glimpse of a chink in this armour at the start of “adeadenemyalwasysmellsgood”; as the crowd begins to sing the “roll on, roll on” intro, Falkous pauses, seemingly lost for words, before announcing that he is “genuinely touched”. But before we get chance to worry that he’s getting soft, this is followed up by his qualifying, “the word “genuinely” was in inverted commas”.
This projected contempt for his fans doesn’t explain the inclusion of a pair of decade-old Mclusky numbers in the set; most musicians of Falco’s ilk at this point in their career prefer not to dwell on past glories and I’m surprised at him for revelling in this sort of nostalgia. One could almost accuse him of selling out, but when the two songs in question are “To Hell With Good Intentions” and “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” (both from the excellent Mclusky Do Dallas album) then we can overlook this point and just shove each other around and scream for two minutes instead. It’s much more fun.
Falco’s Roland Juno-60 synth is wheeled out for “Manchasm” and there is instrument swapping a-plenty as ex-Million Dead founder Julia Ruzicka lends Falco her bass for a couple of songs, and Jimmy seemingly decides from one song to the next whether he’s going to brutalise his guitar or throw himself around and shout at us with a carrier bag on his head. Any restraint the band had held onto goes out of the window during the finale, a ten minute plus version of “Lapsed Catholics” which descends into all out chaos; Falkous systematically taking apart Jack Egglestone’s drumkit and teasing him with the cymbals as if he were a giant feline percussionist. A half naked Jimmy writhes on the floor being force fed a bottle of beer gaffa taped to a fan’s head and a microphone is passed around the mosh pit leading to a great bit of audience participation as crowd members take turns to yell into it. From the carnage on stage, it’s clear that an encore is out of the question, but there would be little more the band could do to improve this set, save putting it out on DVD complete with the warning, “contains mild threat and comic violence”.