Ears torn to shreds, Future of the Left’s brand of punk-inspired hard rock has the capacity to pummel the body’s auditory system. I blame much of my own progressive hearing loss to the band’s consistent trips down under. And yet, I keep coming back.
Once again, I’m present to see them perform at The Zoo in Brisbane, exactly one year after they last played the venue. And once again, it was a show filled with vicious and amusing tales of middle class characters and quasi-satirical political messages all played at high tempo to buzzsaw guitars, something that rarely gets boring.
Sydney outfit Further play the lone support. Despite never hearing this group before, a friend’s encouragement to get there slightly earlier paid dividends. Further play something along the lines of hard rock music in the vein of Helmet or The Mark of Cain but occasionally stray in more alternative rock territory. While not knowing any of the songs, their ability to change the tone and direction of their set without sounding amateur was certainly welcome.
Everyone knows that The Zoo in January is a giant sweat pit, even at 10pm at night. But this factor doesn’t stop Future of the Left from opening with a particularly vicious series of songs. Starting with ‘Arming Eritrea’, the band quickly moves on to ‘Chin Music’, followed by ‘Plague of Onces’ and ‘Small Bones, Small Bodies’. With the group due to release a new record this year, several new tracks get a workout during tonight’s set, including ‘Polymers Are Forever’ and the comparatively gentler ‘Notes on Achieving Orbit’. One notices that the continuing evolution of the group doesn’t mean a drop in quality, something evident given the crowd’s response to these unfamiliar numbers.
This evolution is in the form of a new bass player and an additional guitarist. In mid-2010, founding member Kelson Mathias left the group. Many feared the worst considering how integral Mathias’s jagged bass sound and on stage banter were to the Future of the Left live experience, and for a while, the group existed in limbo. However, expat Australian and former Million Dead bassist Julia Ruzicka was eventually enlisted and all was right again in the world. Tonight, she’s not as talkative as her stage partners, instead opting to pummel the living shit out of her heavily distorted and reverbed bass guitar. You could say that she is a worthy replacement.
‘Real Welshman’ Jimmy Watkins takes up the fourth point of the new FoTL quadrangle, augmenting Falkous’s grating guitar sound with his own brand of stringed aggression. Thanks to his addition, the band can play many of the songs that were impossible to perform correctly as a three-piece, such as set closer ‘Lapsed Catholics’. While Watkins is content to knock back beers and occasionally scream vocals during some of the older songs, it is clear that he enjoys being an integral part of the band’s new direction.
While the additions to the group serve to make the older material more venomous, it’s on the newer songs where the this new dynamic shines. Performing new material to old fans can often be an excruciatingly boring experience, but Future of the Left have been a bit more savvy, releasing early demos late last year meaning that many people have some familiarity. They are performed with aplomb, with the lead riff of ‘I Am The Least of Your Problems’ cutting through our bodies like razor blades.
However, on a more personal note, the thing I love the most about the new Future of the Left is their new found freedom to perform some older Mclusky material, something the crowd is treated to tonight. The set features four such songs, including the signature tunes ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’ and ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’ in addition to ‘Without MSG, I’m Nothing’ and ‘Fuck This Band’. It’s a special moment for many who never got to see that particular band perform live (though, I was lucky to see them play The Zoo in 2003). In recent interviews, Falkous has confessed that the new lineup frees both himself and Egglestone to re-indulge in their own back catalogue, something I, as both a Mclusky and Future of the Left fan, wholeheartedly encourage.
However, it’s not all plain sailing. Some technical hitches are evident, particularly once the Juno-60 is introduced during ‘Manchasm’. However, Falkous is such an adept entertainer that it’s almost welcome when the band are forced to stop and he gets to talks to the crowd. Never short of a retort, Falkous chastises an overenthusiastic fan in the front row suggesting that he might have some psychological issues, much to the audience’s amusement. Additionally, one might criticise some of the vocal mixing but with Falkous and Watkins seeming content to yell many of the lyrics, clear vocals takes a back seat to auditory violence, as the noisy guitars and bass grate against our eardrums.
Regardless of these minor concerns, the show is worthy of high praise. Future of the Left are the sort of band needed in times where tepid indie rock is threatening to cut the proverbial testicles off music. They remind us of the thrill rock music instils in the young and not-so young (me, particularly) and serves to inspire those would-be musicians to go home, pick up instruments, and rock the fuck out.
Full setlist is here. You can read my review of last years Future of the Left show here, and also my interview with Andy Falkous that I did last month in Rave Magazine by clicking here.
Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues