I often find myself wondering, in the event of an apocalypse, which musicians would die and which ones would survive? According toThe Postman, Tom Petty would make it. Not only that — he’d be the goddamn mayor.
But the movie’s got it all wrong. If any musician was to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, it’d be Andrew Falkous. It’s not because he’s physically dominant, a master strategist, or even all that famous. No, the Future of the Left (FOTL) frontman would thrive because he’s funny, and when it comes to the end of the world, he with the best sense of humor always wins. He’s be able to not take things too seriously, and therefore able to think logically. He garners followers because he’s entertaining. And even if he gets killed by an alien or a warlord or a baby-eating cannibal, what’s it to him? The whole thing was a big fucking joke anyway.
Many of the targets found in Falkous’ blackly humorous lyrics — both in Mclusky and, for a longer period now, FOTL — have had an apocalyptic bent to them. This may not be immediately obvious in his usual subject matter, but when you stop to think about it, prisons, the military, the upper class, and sex criminals could all play a part in the end of human civilization. So maybe that’s why, when listening to FOTL’s fifth album, The Peace & Truce of Future of the Left, I find myself thinking about a bizarre, second-rate Kevin Costner film from 1997. The scorched-earth cover art helps, too.
But with Falkous, it’s never just a matter of “Fuck this thing I hate,” because, at least when inhabiting his stage persona, the guy seems like he hates everything. More importantly, he hates everything with a unique weapon of his own: the absurdly nasty one-liner. Yes, if you painstakingly read the lyrics sheet for “Reference Point Zero”, you’ll decipher a story about a parapsychology student so dangerously open-minded, she’d take in the revitalized Ottoman Empire as clients, Armenian Genocide be damned. Earlier on “Miner’s Gruel”, you’ll meet two working-class slobs who are trying to force their daughter out of the house because she’s too entitled. Oh, and “In a Former Life” imagines someone getting reincarnated over and over as — among many other things — Prince Paul’s Pekingese dog and Queen Anne’s leaky gigolo.
However, that kind of magnified narrative attention also means you could miss the isolated joy of Falkous’ barbs elsewhere throughout the record. The salesperson jargon of “Back When I Was Brilliant” probably has the most of them, but “Running All Around the Wicket” has the best. I challenge you to find a more jaw-dropping lyric this year than “If 20 therapists want to tempt me with their tit rings, they should know that I own a werewolf and the sense to use it.”
If any of that sounds too weird, mean, or challenging in its comedy for the average listener to swallow, well, it probably is. But Falkous and his mates also keep the musicality lean, groovy, and (mostly) accessible throughout Peace & Truce. Tossing out the sometimes polarizing synth textures on The Plot Against Common Sense and — to a much lesser extent — How to Stop Your Brain In an Accident, the band’s latest record keeps its scope limited to Falkous’ wiry guitar lines and thick Welsh bark, Jack Egglestone’s octo-limbed drum work, and Julia Ruzicka’s smeary bass. That last element proves to be most important, lending a sluggish danceability to “Back When I Was Brilliant” that’s — to be nonsensically hyperbolic for a moment — reminiscent of “When the Levee Breaks”.
Other more radio-minded flourishes (yeah, right) rear their frightened little heads as well. “50 Days Before the Hun” milks itself on handclaps, “Proper Music” is Queens of the Stone Age by way of Wales’ underbelly, and the chorus on “The Limits of Battleships”‘ recalls Lucius’ latest hit, “Born Again Teen”. No joke. Then again, this is Falkous we’re talking about, so it probably is a joke. A layered joke. A nasty joke. A joke that will get him through the end of the world.
Essential Tracks: “In a Former Life”, “The Limits of Battleships”, and “Back When I Was Brilliant”