Compared to the relatively barren (for me) musical months of August and September, October was the veritable muthalode: releases by Om (Floyd-esque pursuit of the transcendental Ur-drone), PJ Harvey (bleak piano-led English Gothic), Qui (the Return of Yow!), and Wooden Shjips (retrotastic distorto-organ-rock) all caught the ear, but it was the newest recordings of two favourite performers that got locked in some winner-takes-all deathmatch before I realised “hey, we’re all winners” and wimped out on the decision by making them both ‘albumi of the month’.


Future of The Left : “Curses” (Too Pure)

It has been exciting following this band from their first London show in September 2006 (this being the first official Future Of The Left show – the previous few were ‘secretly’ performed under aliases: Mooks of Passim, Guerilla Press, Dead Redneck…) through to catching them in 3 different Dutch cities in the past three months as they embarked on the first Future Of The Left tour of Europe. Back in late 2006 they arrived pretty much fully-formed, having obviously spent a lot of time nurturing & perfecting their songs before unleashing them on the public – most of the songs on “Curses” were part of the live set pretty much from the beginning, with only the keyboard stompers first appearing in March. So these songs are like old friends, and far from tiring of their company now that I can spin them whenever I want I am like the proverbial cat (Colin? Chicken?) that got the cream.

Future Of The Left - Curses

Opening with the storming “The Lord Hates A Coward”, the album starts in turbo-charged high gear and only lets the foot off the pedal for the closing Noel Coward-esque “The Contrarian”. This out-of-character last song aside, the album pummels the listener with sledgehammer bass, piston-pounding drums and guitar that could cut through steel. Like Shellac (the band they’re most often compared to), Future Of The Left have a wonderful ability to create dynamic tension in their songs through the removal and re-addition of one of the three instruments, Kelson Mathias’s phat bass and Jack Egglestone’s precision beats often providing the granite foundation to the song before Andy Falkous comes in to spew molten guitar or keyboard riffs and his (mostly uninterpretable) lyrical bile over the proceedings. And despite the words being seemingly mostly meaningless they are strung together in such a literary way that makes ’em unforgetable: you have tall tales of a Devil Thumb, Jack’s pretty pussy, Atlantis rendered badly in oil paints, tiny exo-skeletons and uninteresting ostriches, and get to ponder whether it’s better to be bovine than equine (which I first heard as “better porkfat than eggwhite” and which still made some kinda sense), hedgehog than porcupine, half-cut than borderline…

“Fuck The Countryside Alliance” owes the most to Shellac with its undulating bassline and spare beat, and is also Falco’s most easily decipherable lyric – an anti-Conservative diatribe, a call to arms against the wealthy country gentry, the screams of “take a man to his nightmares in a Landrover” eerily chilling (but funny too: like Killdozer or Shellac, and of course mclusky, FotL’s black sense of humour successfully shines through the music, without ever being a joke that one could tire of).
“Suddenly It’s A Folk Song” will soon be appearing on a double A-side release of punky new wave gloriousness with “Manchasm”, both songs deserving of tearing up the ‘independent’ airwaves (if such a thing still exists) – “Folk Song” in particular is a perfect pop song in the sense that Pixies and Nirvana wrote pop songs, music that can have populous appeal without comprimising the song’s (or the band’s) integrity.
adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood” is one of my favourite songs of the year, moving with a minimalist punkfunk strut that Gang of Four would be proud of and mixing a mammoth riff & Rawhide with arguably the first ever usage of the word “paradiddle” in a song lyric.

I couldn’t help myself wondering though how great these songs would sound recorded over at Electrical Audio, but Falco gave me a fairly compelling reason as to why that is likely to remain a ‘what if?’. And I rudely suggested that the gaps between songs could’ve been a bit longer (so as to allow the listener a momentary breather & to reflect on the gem that had just passed) only to learn that the gaps are the result of hours of intense intra-band debate. I should learn not to question the Mighty Falcotron. Grow into your body happily!!!


Hear live versions of the album’s first three songs at the bottom of this post.



Scout Niblett : “This Fool Can Die Now” (Too Pure

Scout Niblett rocks so damn hard, but can rock so sweetly soft too. It is this wide dynamic – the highs & lows of someone who wears her emotions on her sleeve – helped by the sparseness of the instrumentation (usually just electric guitar, sometimes accompanied by drums), that makes Scout‘s live performances so affecting. New songs like “Nevada”, “Let Thine Heart Be Warmed”, “Do You Want To Be Buried With My People?” and “Kiss” have really captured my imagination over the past twelve months or so, and so (like with Future Of The Left) I couldn’t wait to have the recorded versions in my sweaty stumps, to pore & paw over to my heart’s desire. With Steve Albini charged with capturing it all on tape, and the Bonnie ‘Prince’ hillBilly-ing on four of the songs, it was going to be brilliant.

Scout Niblett - This Fool Can Die Now

So it is disappointing that “This Fool Can Die Now” isn’t quite as huge as I’d hoped it would be. The drums don’t punch hard enough, the guitar doesn’t sear like I know it can, and on some songs Scout’s vocals sound a bit off – like both she and Albini were having a bad day at the office. Don’t get me wrong, I really like this album it just doesn’t knock me over like she does live. Scout is able to hold halls of people transfixed with just her elemental guitar and her soaring voice, but here the added instrumental flourishes (strings, fer chrissakes) and insufficent dynamic range between what should be rapturous volume and ghostly quiet, detract from that raw sound that can suck people right in. Note this as a first: I’ve badmouthed a Steve Albini piece of work! But Scout’s distinctive songs (and the person they spring from) are intact, and Oldham’s presence is a welcome one, still making this one of my favourite albums of the year.

The two opening duets with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy work well, Oldham comfortably inhabiting the male lover-persona, and “Let Thine Heart Be Warmed” is one of Scout’s standout songs (although here given a strange, incongruous industrial edge as the sound of scraped pipes swings unnecessarily throughout).
The headbanging roadtrip of “Nevada” is my favourite track, like a lovers’ “Fear & Loathing…” and probably the song on this album that comes closest to doing justice to the Scout Niblett live experience.
On “Dinosaur Egg” Scout adds some new verses to the already classic David Shrigley lyrics, personalizing the song further: “Solitude, sweet solitude / When will you disappear? / ‘Cause you’re an acceptable guest sometimes / But you’ll not be a long-term friend of mine“, and the perfectly Scout-ian: “My solar body, oh my solar body / When will I join you out of this flesh? / ‘Cause I am sick & tired of being sick & tired / And I’d much rather be a golden ball of light… but still have sex…

Despite my aforementioned disappointment with “This Fool Can Die Now” I have it on regular rotation in NarcoAgent Towers and am unshakeable in my faith in Scout Niblett as one of modern music’s treasures. This album and 2005’s “Kidnapped By Neptune” both come close to being truly great, but fall short of capturing the awesome Scout-in-the-flesh experience – see her live if she comes to a town near you.  


Here is the opening track of the album: “Do You Want To Be Buried With My People?“, recorded live-in-the-studio in November for The Guardian‘s Music Weekly podcast.


Scout Niblett – Do You Want To Be Buried With My People? (live in session)



Scout Niblett and Future of The Left releases can be obtained directly from Too Pure (http://toopure.bigcartel.com/). Too Pure have also recently launched a Singles Club (http://www.toopure.com/singlesclub/) which should hopefully feature a 7″ of unreleased songs from both Scout and FotL.



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