Friday, February 19, 2010

... and where the revolution is headed - Future Of The Left

After yesterday’s journey into the northern Sahara deserts with the revolutionary Tuareg nomads, I couldn’t help but return to the question that plagues me constantly these days – just where are revolutionary politics headed in this increasingly globalised, increasingly capitalised, 21st century world of ours? Well, I ran a blog on that very issue for about five minutes, a year ago, and gave up when I ran out of both ideas and enthusiasm. Now, it seems, I have descended to the ultimate bourgeois depravity of looking for the revolution not in the collective rage of the proletariat, but in music.

And so it was in that spirit that I found myself today reaching again for another PBS discovery from last year – an album called Travels with Myself and Another, released last year by a Welsh garage punk rock band with a name that, for me, is irresistibly alluring: The Future of the Left.

The songs on this album are certainly the songs of the disgruntled and dispossessed. But they are a disgruntled and dispossessed whose rage is peppered by a sardonic and sometimes self-effacing wit, which leaves you feeling that, even if the revolution is a little off the rails, at least everyone is still able to have a bit of fun and, given the brawny energy of the music itself, some hard and heavy dancing too.

The rough and raspy vocals of Andy Falkous give the music an angry punk-like feel, but it’s far from just tuneless screams, even when there might not in fact be that much of a tune there. Rather, the music is given some body, some composition, some form, by the way those vocals are integrated into the fuller picture of riffing guitars, pounding keyboards and a driving, beefy beat. There’s nothing here that doesn’t need to be there, and yet still it sounds substantial, full-bodied like a meal of meat and thickly mashed potatoes.

Listen to the opening ‘Arming Eritrea’ to see just how well this can be done, and how the music fills itself out.

The rallying cry of ‘The Hope that House Built’ is perhaps the album’s poster song – its hearty, vigorous march, almost unaware of the blackness of its words, “Come join, come join our hopeless cause!” It’s an acerbic jibe at many a social change movement, singing their songs of protest as they fervently stride into irrelevance. And the cleverly tongue-in-cheek ‘Throwing Bricks at Trains’ mocks the rebel who boasts their part in the ineffective bloodless coup preceded not by a politically organised underclass, but by “slight bowel movements”.

But, even with their bleak pessimistic view of the insurrection, Future of the Left is a band whose real enemy is the establishment, with lines like “If I love what I kill and I kill what I love/ am I worthy? … So I eat what I fuck and I fuck what I eat/am I worthy?” to the angry, raucous, unsympathetic music of ‘I am civil service’; or its barbed sneer at the commercial world that has lulled us all into our comfortable apathy in ‘Drink Nike’.

The distance between the warm and vibrant revolutionary community of yesterday’s Tinariwen and the garage punk disillusioned harshness of The Future of the Left is a vast, vast ocean. But ultimately the energy of Travels with Myself and Another, even when it’s a dark and angry energy, is spiced with enough wry humour, and fuelled by enough boiled blood, to make you feel that there’s some excitement to be had in reigniting that old rebellious spark and, in spite of its incurable cynicism, it leaves you with more than just a hint of hope in the future of the left.

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