Photo: Simon Holliday
Arriving worn out and stylishly dishevelled to the Thekla early for a Friday night, I’m relieved to hot foot it down the stairs just in time to hear The St. Pierre Snake Invasion launch into their set opener ‘Thanks But The Answer’s No’. An explosive force to be reckoned with, TSPSI are one of the most important independent bands coming out of Bristol that you need to acquaint yourself with right now. If you’re into rock solid rhythms, antagonistic guitar filth and sarcastic wit – “This party is terrible but it’s the most fun I’ve had in years” – it’s definitely worth an outing to see this band perform as their live shows never fail to impress.
Frontman Damien Sayell is effortlessly charismatic with his onstage banter and coaxes the crowd forward whilst maintaining a formidable vocal presence above the melee of sound. Their songs create instant fascination (and dance floor carnage), and the memorable hooks of ‘Call The Coroner’, ‘Rock N Roll Workshops’ and ‘If The Only Way Is Essex’ kick the asses of every mediocre indie sap out there.
Taking a brief interval after TSPSI leave us wanting more by ending on a short but sweet blast, I loiter at the merch table and assess the damage to my ear drums before noticing the Thekla’s hold is now full to bursting in time for tonight’s headliners. Imagine my life as a comic book and see the big exclamation mark appear over my head; I dive down stage right, up against the wall (because no one likes to stand behind a douche bag in the pit with a backpack on), as Future of The Left take up their instruments to whoops of delight from the crowd. There aren’t many bands in the last few years who I can say have gained my immediate attention and burning love as instantly as FOTL. You might say it was love at first riff.
Perhaps that’s because Future of The Left are refreshingly difficult to pigeonhole into a particular genre that describes their output. And why would you want to? Opening with funk-leaning breaks and a killer bass swagger that escalates into knives-out punk hardcore, the band reach back to their 2007 debut album to pull out ‘adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood’; a distilled essence of the sheer aggravation and gallows humour which radiates from frontman Falco.
Though what quickly becomes most vivid about watching FOTL on tonight’s stage is the palpable tightness between these musicians: in playing and in friendship. This is a band who have strived to carve their own path through the pitfalls of the music industry and have not only succeeded in doing so, but appear to be moving with renewed fire (auspiciously, in this sense, drummer Jack Egglestone is seen to take on the form of the devil grinning fiendishly from behind his blistering paradiddles).
The songs from the freshly released new album ‘The Peace and Truce of Future Of The Left’ sound bigger, leaner, angrier and more intensely driven than ever before. ‘Miner’s Gruel’ is provocative, playful jester Falco at his finest – leaning into the mic and snarling his ruthless but hilarious social caricatures whilst flanked by the rip-sawing guitars which make up much of FOTL’s sound. Light glints off the pegs belonging to Julia Ruzicka’s bass as she swings it around her body and stomps on the pedals in her heels, making it sound as if it were a weapon crafted in a huge, crumbling underground cavern by giants.
There’s a generous serving of songs from all four previous albums as well as the new, creating a fully-fleshed flaming chariot of a set. When the keyboard is brought forward for ‘Manchasm’, the audience readily shout Falco’s lyrics back at him as he stabs the keys with all the antagonism he can summon in his forefinger. For a band who take a no-nonsense approach to their songwriting, it’s a relief to know they don’t take themselves too seriously. Falco’s sense of humour may produce some of the most abstract and scathingly satirical lyrics in the land, but they are certainly among the most quotable.
I try a new one on for size: “Add another finger to your English breakfast, you army surplus motherfucker.” Yeah, I’m smitten. And it seems I’m not the only one who can barely contain my adulation; one audience member garners this Falconian retort: “You need to think about your heckles, young man! You might want to have someone’s babies but are you prepared to raise them?”
Just when we think we’ve peaked, the set takes an abrupt corner into Mclusky favourite, ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’, and the room explodes. However, it’s the hook of ‘How To Spot A Record Company’ which seals the jubilant mood here tonight. Cymbals crash and fuzzed-up guitars escalate into a barrage of riffs, while Falco’s lyrics have never sounded more menacing or poignant.
There is no stopping FOTL, and as the whole set descends into shameless jammage and the gleeful dismantling of the drum kit, I am in complete awe and respect for this band who put everything into their live shows and their records. It’s hard work putting out an album and doing everything yourself, but when you appreciate this much devotion from your fans – as in, amass entire Pledge fund on the internet in under three hours kind of devotion – it’s clear to see the pay off.
You can still catch Future Of The Left this month with The St Pierre Snake Invasion in their hometown of Cardiff and Manchester, as well as in Glasgow.
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