Let’s get a couple of things straight before we go any further. Post-hardcore diehards pining for another Mclusky album are in for a disappointment. Frontman Andy Falkous has evolved past the verbose noise rock of his former band, and with Future Of The Left, he has realized his true musical destiny: to lead a rock band with equal parts steely cynicism, sardonic jest and sheer insanity. The Welsh group’s latest full-length, The Plot Against Common Sense (Xtra Mile), is not the record you play at a backyard barbecue when you get tired of the Black Keys; its complexity is easily underestimated, and most of its greatest joys lie in the razor-sharp wit of the lyrics.
And Falkous is packing some serious verbal ammunition this time around. He’s angry about a lot of things: the trendiness of Occupy movements, oceans filled with plastic waste, Michael Bay. Over the frenzied electronic-tinged din of his bandmates, Falkous launches assault after furious assault but always with a smirk. “Robocop 4 – F*** Off Robocop,” for example, paints an almost prophetic picture of a Hollywood dictated by the “wishlists of 8-year-old boys” who “only crave explosions,” a dystopian culture-vision musically punctuated—almost mockingly—by obnoxious blast-beats. Elsewhere, on the delightfully crunchy “Sheena Is A T-Shirt Salesman,” we learn the fate of punk’s beloved heroine; as the title suggests, she’s traded counter-culture for “a love of tote-bags.”
To point out all of the golden lines in this LP would be to spoil all the fun. Besides, even though Falkous’s sneers comprise a key component of Future Of The Left’s smart-bomb aesthetic, they’d lose all their fizzle without the instrumental fury that fuels them. There’s an interesting, almost paradoxically mechanical undertone to the chaos here: Spurts of white-hot glitch noise seep from the muddied riffs, adding a satisfying grit to the otherwise clean mix. The clanging backdrop to “Failed Olympic Bid” is as rabid as it is robotic, like a factory assembly line on the verge of a riot, I, Robot style. “Anchor,” meanwhile, relieves the tension between some monotonous guitar chatter and a melodic bass riff.
Far too many bands hide dumb concepts behind distractingly loud backdrops, the musical equivalent of a middle-school acrostic poem gussied up by a gallery frame. Thankfully, there are bands like Future Of The Left to create listening experiences that are as thought-provoking as they are ear-grabbing. Those looking for simple, safe rock probably won’t like The Plot Against Common Sense. But if you want to think while you thrash, give this one a spin.