Live Review: Future Of The Left, Norwich, United Kingdom, April 16, 2016

FOTL

“I too once liked Metallica. It’s called puberty.”

And the crowd went mental.

Andrew Falkous, frontman of Future Of The Left, is storming the proverbial citadel, taking arms against the most sacred avatars of the Establishment: Narnians and their Christianity, Thatcher and her Evil, heavy metal and its dinosaurs. Fans of the U.K. combo—by virtue of being earnest and unkempt, if not secular and uncircumcised—are unwavering in their adoration of this iconoclastic band and its verbose vocalist. They bang their scraggly heads in perfect unison with the group’s pothole rhythms. They scream the absurdist lyrics verbatim as if reciting holy scripture. And they guffaw full-throatedly at the witty inter-song banter like penny-stinkers snickering at Shakespeare’s token dick jokes.

To be fair, their enthusiasm is understandable. Both venue and performers offer a unique experience tonight.

Playing in a 15th-century church converted into a punk club, FOTL burns with the white-hot intensity of Mclusky, the spectacular post-hardcore trio that Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone dissolved a decade ago. The “covers” of their former band’s “Gareth Brown Says” and “Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues” whip up a nasty indie-punk frenzy. “If AT&T Drank Tea What Would BP Do,” from new LP The Peace & Truce Of Future Of The Left, recalls the dissonance and ferocity of alt-noise heroes the Jesus Lizard. “Arming Eritrea,” “Eating For None” and “Robocop 4—Fuck Off Robocop” are as avant-garde, sharp-edged, and searing as the best of harDCore, without any of the insufferable self-importance.

Falkous himself is in typically frisky form. His vocals, when not as staccato and acerbic as a coked-up hyena or a Dalek performing at a poetry slam, can actually be quite melodic and catchy. In fact, despite their grating guitars and herky-jerky rhythms, “The Limits Of Battleships,” “Running All Over The Wicket” and “Miner’s Gruel”—all from the new album—are rousing, pub sing-alongs, and indeed the crowd does join in with gusto. A convivial ambiance settles in, facilitated by beer, sweat and laughter. Even the slam-dancing is—as Falkous remarks with approval—“energetic yet respectful.”

During the outro to set closer “How To Spot A Record Company,” the band slowly dismantles itself just as Falkous has dismantled society’s most cherished institutions throughout the gig. Bassist Julia Ruzicka retrieves an unwitting volunteer from the crowd to fumble through some awkward notes, Falkous methodically disassembles the drum kit while Egglestone is still playing, and the song spirals into madness. In this former place of worship, what better vaccination against the mainstream than anarchy?

It’s actually quite simple to be an iconoclast. Irreverence, blasphemy, open mockery—these are dime-store virtues, though virtues they certainly be. The trick is to offer a sustainable alternative to the status quo.

Or, if you’re Future Of The Left, to be really fucking entertaining while driving the bus over the cliff.

—Eric Bensel