FOTL | The Plot Against Common Sense
My initial listen came after I had been directed to read Falco’s response to a recent Pitchfork review of Future of the Left’s “The Plot Against Common Sense.” [Read full review]
After reading Pitchfork, listening to The Plot Against Common Sense, reading Falco’s letter and then back to reading Pitchfork…. Oh what to do but write a letter. Following which comes my own review of sorts.
Letter of Concerns & Accolades
Jesus H Christ, these lines made me laugh for about 10 minutes.
“It must indeed be tough to attempt to write from the perspective of the anti-corporate outsider when you are, apart from the mastering engineer (Sean, who did a really good job) probably (*2) the first person involved in the whole process of making and releasing the album to get paid because of its existence. Following your lead, I’m going to let that one ‘sink in’…. However, if it is truly amongst the worst songs of the year then I am a giant bat and Pitchfork a cave into which I will shit golden effigies of your face. Sorry – too much ginger beer.”
First – never be sorry for too much ginger beer.
Second – I echo your fans reactions to your FOTL blog post. Many thanks to you for taking time to write an intelligent retort to Cohen’s lazy ass, self-righteous review. The fuckloads (term embraced!) of sarcasm needed to fully brush a landscape befitting the corporate-critic-gone-artist-wannabe-turned-to-self-loathing-dipshittery was well played. Your letter inspired me to post my own opinion on Future of the Left’s latest endeavor, The Plot Against Common Sense.
Upon my first read of Señor Cohen’s “album review” I was confused…Had I inadvertently time travelled back to a Mclusky release? I just knew there was a Future of the Left album that needed reviewing somewhere, but somehow I couldn’t get to the cum shot because Mclusky was still in the way of The Plot Against Common Sense. Oddly enough, Ian doesn’t seem to have read or respected even his own critic Pitchfork brethren Jason Crock [read here, if you wish] who asked that the ex-Mclusky references stop when reviewing Future of the Left. Hmmm. Well, I’m sure Ian’s busy and didn’t get a chance to read that one. Just as I suspect he was busy and didn’t really get a chance to actually listen to The Plot Against Common Sense before penning a review. Again… a busy man.
Anyway, I found myself needing some clarification on many points in the Señor IanFork review, especially the corporate slickness comment. I was confused. Unless slick corporations now travel globally in vans and have to ask their customers if they can sleep on their couches to save money for travel and continue their product, then I’m not sure how corporate even arrives in the same sentence with Future of the Left, or any independent band for that matter.
The other part of the review that confused me was how Señor IanFork could have actually listened to the album, yet still manage to craft such an uninformed informed opinion of the album. Of course this leads to the overall relevance of the review, you know, in a sum total sense. I’ve met 5 year olds on sugar highs who displayed less disjoined thinking. I’d blame it on too much ginger beer for Señor IanFork, but his staggering lack of creativity is a dead giveaway that no mood enhancers were involved. Pity.
To top it off, the fact that Notes on Achieving Orbit was not even mentioned except as a mere joke song makes me want to slap Señor IanFork as much as when I read his ridiculous Lulu review.
I think this whole riff between Future of the Left and Pitchfork started because The Plot Against Common Sense kicked off with a track that knocked a love of tote bags. That got me thinking… I bet Señor IanFork owns a Ramones tote bag, and a trust fund, and tye-dye shirts, and a few polymers (hopefully connecting his DNA to the bottom of the ocean), and a cappuccino maker, and a DVD re-release of Howard The Duck, and has a signed copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and really truly felt connected to the Drummonds because he would have been okay with having a black kid brother despite being a rich suburban white girl, just like on Diff’rent Strokes.
Just a thought.
Many Listens Later – My Re-Review
Holy emperor penguins, buy this album. Hang out with it. Buy it dinner and treat it right. Use the internet to spin some happy press their way and spread the word for none too many come along that actually suffer the bullshit ranks and still put our music that mater and that we love to wait for. History… oh….Let’s not go the way of wanker whiners who talk about the good old days of music when it’s happening right here. In the words of The Libertines “There were no good old days, these are the good old days.” Let’s try to keep Future of the Left around by papering the universe with FOTL music via links, emails, Facebook, Twitter, the posting at shlappity-shlappity.com, your grandma’s house – who gives a shit where… just promo them if you love them and help them sell fuckloads. We need Future of the Left, not because they’re necessary or any other musical pontification of relativity horseshit. We need them because they are fucking great.
Rather than focus on the witless diatribe of a critic getting (bad) religion, let’s take a listen on the fact that there’s really no one like Future of the Left out there. I could hang myself in the short 20 minute car trip to the store because of the “alternative art” passing as music on the radio. You know the score. You live in the world. It’s very depressing that opinions, art, thoughtfulness and a sense of humor can’t seem to tread water let alone thrive on the satellite waves.
Someone has to keep music honest.
I cannot think of a better advocate for honesty than Future of the Left. I can say I have been a follower of Future of the Left to the pre-dawn lands of the Mclusky era. And no, I won’t make this commentary for the resurrection of Mclusky. If I were Future of the Left, I’d hate that constant comparison as much as a failed marriage. Fuck it already. Enough said. The point of reference is that they’ve been around for awhile, so the idea that dicking about, mincing words as art, is not really their point. They are in music to be in it because it’s in them. My guess is that they couldn’t get around it even if they wanted to extract it from their souls. So here we are.
As I listen the first few times, I wish I had lyrics for this pre-release. I can’t hear everything and I know there’s so much more beyond the eye popping blistery musical numbers. Future of the Left is a band of words, poetry, political satire (I am reminded of Jonathon Swift’s A Modest Proposal), dark comedy, literary allusions and foreign lands that beget the first synapse, the catalyst mid-ocean that breaks shore with deafening consequences. Falco, under any iteration, is a poet. Much like comedians who get pigeonholed into one formula, I get the feeling Falco’s lyrical writing is dismissed as clever, without the necessary deeper substance of emotion lurking beyond the veil of burning cynicism. Do not underestimate.
During the course of writing this review,
I was reminded of a previous review that said Future of the Left was not political and should be. I disagreed totally at the time and still do. It didn’t take too many search terms to google where the brains of that operation were headquartered. None other than the insightful genius of Ian Cohen at Pitchfork, reviewing Polymers Are Forever. The entire review kicked off with this statement, “Despite their name, Future of the Left aren’t caught up in politics, but it would be nice if they were.” [Read the review here] If prevailing opinion is anywhere close to Cohen, I’d say Future of the Left is being severely dismissed.
Future of the Left is a band that actually cares. I am serious. You don’t get this angry about something you don’t care about. Music, politics, the state of independent thought, emperor [penguins], oh they’re mixed up in there … all inside a tightly wound socioeconomic ball of scathing smoldering beauty. And that beauty is aptly titled The Plot Against Common Sense. Lapsed Catholics off Travels With Myself and Another seems to be a glimpse into the morphology of Future of the Left’s direction. And what a fucking brilliant direction it is.
SHEENA IS A T-SHIRT SALESMAN. The kickoff. “Artistic artistic artistic radio, artistic license…This song is dedicated to the merchandise manufacturers who made it possible, for their hard work, talent, application and the love of tote bags.”
What else to say?
FAILED OLYMPIC BID. It’s one thing to sing words against music, which is impressive. It’s another to fit the feelings and visions that music can conjure to become the message of the words.
For example, lyrics begin, “I’ve got a place for the American base. Right in the middle of Rotherham Steelmills [read more if you want]. Imagine the boost for the local economy. Like anybody cares about the north of England.” Falco’s vocals monotone, matter-of-fact mantra, while the music marching along in an assembly line industrialism. Monopolies and aftermaths musically represented to replicate the message. “A failed Olympic bid leaves some kids so upset they can’t forget.” This very conceptual and complicated arrangement of musical imagery enveloped with the lyrical commentary is a theme that Future of the Left carries through the entire album.
CAMP CAPPUCCINO. This one is what you’ve come to expect from Future of the Left. Bass shaking rails rubberballing the walls shutterfly guitar notes, sarcastic play on words, screams, drumming on the ceiling, lighting up the sky with firefly guitar notes against the darkness. It’s all slam.
POLYMERS ARE FOREVER. The thing I really find myself running through my head all day long are songs like this one. And it’s what seems to have become the musical signature Future of the Left… musical repetition, rounds and canons lyrically or purely instrumentally.
ROBOCOP 4 – FUCK OFF ROBOCOP. I can safely say I don’t feel sorry for Dreamworks or Touchstone pictures, which is why I laughed by the time I hit Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop. The momentum has built and we’re nearing a G-force designed to break barriers. A release that seems to build to the truly big bang of this album Notes On Achieving Orbit. Get ready.
A GUIDE TO MEN. A Guide to Men is my second favorite track on the entire album, running a hairline second to Notes On Achieving Orbit. I really didn’t want to get hung up on dumbasses, but I must cite once again Cohen’s introspective opinion of the musical construct of The Plot Against Common Sense.
“Little has changed musically for the always-contradictory Future of the Left. The constituent parts are primitively composed but played with vice-tight musicianship, while the blindingly bright, major-key synth riffs still come off as abrasive as anything produced by an atonal noise band. In terms of tempo and texture, The Plot hangs a little bit more loosely than the trim Travels With Myself and Another….” – Cohen
Cohen = Fail.
In my opinion, it doesn’t get more tonal and compositionally deliberate than A Guide To Men. The synchronization of instrumental placement and delivery coupled with lyrical message is really quite complex.
The simple start to this song lays a keyboard foundation, blipping technology, high data, blinking lights, talking computers. I admit I thought of War Games. Yet another musical line is cast, a simple bass round riff. Falco speaks, “This is a song about total war.” The snare drum shoots off deliberate gun shots simultaneously, casting its own. Concurrently, the next line is thrown, more keyboards with a disturbing minor key B-horror creepiness to it.
By the time we get to the second chorus, the musical lines cross into what feels very goosestep. I envision B/W film, Nazis, goosesteps, tanks, dictators and their beloved balconies. “Civilized is as civilized does and civilized people walk among us, given the option. Holy emperors. Holy… emperor penguins.
Lyrics and music work artfully together and translate into scenes from an Aldous Huxley novel (or unpublished John Stossel books – you choose!) warning the loss of our humanity in the face of a civilization that doesn’t “go gray” playing with “enemies of fantasy”. Can you imagine a civilized orgy? Yikes. I’d rather go for the euthanasia, given the option (unfortunately, it will probably still be considered ‘uncivilized’). The mechanics of the song is an infectious build that I can’t get out of my head. A Guide To Men translates into a compelling and unsentimental journey of our developing civilization. “This is a song about common sense, folded backwards into itself.”
Digress: Emperor penguins might be better leaders as they seem to care more about the welfare of the group than any leader I’ve seen in my lifetime.
NOTES ON ACHIEVING ORBIT. It’s not hard to remember back to the first time I heard this track released in early 2011 on official.fm. I was disappointed that it didn’t make it to the Polymers Are Forever EP, but patiently awaited the official. The funny thing is that every time I hear Notes On Achieving Orbit, I have the same reaction. It starts with a vibratory deep bass, giant bands of sound bouncing and tripping the air waves. Falkous delivering the swaggering lines like, “Where were you when Pele cured cancer? Did you watch on the stand or sit on your hands as the realization dawned. Of course, we don’t know if he ever really got involved with a test tube [?], the science of hearts.”
Notes On Achieving Orbit seems a culmination of the entire album in overall message and feel. Our collective love of, and obsession with, sameness, youth/sex, icons, drudgery, violence, monopolies, sports funding over medical funding, our Orwellian herding of ourselves and assistance in our own slaughter. The sad concept that we are always rejecting ourselves, our own identity, or perhaps that we have no identity at all. Apropos on the heels of 99 and NATO.
The chorals, they goes without reigns, without restraints, without need for walls. Just let it happen. I envision an entire amphitheater, crowds bouncing and pounding fists to the ‘shalalalalalalala’ chorus. Let’s hope Future of the Left has the pleasure of playing to a fuckloads amphitheater with the entire audience strapping in for space flight. Notes On Achieving Orbit … If you ever go, don’t forget to bring your Future of the Left for the ignition sequence.
I still get goose bumps and tears 2/3 of the way through Notes On Achieving Orbit right around, “Then any old shit is the new Nirvana. The terrible seconds turn to days and still I cannot show my face. […] Fold the space into my hands and bow to gravity’s demands. Notes on achieving orbit.”
I’m reminded of Catcher in the Rye when nearing the end. I hope we can find our redemption in artists, opinions and uniqueness.
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them — if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.” –J.D. Salinger, Catcher In The Rye
WELL, THERE YOU HAVE IT
Another fucking slick corporate masterpiece pounded out by a heartless non-artist band fronting as an underappreciated, under-budgeted, part-time-job loving, underground band that deserves to break the scene.
(They deserve to break it in two or three pieces, beat it senseless, stomp on it for good measure and then piss on it after a long drink binge).
Unfortunately Future of the Left has not reached their break and they are not fronting artists. They are a great band with actual morals, vision and sympathy for the human condition enough to be disgusted by what they see happening.
And that, my friends, is the problem which only need be explained by listening to Future of the Left’s own 12th track, A Guide To Men. “History is written by the man who stays acquainted with thug who has the biggest sword.” Sadly, musical history is no different. Clear Channel…Pitchfork…NME…. As to Ian Cohen’s reviewer obsession with Mclusky as a benchmark for Future of the Left, I leave you with a quote from mcluskyism’s track Provincial Song, “Rock n roll’s just a ring on your finger.”
I wondered if this review would sound like a complete dick suck for Future of the Left. Then I reconsidered as I considered the current reviews by critics. Fuck it… It’s the 21st century and I celebrate my right to suck whoever’s dick I feel deserves it… Thank you, Future of the Left, for having the sack to produce another album. Consider this your happy ending….