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Record Review: Future of the Left’s Polymers are Forever

By / Posted on 09 December 2011

Future of the Left — Polymers are ForeverTypically, rockers grow mature over time and lose their rebellious edge. In some cases, rockers fear losing their edge or the notion that they may have never had an edge at all and put on the air of rebellion in order to remain relevant after their breakout success. Andy Falkous is the rare breed of rocker who hasn’t actually changed all that much, and his fans are all the more grateful for it.

Back at the beginning of the previous decade, when Falkous was fronting the post-hardcore group from Wales by the name of Mclusky, his songs alternated between thrashing screams about posturing and getting in fights and smoother ballads about common angst. After Mclusky split in 2005, Falkous’ next project—Future of the Left—performed thrashing screams about sexism and politics and anti-pop sing-alongs about fascism and public perceptions. Alright, maybe he matured a bit, but it still sounds like self-aware punk rock.

It’s been a couple years since Future of the Left’s sophomore LP Travels With Myself and Another, an album that ventured closer to conventional alternative rock than anything Falkous had produced before, and it’s easy to wonder just what the heck he’s up to now, especially as FotL have finally started incorporating Mclusky tunes into their live sets. While a third LP—The Plot Against Common Sense—is promised for 2012, Falkous recently saw fit to grace us with the band’s first EP, Polymers Are Forever. The internet age has proven to be an important era for the EP format, as a smaller canvas and lower expectations typically allow bands to defy conventions and produce dense packages of powerful songs without the need to create any sort of emotional arc. How will contrarian rockers like Future of the Left fare in such inconsistent waters?

Surprisingly well, if not at all revolutionary. Six tracks and twenty-two minutes, Polymers are Forever is less an EP and more of a mini album, partly because half of the EP consists of the longest tracks in the FotL catalog. As expected, the abbreviated format allows the band to highlight their chops without suffering through the gristle. The music sounds more cohesive than ever, with synths finally playing an integral supporting role in the punk atmosphere rather than taking the lead and changing the song dynamics as in previous efforts like “Manchasm” and “Throwing Bricks at Trains.” “New Adventures,” in particular, escapes traditional rock trappings by allowing the synth and drums to pop in a parody of sitcom theme songs, giving the impression that the band are pointing at suburbia and laughing their asses off, all while Falkous cries “I gratefully accept this black eye. No one knows as well as me the value of consequences.”

And therein lies the strongest element of Future of the Left’s continued existance—Andy Falkous is one of the most consistently interesting lyricists working today. Selections from this EP include “Instead of common sense her parents gave her whiskey, and that is why she loves them, and that is why he loves her,” “The daughter had his laugh but not his smokers’ cough, it must have been the lack of tar in heroin,” and “I can’t let something as French as fear determine this insecurity.”

It’s not the band’s strongest effort, though. Despite the macho uncertainty of “With Apologies to Emily Pankhurst” and anthemic grousing of the title track, Polymers are Forever never quite flirts with amazement as have past releases. “” thankfully reverses the tried-and-true closing number formula by starting off big and loud and winding its way down to a whisper, but “My Wife is Unhappy” and “Dry Hate” linger without actually going anywhere in a generally forgettable manner. Still, though, as the recorded debut of half of the band’s current lineup, Polymers are Forever shows great promise in consistently stronger musicianship and songcrafting. The EP is an absolute success in reminding us that Future of the Left rock hard, and if these are the songs that didn’t fit on The Plot Against Common Sense, we can’t wait to hear that record next year.


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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.