Music Reviews
Travels with Myself and Another

Future of the Left Travels with Myself and Another

(4AD) Rating - 9/10

It seems like everyone uses keyboards these days, but not the way that Future of the Left use them.

Matt and Kim use keyboards to form one half of their quick, cute pop songs for teenagers.

Mates of State use them to write lullabies.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs use them so people have music to do coke to.

Franz Ferdinand use them so people have music to fuck to.

Future of the Left, however, use keyboards to punish, to pummel. Their keyboards, like their guitars, bass and vocals, don't so much pluck or hum as they do howl and snarl. Their keyboards are not instruments, they are weapons.

From top to bottom, Travels With Myself and Another is one of the toughest albums of the year. The bass is distorted and low, growling like a bear and strong enough to crumble pavement. The guitars buzz, not with the clean metallic sound of a saw but with the panicked chaos of an angry swarm of bees. Lyrics, for the most part, are screamed from the center of an angry chest, except when they are spat, bitterly and sarcastically, through a knowing sneer. And as for the keyboards, they are used sparingly and only on the most accessible of tracks. Even then, they sound broken and used, like something a robot organ-grinder would use to make a man dance.

There's a scene in The Big Lebowski where Tara Reid explains that the passed-out German in the pool below her is a nihilist. "He doesn't believe in anything," she says. Future of the Left are the same: they believe in nothing, but rather than float idle in a pool, are laughing in the faces of the followers, sounding smarter and having more fun in their max-volume, full-throated atheism than most people find in their religions or love.

Love? Fuck love. "I'm on a mercy mission / to prove to my new love / that she is my nothing / that she is my no one...that even these triumphs are empty," lead singer Andy Falkous informs the listener on Lapsed Catholics, one of Travels' finest tracks. The song is a 4 minute burn that boasts the album's best riff along with lyrics that jump seamlessly from Morgan Freeman to the Devil, dripping with wit and obnoxious cleverness.

Falkous doesn't exactly write lyrics as much as he writes conversations and inside jokes. Characters and settings are introduced but given no context, resulting in the kind of screaming schizophrenic songwriting that one might expect from a deranged John Darnielle.

The words are compelling despite their lack of clarity, and even with all the ambiguity there are plenty of self-explanatory one liners ("Re-imagine God as just a mental illness / looming toward the end of our days" on The Hope That House Built or "The white man claims that he's in love / does anybody doubt him?" on Yin / Post-Yin).

And, while this has nothing to do with the music, the song titles themselves are pretty funny. Album highlight: Stand By Your Manatee, although You Need Satan More Than He Needs You is pretty good, too.

By no means a feel-good record, Travels With Myself and Another is rich with enough black humor, sharp perspectives and tight muscular music to make it one of the best rock albums of the year. Think of it as comfort food for the condemned: if everyone is going to die, we might as well laugh along with Future of the Left.