Great Fucking Albums #15: Travels with Myself and Another

One of the great advantages to changing my “29 Best Albums Released in My Lifetime” list to a “Great Fucking Albums” list is that I can pretty much put anything I want on the new list. Some critics get touchy about putting newish releases on lists of the best albums of all time or whatever (except NME; they ranked the first Arctic Monkeys album just behind Sgt. Pepper’s on their list of best British rock records – and Sgt. Peppers was numero uno. And I know that strikes many of you as a crock of shit – I tend to agree with you, but I’ve gotta respect them for understanding that great things are great right away. Too many people think that something has to be forty fucking years old before you can think it’s great and that’s ageism, pure and simple), but since I’m simply listing albums I think are (ahem) Great Fucking Albums, I can include whatever I want and disrespect history if I damn well want to. Not that I want to – it’s just that everyone already knows that the Beatles made great albums. It’s just like knowing that Shakespeare wrote great plays (newsflash: he also wrote bad ones). But the real reason I wanted to start keeping track of Great Fucking Albums instead of ranking them is that I’ve come to realize that some albums are beyond the very concept of rank. The Future of the Left’s Travels with Myself and Another is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. When I imagine telling this album to politely stand in line behind some other albums on a list of maybe the best rock albums of the last decade, I imagine that Travels with Myself and Another would have none of that. It would kill every album in front of it with a brick and then fuck the remains. I’d like to think the Stooges’ Raw Power would do the same thing. I can’t assign any kind of number, letter grade, or rank to Travels with Myself and Another, but I can tell you that it’s a fucking vital record, the way Grinderman is vital, which is to say “throbbing”. This album has dirty, dirty sex with the part of your brain that loves music.

Well, the part of my brain that loves music anyway. The Future of the Left is definitely one of those bands that I love and tell my friends about knowing full well that most of them will find this band highly obnoxious. I think the Screaming Females probably fall into this category and, like the Future of the Left, they make music that nibbles on your aural naughty bits. I like enough music that my tastes are going to overlap with a lot of people’s a lot of the time, but there’s some stuff that a maximum of two of my friends will love the way I do. Which is totally okay, because you don’t have to like everything someone else likes in order to like (or even love) the other person. It matters a lot less than you think. Anyway, I like shambolic music that cuts right down to the bone and Travels with Myself and Another is probably just a little more raw than some folks can take.

Underlying the Future of the Left’s jagged edges is a pop astuteness that is employed around some blissfully aggressive lyrics (gorgeous harmonies waft in and out of a song called “Throwing Bricks at Trains,” for instance. That song starts with the line, “Slight/ Bowel movements/ preceded/ the bloodless coup”) and the combination (along with lyrics that are simultaneously visceral and hilarious) shows that the Future of the Left is a band that can rock your fucking face off and still have a sense of humor. Evidence? How about “You Need Satan More than He Needs You”, a song driven by a pounding synthesizer riff that features lines like, “The night might hide my shame/ but shame won’t dry my balls”? Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Andy Falkous (who, along with drummer Jack Egglestone, was in a band called mclusky, spelled with a small “m”. I’ve never  listened to mclusky, but I plan to investigate and get back to you later) has said that if you don’t like “You Need Satan More than He Needs You,” you don’t like the Future of the Left. I’m not gonna argue with Falco on this one.

Many people have mistakenly assumed that “punk” means “simple” and maybe also “effortless” and Travels with Myself and Another may help those fools continue to deceive themselves, but the fact is that this album is musically quite complex, with syncopated beats, catchy melodies, and incredibly well-placed harmonies. If you pay attention, what you’re hearing on Travels with Myself and Another is not a band that’s not trying – you’re hearing a band that is very good at what they do and they’re actually having fucking fun doing it. These twelve songs get in, kick the shit out of your earholes for two to four minutes at a time, and get out. “Ruthless efficiency” is the phrase that comes to my mind. Falkous uses a lot of alternate guitar tunings to keep the old guitar/bass/drum formula interesting and the Future of the Left uses synthesizers in ways that actually make me rethink about half of the negative things I’ve said about synthesizers in the past. But all the technical musical stuff is completely unpretentious, which is one of the highest musical compliments I can pay a band that knows what they’re doing.

I most frequently listen to Travels with Myself and Another when I’m stuck in Los Angeles traffic, which is usually when I want to lash out violently at probably harmless strangers. Nothing gets me back to my usual (relative) calm faster than this album, which is a testament to its greatness. Like a gloriously violent video game, Travels purges my fury, makes me laugh and makes me feel like a regular human being again. I can listen to it when I’m in a good mood too, obviously, but it’s amazing how effectively this record can cure a shitty day. Pitchfork suggested that Travels could be the soundtrack to “whatever poor decision you make this year” but, as usual, they got it half-assed – Travels with Myself and Another would make a fine soundtrack to every awesome decision you make this year too.

 

 

 

 


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2 thoughts on “Great Fucking Albums #15: Travels with Myself and Another

  1. Pingback: You Stay Classy, 50 Cent (And Some News) « Bollocks!

  2. Pingback: The Future of the Left, Pitchfork, and Fair Fights « Bollocks!

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