7:21pm. A well-meaning front blows in, but pressure is generally depressed.
Opening band Turning 13 aim straight for a Fugazi slink but don't quite have the meanness and drama that that sort of thing demands. The sub-Weezer vocal in particular really lets them down. When their unassuming guitarist fills in their regular between-song-tuning-intervals (think a massively embarrassed Sonic Youth) with nicey nice stage platitudes, we note something else; they're local bairns, but there's no hint of any culture or personality underneath the breathy-high Billy Corgan vox and workaday dual guitars. To malignly praise them faintly: Not disagreeable.
8:10pm. Prospects changeable, but chances of hail are good.
"It's impossible to look up while playing a Telecaster, see." So notes a friend, not unkindly, of followup support This Familiar Smile. The cultural abnegation goes on as the stalwart Glasgow lads ply their America/Nowhere-sourced disjointy posthardcore at us. Like At The Drive-In without the psychosis which was always the most compelling thing about them. The high, high nonfalsetto male vox owes as much to Pete Wentz as it does Cedric Bixler-Zavala, though. They do mean it, the voxman in particular providing a highly expressive presence, but there's nothing really to distinguish them, emocore being, even now, the most market-surplus genre.
At least they give us space from the dual-guitar flatline, doing the odd schizoid splitrhythm in service to the "experimental" thing. Some of the guitar lines are convincing, but most are intricately crashing bores. The frenetic wears thin. Then "Red Wine" adds a drop of Snow Patrol to the mix, before the set mumphs back to the hysteric-rock and leads on out.
9:08pm. Outlook humid with a chance of volcanoes.
Now. From Wales' premier iconoclasts I may have expected a bug-eyed Nick Cave-style stalk-onstage - especially since Cave's Grinderman are cousins in primality to this lot - such is singer/guitarist Andrew Falkous' reputation. Instead Future of the Left make an unpretentious entrance, and offer the barest of banter before tearing into new-album opener "Arming Eritrea."
Right! Being suddenly, obviously, children facing a war, we're evacuated, but sent the wrong way; right into the bomb corridor of the Cardiff bastards. FOTL take everything that is right about metal - the iconoclasm, the transgression, the eye on the extremes of human experience, and most of all the seething anger - and lose the posture, the Gothic nonsense and the forced immorality. Falkous' bark contains more energy, more spitefully triumphant spirit than any I've seen. He's totally redfaced from bellow #2 right through to the end of the set an hour later.
This is battering music; riffing, droning, with a truly monstrous bass transforming proper skronk cadences into a dark groove. It's exhilarating, ex nihilo. Somehow they strut through the fury, holding court above their own storming sound. Each song is choked off, as if before it was ripe; they switch between songs clinically, the next starting near-instantly after each pathetic applause peters out. This has the effect of making it seem like the band has a grudge against us, or perhaps it's nothing personal and it's everything under the sun that's at fault. You will be human, won't you?
In between being buffeted about, I play that awful game, the genre-generation game, but as usual can't come up with anything that doesn't sound like a hideous slander: What are they? Sludge-punk? Industrial classic rock? Indie-metal? No; this isn't sleaze, it isn't sludge, this isn't metal. This is what post-hardcore should have been.
The relentless crashing does begin to drag, but as soon as it does we are faced by Falkous switching to keyboard, the lecherous groove of "Manchasm." The follower, "Youneedsatanmorethanheneedsyou" is Portishead, if Portishead were to cross the wrong holiday-cottage-burning posse on a moor.
The trio channel more mordant power, more size than three men ought be able. I try to remind myself that this is only three men hitting bits against bits, but this doesn't help me, doesn't detract from the sheer arrest, affront of them. Kelson Matthias' continental bass chords, and drummer Jack Eggleston ("The 300 Spartan who went to Gregg's for four months instead of Thermopylae") are maybe the basis. But Falkous alone has the singleminded, licentious power that Henry Rollins used to have, underscored by his deeply odd sense of humour. Who else could spout things like "Suddenly these ostriches / do not seem so interesting" or "She's got a lot of pickled onions. / Hanging from her thighs" without a hint of being twee or puerile; who can be this nasal and screeching without being petulant; or tote this potency, lacking arrogance? We're not even being lectured here.
Towards the end, Falkous intros "Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood", with a surprised air as "This one is...a song?" After a lowkey acapella intro, the damn thing erupts into a massive glorious White Stripes/Pantera riff, and since those two bands broke (presumably under the weight of their owns riffs) there's been little to match it. Anyone who can carry off the chords to "Adeadenemy" while still making it dance music can have no fear or beast nor man nor sounds.
We are warned, in a tone brooking no contradiction (ie. enthusiasm), that we have reached the last two songs, and that the last one will take months - we will in fact age during the course of it, and that if we want encores, we should go away and play them in our heads. "In an alternate world not much like our own, this is the single", this said of "The House That Hope Built", a deceptive, almost folksy thing with much of their venom retracted, like those sea snakes that feign death to attract prey.
Then begins that most mythical rock show phenomenon; the actually enthralling 10min jam, their "Cloak The Dagger". Falkous grows more and more disillusioned with his guitar as the thing progresses, torturing the poor thing, parading it before him, shoving a drumstick under the bridge and producing merciless wails that'd break the Geneva Convention if Gibson SGs were creatures. Eggleston is trance-fast, mutative, desparate to get rid of the beats in his arms. Matthias spirals into his own bassline, complementing nothing but human nature. After a psychotic stint on keyboard again, Falkous begins to steal Eggleston's kit piece by piece in the anner of a parent removing an overused toy. He waves it around him, proferring, teasing with a hihat. The drumline doesn't falter or slow at all, the flow on the remaining pieces instead intensifying.
With a light conductor's flourish, Falkous cut off the "song" in sync and they go.
1. Arming Eritrea
2. Chin Music
3. Wrigley Scott
4. Plague of Onces
5. Small Bones Small bodies
8. Stand By Your Manatee
9. Land of My Formers
10. Fingers Become Thumbs
12. My Gymnastic Past
14. The House That Hope Built
15. Cloak The Dagger