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Opinon: The Best Album of 2009

This is the final part of The Only Thing I Know For Sure’s Top Ten of 2009. Part one can be found here, part two can be found here and part three can be found here.

Now we’ve had our say on the matter, let us know what your top ten of this year were and why by leaving a comment.

1. Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another (4AD)

What is it that makes an album great? Is it the album’s power to overcome the lowest of emotions and leave the listener feeling changed? Or is it just a collection of great songs that fit together and don’t overstay their welcome? Whatever the science behind the standout albums of the past decade, ‘Travels With Myself and Another’ has it in spades. Future of the Left have got their own stories to tell about how they got to this album, stories that involve innovative and unique bands that made the slightest mark on UK music (Mclusky and Jarcrew), stories about how they confronted the demon of piracy and got nowhere and stories of hundreds of sweaty, tiny shows playing their hearts out. It’s been a long journey, but ‘Travels’ is the album that Future of the Left have been training to make for all those years.

It’s undeniably quirky, poking fun and toying with the state of the world rather than just having a whinge. Singer Andrew Falkous continues to sharpen his wit razor and slice into a variety of wry topics. But the music that stands behind him is just as cutting. From the military exercise of ‘The Hope That House Built’ to the football terrace-influenced chanting of ‘You Need Satan More Than He Needs You’, everything here is just ripe for euphoric shouting along, pulling the listener out of any mire.

There’s no doubt that Future of the Left have more to offer. Without a doubt they are one of the, if not the, best band in the UK at the moment. Something entirely different, something clever and emphatic, it’s no wonder they haven’t found the sunny climes of stardom like Biffy Clyro and Elbow. But maybe that’s for the best: after all, what would Future of the Left have to be angry about if they have everything?

(Read the full review for Travels With Myself and Another)


Live Review: A Fistful Of Fandango 3

Live Review: A Fistful Of Fandango 3 (Future Of The Left + Dinosaur Pile Up + White Belt, Yellow Tag + Kong)
Venue: 229, Great Portland Street
Date: 10/09/09

Future Of The Left

Tonight is the second event of the A Fistful of Fandango 3 indoor festival. Residing at the 229, this line-up certainly promises to be the one that will leave you going deaf, and if there’s anyone in doubt it’s evening openers Kong who give the majority of the 229’s smaller room a heavy case of tinnitus. But it’s not just an aural assault the trio give us – disguised in eerie masks and wearing scrappy red clothing gives the impression that this is a band that saw what Slipknot were doing 10 years ago and stamped an eccentric British stamp all over it. Frontman ‘Magpie’ threatens cold blooded murder with his wild eyes and grinding voice, and the songs themselves must be what it’s like to be trapped inside a psychopathic, schizophrenic serial killer’s mind. Seriously off-kilter and troubling, Kong have already cemented themselves as something you just have to see before you shuffle your mortal coil. Continue reading Live Review: A Fistful Of Fandango 3

Album Review: Future of the Left

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and AnotherAlbum Review: Future of the Left
Album: Travels With Myself and Another
Label: 4AD

Formed from the ashes of the equally great bands Jarcrew and Mclusky, Future of the Left are now pushing forward with their desires to be a band on their own merits, and not those of the (admittedly awesome) past. Their last album passed many by, which is a shame given that its oddball sequences and sardonic lyrics from Andrew ‘Falko’ Falkous created a package of unique and fresh rock music. However, with a live show that has (as far as I’m aware) never failed to blow the audience away, and an already dedicated fanbase from the old days it’s time for Future of the Left to truly cement their sound and find a broader audience. Continue reading Album Review: Future of the Left

Live Review: 2000 Trees Festival [Saturday]

We woke up early Saturday morning, and I made a bold attempt to shrug off the nagging hangover that had embedded itself into my head. A quick poo in some extremely stinky toilets and a thorough brushing of teeth had me ready to go for the rest of the day. Unfortunately, the damp weather continued to persist throughout the day, and it didn’t look as if the sun was going to be drying that mud anytime soon.

The view from the tent in the morning was ominous at best.

The first band on the mainstage were The Divebomb Revolution, winners of a local battle of the bands competition whose prize was to wake up all the other festival goers who hadn’t quite crawled out of their tents yet. The trouble was, I’m not too sure bombastic prog rock in the style of Dream Theatre can really be fully appreciated at such a tender time. Although showing a great deal of promise, the band really seemed to lack the ideas and talent to follow in the footsteps of their blatant idols, and came across as more style than substance.

So we headed over to the Leaf Lounge, 2000 Trees’ intimate tent that was hosting all of the acoustic acts of the weekend. And when I say intimate, I mean it. As we arrived the tent was pretty packed out, with listeners sitting as close as possible on the ground in front of the stage, as young starlet Natalie Ross walked out to perform her set. If I thought that The Divebomb Revolution were over the top, then Ross was about to show a whole new realm of overbounding enthusiasm. Constantly chattering about how unique she was, her seemingly desperate need to be accepted as a kooky individual fell apart as she pleaded for her audience to appreciate her ‘angle’ at the music industry. Furthermore, once she had eventually stopped talking, her songs were sung with a smug croon that didn’t settle too well on my ears, and just came across as a bland attempt at being ‘different’. I certainly wasn’t a fan, and left pretty early into the set, as she continued to talk about an alcoholic boyfriend or something.

Natalie Ross embodied everything that is wrong with the kooky indie scene.

Returning to the main arena to grab something to eat from the fantastic Pie Minister, purveyors of one of the greatest festival pies I’ve ever eaten, A Silent Film were entertaining the audience with an engrossing, ethereal sound that sounded akin to the likes of Editors and Coldplay, although that description really doesn’t do them justice. It was wonderful music to just sit back and relax to, pint in hand. They certainly have the talent to breakthrough to a bigger audience, and were very enjoyable.

After this it was back to the Leaf Lounge to get an early spot for the late announcement Chris T-T. As we arrived local boy Dan Heaver was playing up to the crowd with a catchy collection of vocal melody driven songs, that had the audience chanting along. Considering I’d never heard of him before I was really impressed by how he had them eating out of his hands, even warranting an extra song as the organisers frantically tried to hunt down the now missing Chris T-T.

Despite his late appearance, Chris T-T did a stellar job of wowing the crowd.

Eventually he was found, and had no problem in enthralling the crammed tent with his overtly political lyrics, reciting his brilliant poem midway through the set to a silently enraptured audience. Despite a set cut short, he didn’t lose any of his power, and his themes of deforestation and anti-war struck a chord with the predominately tree hugging crowd.

Later on in the day and The Anomalies took to the stage, a loud and brash band featuring turntables, rappers and riffs. I was under the impression nu-metal was well and truly dead to the world, but given the hyperactive antics of the two MC’s, whose livewire freestyling took to the ears like a rusty cheesegrater.
Things did not overwhelmingly improve with the follow up act, Imperial Leisure. Given my distaste for ska music in general, I was not likely to enjoy their forcefully upbeat horns, but even I couldn’t help but get a wry smile out of one of the vocalists looking completely out of place, his white shirt and gold watch standing out a mile from the ragged clothes of his counterparts.

Imperial Leisure were…well, certainly nothing akin to what their name suggests.

Given how 2000 Trees has handed a lot of its bragging rights to Frank Turner‘s endorsement and appearances at the festival, there’s no surprise that there is a remarkable amount of expectation from the main stage’s largest crowd yet. Unfortunately the miserable weather only added to what seemed to be a rather uninspired performance, a shame considering how much I have enjoyed his shows in the past.

Just like the weather, Frank Turner was a bit of a disappointment.

However, my personal indulgence this weekend was to be Future of the Left. Having been waiting to see them since getting a hold of their fantastic debut, the whole weekend had been building up to this moment. It was just as well then that their performance did not disappoint. Falkous’ screaming tore the sun out of the clouds, and bassist Kelson Mattias put on a brazenly riveting performance, teasing and toying with the disappointingly empty crowd. After this onslaught, I could only just about manage to hang around for a few of These New Puritans‘ tracks. Given the gradually rising furore being made over these guys I was expecting a lot more than the staid and painful techno infused noise, and the repetitious vocals only grated.

Future of the Left were fucking awesome. End of.

It was up to headliners Art Brut to close off the weekend’s frivolities, and despite technical problems that saw their set cut ludicrously short, frontman Eddie Argos kept the show going with an impromptu juggling performance, and once the music started a highly enjoyable set that dashed through some of their more popular hits (I gather the band have quite a following in Germany, and certainly deserve a few more admirers on their own shores).

And therein did the weekend end. A hectic ride home and a brief shower and all I’m left to say is that 2000 Trees was a fantastic example of how to go about making a festival about the music. The weather was diabolical, some of the food was questionable, and getting there was an upheaval, but I can honestly say that the charming atmosphere and great fresh talent made it more than worthwhile. I just hope that next year things remain 2000 Trees, and we don’t begin to see another passionate event ruined by greed which could see it turn into 4000 Trees or more.

Live Review: 2000 Trees Festival [Friday]

This summer, more than any other, has seen a massive increase in the amount of weekend festivals popping up all over the British Isles. Unsurprisingly, the cop out excuse of a credit crunch, and the more realistic reasoning of oversaturation have seen some struggle, some die, and some just be plain shit. But my attention was drawn to 2000 Trees, a festival in its second year and one that was keen to focus on things other than money, as my interview with organiser Andy Rea proved. So off I went, with a small group of friends to embrace their eco-friendly take on a music weekend. Oh, and all the fresh talent that the curators had fished out of the UK scene.


It came as no surprise that the closer we got to the secluded location of the second 2000 Trees event, the rain pounded at our coach’s windshield harder than a drummer shagging a model. Buried deep in the countryside of Cheltenham, only one thought went through my mind as we drew nearer: ” Probably should have packed some wellies…”

Indeed, my mistake was a foolish one, because once we eventually arrived at the locale, it was like looking upon a miniture Glastonbury of last year. Fields drenched in mud, more swamp than puddles. And to top it all off, the rain kept on storming down upon us, as tents were erected and attendee’s slowly soaked through to the bone in a constant struggle ‘twixt man and nature. But the rain didn’t have the power to dampen spirits, and soon I was standing at The Treehouse, 2000 Trees answer to the Pyramid stage, with a highly recommended local cider, Badgers Bottom, as I witnessed the first of the many great bands on offer throughout this ecletic weekend.

Things got very, very muddy.

Although an unplugged Frank Turner opened the festival for the early comers, the first band for me was Gentlemans Pistols, a three quarters hairy four piece who played music that matched those fantastic examples of facial hair. A bassy combination of the rockiest examples of Led Zeppelin, brought to a modern audience in a similar way to Wolfmother, but with a shitload more comedy and no ear shattering vocals. When you have a song called ‘Heavy Petting‘, you can only expect the laughs to come thick and fast.

Gentlemen’s Pistols absolutely rocked the main stage early on.

Straight after came Ghost of a Thousand, a band I’ve certainy heard a bit about but had unfairly put into the same category as a lot of those screamo bands that are populating most of Brighton. However, as God poured down his mightiest storm yet, singer Tom Lacey shredded his vocal chords through a blistering set that had the audience enthralled. Acting like one of Orwell’s wild animals, throwing mud all over the place and encouraging the first circle pit, Ghost of a Thousand brought a tumoultous sound that was perfectly matched with the biblical weather.

The same can’t be said for Johnny Foreigner, who despite recieving a great deal of acclaim from the likes of Drowned in Sound, completely dissapointed. The vocals were for the most part out of tune, and there was nothing really interesting in the music that took your attention from that fact. I don’t see it, that’s for sure.

Accompanied by the thunderous weather, Ghost of Thousand were a sight to behold.

Unfortunately due to my idiotic decision to not bring wellington boots, rain stopped play for me for a litle while as I gave my feet a chance to recover, therefore what I heard of The King Blues was from my tent nearby, and it really didn’t sound too bad at all, although my head was far too swimmy to really remember any details.

Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster couldn’t quite acheive the heights that Rebuen might have.

I re-emerged a while later to go and witness the nights headliner, Reub…oh no wait, sorry. Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. The trouble was, despite a great opening which seemed to be full of enthusiasm, the boys with their ludicrously fashionable hair and clothing seemed to run out of steam very early on, and the whole set just seemed to drag on. This was no doubt partly caused by the fact that a lot of people standing in the rain and mud had purchased a ticket to be seeing Reuben on this stage, and with their departure from the music world we were left with a lacklustre replacement. Whilst not overwhelmingly terrible, their apparant lack of excitement for the event, especially from singer Guy McKnight who immediately got on the wrong side of the crowd by proclaiming “there were more of you when we played Glastonbury” left only the hardcore Disaster fans smiling. And believe me, you could spot them from a mile. Dissapointing, but the lively and friendly atmosphere saw the festival carry on into the dark night, with revellers getting more battered on that legendary Badgers Bottom, looking forward to (hopefully) better weather tomorrow, and some more great bands.

Pie Minister pies, the foodstuff that kept us going throughout the whole weekend.

The 2000 Trees review will conclude itself once I return from Latitude Festival this weekend!

Heard it Yet?: Future of the Left – Curses


Artist: Future of the Left
Album: Curses
Label: Too Pure
Released: 2007

Perhaps one of the few decent things to come out of Wales, Mclusky were a noisy bunch of loudmouth bastards who probably didn’t know how to play their instruments and were absolutely completely full of themselves. It’s just as well then that they were fucking awesome, and came to their demise criminally early.

Since then things have been pretty quiet, and it came as quite a surprise to me that the remaining Mclusky boys, Andrew Falkous and Jack Eggleston had combined forces with ex-Jarcrew member Kelson Mathias and released Future of the Left’s debut album sneakily late last year. Continue reading Heard it Yet?: Future of the Left – Curses