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The Haul: Future of the Left's Travels with Myself and Another

85. Future of the Left – Travels with Myself and Another LP – 4AD, 2009 – $15

Future of the Left's Travels with Myself and Another

Have MP3 album leaks ruined the excitement of the official release date? Most would say yes, since hearing the music for the first time is more tantalizing than ripping open the packaging to extract its already familiar contents, but my experience with Future of the Left’s sophomore album, Travels with Myself and Another, argues otherwise. I’d only dabbled with Mclusky (a mistake I’ve since rectified) and completely missed Future of the Left’s 2007 excellent debut, Curses, but overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth caused me to check out the early leak of Travels. The sarcastic AC/DC bombast/catharsis of “Arming Eritrea” immediately suggested that this would be one hell of a record, a hypothesis proven accurate over twelve lean, brutal, and funny cuts, and in turn, I kept a close eye on its pending release.

Sure enough, I headed out to Newbury Comics to grab the album on its official release, opting against any other purchases so I could give this fresh wax a few dedicated spins. Hearing the massive rhythm section of “You Need Satan More Than He Needs You” blare though another rainy summer day in Boston made the song sound like a two-ton anvil, focusing my attention on previously overlooked backend songs like “Stand by Your Manatee” and the dinosaur rock of “Yin/Post-Yin” pulled the album together as a whole, and hearing the acoustic introduction of “Lapsed Catholics” transition into its throttling electric riff on my home stereo gave the juxtaposition new depth. Reading the lyric sheet was similarly revelatory, cluing me in that “I know my own worth / I’m an adult / I’m an adult,” which was quoted on numerous blogs as a great line, was actually “And then I don’t / And then I don’t.” Whereas I previously anticipated that Travels would rank among my favorite albums of the year, hearing the record in a focused listening environment after making an occasion to pick it up solidified its spot in my top five, if not top overall.

I’ve since caught Future of the Left live twice, picked up a t-shirt and a copy of Curses on LP at the first show, put the 3CD edition of McLuskyism on my shopping list, and scoured eBay for vinyl copies of Mclusky’s Do Dallas and The Difference Between Me and You Is that I’m Not on Fire. I stress all of this rampant consumerism in part because FOTL singer Andy Falkous has been vocal in his disappointment of advance leaks and listeners’ sense of entitlement with regard to free music*, but in my case, Travels’ early leak was my gateway to unfettered Falkous fandom. I can understand being frustrated about an early mix or an unmastered copy of an album being leaked, since that messes with people’s initial impression of an album, but advance leaks are a near certainty for any major release. The key is for the music to match, if not exceed the listener’s expectations, a task Future of the Left blew off the table. If the transition between the old era of release date excitement to the new epoch is essentially “I’m running out to buy this album to find out if it’s as good as I hoped” turning into “I’m running out to buy this album because it’s as good as I hoped,” well, that’s progress. It should encourage artists to make great, consistent albums, not singles backed with filler. If any up-and-comers need an intro course on what makes a great album, I suggest running out and buying Future of the Left’s Travels with Myself and Another.

* I completely agree with Falkous’s hatred of the sense of entitlement among contemporary listeners for purely free music, but people with an “I’ll support the artist” ethic (like myself) still exist in this culture. The filesharing era created a class of listeners liable to brag about how they’ve never purchased a record but “own” thousands of albums on an external hard drive. Perhaps Falkous’s anti-leak rant is one way to address that class’s false sense of entitlement, but my logic is that advanced leaks can help create new fans, like myself, and fighting an unchanging tide might cause more damage than it’s worth (e.g. Metallica and Napster).