Future of The Left, Blacklevel Embassy @ The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (02/01/2011)

Caw, there’s nothing quite like the vibe of a night out on a long weekend, is there? The sense of anticipation and excitement of what could come with this added gift of a third night in a row of reckless abandon is palpable. Add to this heady mix an offering of a known element of a sizzling band hell-bent on doing anything possible for a good time, and all’s looking well for a night of nights. Hell, even the 2-day New Year’s Eve collective hangover seems to have dissipated just in time for The Corner Hotel to fill to bursting point with punters keen to shake their shit.

A year and a half hiatus was all but sneezed at as Melbourne straight-up rockers Blacklevel Embassy warmed the room. The three-piece was solid in its racket-making, and did wonders with fuzz pedals and an unrelentingly fierce bottom-end. Singer-guitarist Adam Cooper spent the gig either tightly bound over the fretboard, or impressively attacking the microphone with his growl. The set peaked with I Make Funny Men, an interestingly intense ode to animation.

In a group where change has been constant (it can boast just as many ex-members as current), the latest addition to Future of The Left – a second guitarist in Jimmy Watkins – was seen with some curiosity. FOTL’s screechy, wall-of-sound brand of noise rock never seemed to be crying out for extra axe-work before, so it’s with some interest that ears are craned for the first few numbers to hear where the extra sound fits. Arming Eritrea and Chin Music are played with a straight bat, but with a noticeably massive oomph and crunch. Luckily it’s not a forced element, with songs not requiring the additional fret-work seeing Waktins take up the side of stage banner of a rather adept karaoke backing singer. The other addition to the line-up – Melbourne-born punk rocker Julia Ruzicka – wields the bass with a sense of urgency and intensity, and maintains a constant rumbling bottom end throughout with serious style.

I’m always amazed by how deep a love can be for a cult band and its back catalogue. Having missed out on FOTL’s roots a decade ago in Welsh band Mclusky, I was taken back slightly when the already charged room lost its collective shit with the first strains of To Hell With Good Intentions from 2002’s Mclusky Do Dallas. It was a scene repeated throughout the night, as the band tipped its lid another three times to their former incarnation (including an incendiary version of Lightsaber Cocksucking Blues in the “encore” which was unfortunately overshadowed by what came afterwards).

Of course, it’s almost impossible to mention an FOTL gig without pointing out the seriously gusset-wetting hilarity of frontman Andrew Falkous and his almost constant crowd baiting. Not one to shy away from banter, Falko leads the charge early by swiftly dispatching a couple of drunken hecklers with ease and charm. The initial verbal volleys became a constant bicker throughout the night, however, as blokes full of piss and bad manners tried their hardest to be on the receiving end of a good-natured spray (a poor dude along the front barrier wearing sunglasses was cruelly singled out for the cause of an onstage odorous funk and for wearing sunglasses indoors at night, for example). The verbal battles extended obviously to the recent Ashes cricket win by the English, and culminated in an accurate diatribe detailing how the end of the show was going to play out, laying bare the futility and pointlessness of the “encore” procedure. With the formalities over, a 10-minute version of Lapsed Catholics devolved into shouty chaos and served as an appropriate ending to a charged night. What a way to bring in the New Year.