In the Future, Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing from Your Mind is an insanely long title, but Failure’s newest album deserves such a majestic moniker. Like any epic, ITFYBWBTFTFYM (see, even the abbreviation is gigantic) the band’s latest opus is well-written, addressing topics both mundane and grandly cosmic. The album also heralds one of the best Failure songs ever recorded, so there’s that.
A trio from California, Ken Andrews and Greg Edwards share the writing duties, and they trade off between guitar and bass. Kellii Scott is the drummer, and even without sound effects or filters, those are apocalyptic drums. The bass is amost always distorted; it sounds like a defective metal bleacher, ready to collapse under the weight of a rowdy pep rally. The guitar is all over the place, filled with more unfriendly tonal shifts and dissonance than a Danny Elfman soundtrack. Even the gentle instrumental segues take place over deep rumbles, a constant unsettling background.
In the Future… is a Dutch angle of an album, hard to keep straight. It is not designed to make you feel better. Failure loves to ruminate on isolation, the outsider’s point of view, whether it be from the confines of a troubled psyche or the cargo hold of a spaceship. It’s songwriting in a plastic bubble. This is the musical equivalent of disconnection.
There are two lyrical components the band, Failure, has never been afraid of: science fiction and madness. Keeping in that vein, In The Future… is a heavy death trek through space, both inner and outer. The opening track, “Dark Speed,” sounds like a self-hypnosis tape. The softly spoken vocals of Andrews hover over a sparse bass line and harmonics and feedback that sound like an old Irwin Allen production. “You’re free now,” Andrews says. “You don’t need this.” It’s an anthem of introspection and separateness, the perfect introduction to the themes explored on the album.
“Pennies” tells the story of someone who wants to murder others by flicking loose change off the windowsill of a skyscraper, death by gravity. The song, “What Makes It Easy,” includes the line, “If you’re a monster now, you’ll be one later, too.” Then there’s “Another Post Human Dream,” which describes a free world where algorithms fly overhead. All these dystopian rhythms culminate in the final song on the album, “The Pineal Electorate,” which is the best tune Failure has written in years. With its tale of consciousness floating freely through space, hoping to come upon a place to land, Failure gives us evolution as devolution. It is depressing as hell, but comes across with a sense of rightness and inevitability. Not every ending is happy.
There’s a joy in the music, something that belies the depression and dehumanization in the lyrics. The chaos out of order, the feedback and differentials, combine at the front of the listener’s face, giving one that strange mixture of excitement and dread. It feels like the onset of a migraine or a huge sneeze about to happen, but there is never any conclusion to that sensation. One just stays there on the edge, the feeling increasing, waiting for it to lessen. Then again, Failure is not here to make you feel good about yourself or the world around you. Their work is prescient, possibly prophetic, always disturbing.
One can listen to In The Future… with no prior knowledge of Failure, but it feels like a part of a larger work. New listeners are only getting the last bit of a story. Threads of In The Future… roll back to the band’s lo-fi beginnings on the Steve Albini produced Comfort to the filtered madness of magnified and their first foray into drug-addled sci-fi, Fantastic Planet. Their great comeback album, The Heart is A Monster, started to pull all these themes together, but In The Future… pushes everything towards an unsettling culmination. This seems like where the story arc ends. The hopelessness and surreality of being human give way to discorporation, colonization, and colonialism; as a race, we haven’t learned a thing. It will be fascinating to see where Failure goes in the future, but if In the Future… is any indication, it will be somewhere we don’t expect and can’t anticipate.