I Am Scared of Everything That Isn't Me
By Corey Beasley | 6 October 2014
Washington. L’Ouverture. Marx. Havel. Falkous. Such goes a very brief list of dissidents and freedom fighters. Yes, it might be relatively brief. It might even be incomplete. It will, without a doubt, begin this album review. Some of these men fought for intellectual liberty, some for corporeal liberty, some for the liberty of making rock music that doesn’t fucking suck. Andrew Falkous’s fight is long and storied, crawling through the trenches with Mclusky and Future of the Left, armed with only a cheeky wit, scotch-scorched uvula, and flamethrower riffage. He would stand for all that is opposed to self-congratulation in rock’n’roll music. He would castigate, with all his might, the hackery of the music industry and the lobotomized toddlers sucking at its teat. He would hate this stupid fucking metaphor.
Anyway, dude’s back. Christian Fitness is, Falkous stresses, less a solo project than a one-man band. I don’t claim to understand the difference, but whatever the entity behind it, I Am Scared of Everything That Isn’t Me may be the one-man’s best work since Future of the Left’s despicably underrated Travels with Myself and Another (2009). It’s certainly his strangest, which in Falco’s world can’t be anything but a blessing to those of us in dire need for a healthy swig of rude acidity in a musical climate where most guitar bands, were you to swipe a pH strip across their designer jeans, couldn’t manage so much as a spot of pale, well-hydrated, morning-after piss.
Scared also offers up the most sonically diverse palate of Falkous’s career, blending his familiar ingredients—evil bass riffs clearing the floor for blasts of off-kilter, sawtoothed guitar, laugh-out-loud lyrical asides, that nasal snarl—with fresh accents. The unmanicured production swaddles the album in a stoned haze, sometimes mashing the levels into an auditory soup with blissfully ugly effect, as on “Attack of the 50 Foot Side Project” and lethal closer “The Earth Keeps Its Secrets.” Elsewhere, backing vocals and harmonies right out of the barbershop (“Carthage Must Be Destroyed,” “I Am Afraid of Everything That Isn’t Me”) and Falkous’s ability to turn a sharp “whoa-oh-oh” (“Christian Fitness,” “Feel Good Hit of the Second Trimester”) juxtapose his keen pop sensibilities with that squall, making for a disorienting, seasick trip in the best way possible, like taking the Staten Island ferry after a liter of absinthe and never having to actually end up in Staten Island.
As ever, Falco’s lyrics are as much of a draw as his almost singular ability to mix carnage with Cadbury-sweet melody. One hates to be the guy in the movie stage-whispering to his girlfriend, “THIS IS THE BEST PART!” so we’ll keep quoting to a minimum here; the album’s potent roux of rage, irony, and absurd hilarity is unlike anything in recent rock memory. The title track, a scathing loogie of bile hawked at xenophobic blowhards (“Cynicism is brilliant, cynicism is great / You can use it to work out who is a cunt”) that climaxes in a jaw-dropping, call-response haymaker that should leave Falkous breathless, were it not for his superhuman strength in the task of giving offense to those who need it most. “Say Hello to Nobody” is a pathos-soaked stinger that uses the songwriter-writing-about-songwriting trope like Conor Oberst used to do so often, only it doesn’t fucking suck, and if applied directly to your old Bright Eyes records turns them into a delicious paste you can also use for grout on your bathtub or for sealing the holes behind your studio apartment’s cupboards where roaches live a rich life with their loving roach families. And I can’t resist spoiling one more, spat at the end of “The Earth Keeps Its Secrets,” a horrific cloud of destruction that can still make time for poetry like “in 1997, she learned about sex / On a visit to a tanning booth / Now four years her skin is completely flawless / But she’d rather be a child again.” Yes, Falkous is still fighting to liberate you from the iron grip of bland consensus rock, the oppression of self-pleasuring staffers at major publications rounding out their festival line-ups with pederasts, and, worse, Belle & Sebastian. Leave your old life behind. Follow him. Take up arms.