The Difference Between Me And You Is I’m Not On Fire
irst impression: Mclusky Do Dallas was one of the best albums of 2002, chock full of hooky malice and heart. The Pixies comparisons were overstated, but a similar mix of screaming thrash and weird humour prevailed. This? This is mush.
Second impression: In the first song, “Without MSG I Am Nothing”, Andy Falkous keeps howling out “Everywhere I look there’s a darkness”. But Mclusky have always been dark in places (especially, say, “Alan Is A Cowboy Killer” and “Clique Application Form”). Here it’s nearly oppressive. Albini is still producing, but the sound is much thicker for most of the album, the guitars less trebly. It’s not just dark, it sounds dark. Everything’s murky.
Third impression: The songs are worming their way into my brain. The album has a strong beginning, at least; “Without MSG I Am Nothing” is harsh but compelling, while “She Will Only Bring You Happiness” smoothes out the harshness with a poppy sheen. “That Man Will Not Hang” and “Kkkitchens What Were You Thinking?” are both slightly atavistic yet effective–but after that, “Your Children Are Waiting For You To Die” stops the momentum cold. After a lengthy, pinging intro, it goes all mid-tempo on us. You see, one of the greatest virtues of Mclusky Do Dallas was its perfect pacing. They even slipped in something like “Fuck This Band” (more somnolent than anything here) without interrupting the flow. You didn’t notice the weaker songs there because the sum of the parts was greater than the whole.
The last album also didn’t have anything as off-putting as “Slay!”. Taking the quiet/loud dynamic one step further to silent/loud, it’s just annoying. The silence is boring (instead of dramatic) and the payoff isn’t enough to redeem the song. That it’s only separated from “Your Children…” by one song makes matters worse. There are great songs here, but they’re hampered, instead of supported, by their surroundings. After “Slay!” the album picks up again for most of its remaining length, highlighted by the churning “Lucky Jim” and the manic drive of “Falco Vs. The Young Canoeist”. Unfortunately “Support Systems” ends the album on a sour note. Its structure is Mogwai circa Come On Die Young, only with Falkous muttering and then yelling lyrics over top. There are two loud bits that aren’t as cathartic as they want to be and about six minutes worth of quiet bits. Mclusky has already proved they can do quiet without doing “ballads” or sounding out of place. So it’s inexplicable as well as boring when “Support Systems” flops so badly.
Fourth Impression: Most of the songs have gelled now. It’s not mush, it’s just not quite as gleefully obvious as Mclusky Do Dallas was. But, by the same token, they’re not just treading the same ground. It’s telling that it only takes a few errors to keep The Difference Between Me And You Is I’m Not On Fire from being a great album. The disappointment is all the worse for the fact that it’s mild. Still: better for Mclusky to continue being interesting and fail occasionally than start rehashing what they’ve done before.