“The Fall will abide: they have broken out of time, and exist slightly away from the rest of us.”
Recorded: Chairworks Studios, Castleford, 6db Studio, Salford, Saddleworth and London, mid-late 2009.
Released: 26 April 2010
- Mark E Smith – vocals
- Peter “PP” Greenway – guitar
- David “The Eagle” Spurr – bass
- Keiron Melling – drums, percussion
- Eleni Poulou – keyboards, bass, backing vocals
Background / The Fall Live In 2008-10
For the first time in 17 years, The Fall released an album with the same line-up twice in a row. In fact, give or take the odd guest appearance (and Eleni’s departure before New Facts Emerge), this lineup would record all of the group’s remaining albums.
Following the release of Imperial Wax Solvent, the group played three UK dates in May 2008. In between these gigs, MES made a couple of appearances to promote Renegade. At a Q&A event in Brighton, hosted by his ghost writer Austin Collings, Smith answered questions about The Groundhogs and his attitude towards squirrels with, apparently, friendly good humour.
A couple of days later, he appeared at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. This article in The Guardian suggests that this was a less successful event:
‘The session with Mark E Smith of the Fall and the co-writer of his autobiography, Austin Collings, was what you might call a car crash. The interviewer had a habit of throwing out richly curlicued baroque questions – often answered by Smith with a long, buttock-clenchingly embarrassing pause followed by a growled “Yeah”, “Sometimes”, “Nah”, or even “Start again?” The audience reacted with nervous titters.’
In June, The Fall travelled to Estonia to play the Rabarock Festival, where they seem to have put in an excellent performance. Five more summer dates followed, seeing the group play in Ireland, Scotland and Croatia. Smith also appeared at another book-related event on 16 July, at London’s Southbank Centre, which seems to have been a somewhat unedifying spectacle: reviews on the Fall Online Forum suggest that MES (and some audience members) were rather too tired and emotional.
A couple of festival dates followed in September, in Norway and Dublin. At the latter, Chino (at this point named Chino Splashback on the setlist) made its debut. At this stage, as was often the case with new Fall material, it was largely an instrumental vehicle for Smith’s ‘We are The Fall’ introduction.
In September 2008, Dave Simpson’s The Fallen was published. A true labour of love, it chronicles Simpson’s obsessive attempt to track down every single person who played in the group. Whilst ultimately unsuccessful (spoiler alert: he never manages to track down Karl Burns), it’s full of intriguing anecdotes (especially about the bit-players like Ruth Daniel and Nick Dewey) and thoughtful reflections on Smith’s leadership style. He even (sort of) gets Craig Scanlon to talk.
It’s not flawless: there’s a rather scattergun approach to the group’s history that makes the chronology quite hard to follow if you don’t already know the main body of The Fall’s story; the sub-plot regarding his deteriorating relationship with his partner is sometimes a rather uncomfortable distraction. Nonetheless, it’s an admirable bit of obsessive detective work – one that undoubtedly rekindled quite a few people’s interest in and enthusiasm for the group – and is highly recommended.
The group played a further ten dates in autumn 2008. At the Hackney Empire on 31 October (in a presumably Halloween-themed moment) they played a cover of Jack The Ripper, a 1963 novelty song made famous by Screaming Lord Sutch that was banned by the BBC for -according to this account – its ‘violent imagery and unbridled horniness’. Featuring prominent backing vocals from Eleni, it’s kind of fun, but still an utter mess (the tuneless keyboard solo is presumably MES’s work). The group would play the tune on one more occasion, in May 2012.
Hot Cake (played as an instrumental) made its debut the following night at the same venue. Bury was played for the first time the next night in Hove. Funnel Of Love followed at the next performance in Southampton on 5 November.
The group rounded off the year with performances in Vienna and Holmfirth later in November. At the latter, No Xmas For John Quays was played for only the third time in 26 years, its penultimate performance.
2009 was a relatively quiet year on the gig front, featuring only 24 performances. After an appearance by The Fall in Portugal in January, MES played a handful of gigs with long-time associate Ed Blaney over the next couple of months. The duo had released an album (imaginatively called Smith And Blaney) in 2008. It’s a distinctly patchy and unfocused affair, although not entirely without the odd moment of interest: Ludite is a strangely brittle and angular take on Shake-Off; When We Were Young is a more traditionally-structured version of Job Search.
Overall, however, it’s about 15 minutes of potentially interesting material stretched over nearly an hour and has a distinct air of ‘recorded after we got home from the pub’ about it. It features far too much aimless strumming of very obvious chord progressions; the interminable cover of The Velvet Underground’s We’re Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together is simply inept; No Retreat is possibly one of the worst things that you’ll ever hear.
In February 2009, Smith broke his hip for the second time – or at least this was the official story. In a May 2019 interview for Q magazine, Eleni revealed that MES had actually been diagnosed with cancer and had an operation to remove a kidney. This led to a couple of Smith/Blaney dates and a literary festival discussion being cancelled. The latter engagement (at the Huddersfield Literature Festival) was rescheduled for June – there’s a transcript here. Smith played the next two gigs (Cambridge 31 March and London 1 April) in a wheelchair.
By the time the group played Camden’s Electric Ballroom on 25 April, MES was back on his feet, and the group debuted Cowboy George.
On 10 June, The Fall played a ‘Mojo Honours’ gig in London with Buzzcocks and John Cooper Clarke, which saw them perform a few oldies: Psykick Dancehall, A Figure Walks and Rebellious Jukebox (all of which hadn’t been played for 29 years). There’s a rather unenlightening video clip here.
The group’s Manchester Academy gig on July 18 saw the debut for Slippy Floor (at this stage entitled Sloppy Floor).
At the end of July, Strychnine was released as an iTunes download, backed with three rather randomly selected b-sides. A further similar download release (of the same song) emerged in September, this time backed with three 1978-80 tracks.
The group’s 1 October gig in Windsor saw them attempt (apparently unsuccessfully) a cover of The Stooges’ 1969 (which they had first used as part of the intro to Hot Cake in their Portuguese gig in January). The next night, in Leeds, saw Pat-Trip Dispenser played for the first time in 24 years, its final outing.
From the 10 November, several sets opened with a new untitled instrumental, which seems to have been an early version of O.F.Y.C. Showcase.
On 16 November 2009, Slippy Floor was released as a limited edition 7″ and CD single. Slippy Floor (Mark Mix), the version here, is not hugely dissimilar to the album track, but is quicker to get to the thrashier sections. The single also contains an alternative version of Hot Cake and a live version of Strangetown. The cover photo is, apparently, of the Blackburn Junior Hawks (Under 16s) ice hockey team. It’s not entirely clear why.
The group’s first gig of 2010 was in Berlin, and saw Mexico Wax Solvent‘s debut, Ed Blaney performing a large proportion of the vocals.
Yet another of MES’s collaborations emerged in March 2010. Plastic Beach by Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz saw Smith contribute vocals to Glitter Freeze. In June, he joined Gorillaz on stage at Glastonbury to perform the track. The song itself isn’t especially distinguished, but Smith (reading from a lyric sheet) puts in an excellent, focused performance (‘Scrub out the decks’ (?) at 1:42 is particularly effective). Being a guest also doesn’t deter him from a spot of amp fiddling (3:26).
The week before Your Future Our Clutter emerged, Bury was released as a 7″ single. Once again, it was a limited edition, part of 2010’s Record Store Day. Confusingly, the A-side is called Bury! #2+4 on the front cover, Bury 1 Bury 2 on the back cover and simply Bury! on the label. It’s a more concise and crisp version of the album take, and has only a very brief lo-fi introduction in comparison.
The b-side of the single was Cowboy Gregori. It shares some lyrics with Cowboy George, but is very different musically; much lighter in tone, it’s driven by a light, nimble Greenway riff delivered in trademark twangy style.
Two months after YFOC‘s release, the group recorded their first radio session for five years, one that would prove to be their last. It was recorded and broadcast on 17 June 2010 on East Village Radio as part of ex-Smiths drummer Mike Joyce’s Coalition Chart Show. There’s a video of Joyce interviewing MES here.
It includes two versions of Mexico Wax Solvent. Both are more sparse than the album version, but ‘Part 1’ is especially lithe and fleet-footed, featuring some dexterous, funky wah-wah from Greenway. There’s also a solid enough run-through of Hungry Freaks (although it lacks the bite of the Palais recording). Over! Over! has much less dense sound than the RPTLC version, but is quite well suited by the leaner approach; in particular, Smith’s vocals seem much more attuned to the music.
In The Wider World…
The eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland caused serious disruption to air travel, the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II. In early May, the 2010 UK general election resulted in a hung parliament. Gordon Brown stepped down as Labour leader. Matt Smith became the new Dr Who.
OMG by Usher, featuring will.i.am was at number one in the singles charts. It was succeeded by Diana Vickers’ Once. (I’m sure I’m not alone in having no recollection whatsoever of this insipid, generic toss). The number one album, Plan B’s The Defamation of Strickland Banks saw the originally reasonably interesting hip-hop artist retreat into a bland, chart-friendly lite-soul approach.
Your Future Our Clutter was released (as part of a one-album deal) on Domino records, an independent label responsible for recent high-profile releases such as The Arctic Monkey’s Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not and Franz Ferdinand’s eponymous debut album. The two-year gap between YFOC and Imperial Wax Solvent (a lengthy intermission by Fall standards) was caused partly by the label being dissatisfied with early versions of the album and sending it back for more work.
The Domino press release stated that the album represented:
‘The Fall at their most rampant, most forward moving, bone shaking best. With nine tracks that rock like raw fury, we see The Fall heading into their next decade with the same intensity with which they started.’
The cover (which bears a passing resemblance to The Jam’s 1982 LP The Gift) was designed by Mark Kennedy, a Manchester artist who, in 2018, commissioned a mosaic by Mary Goodwin in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
The vinyl version contained two songs that didn’t appear on the CD (and also had a slightly different running order). 986 Generator is a lengthy, loping murky blues work-out that sounds like a mixture of Gomez, Beefheart and Blind Faith, featuring slide guitar, mandolin and a repetitive, twangy bluesy guitar line. It’s especially effective when it breaks out into a full-on barrage in the last couple of minutes.
Get A Summer Song Goin’ is not quite as successful. Based around a fuzzed-up and phased/flanged 60s psychedelia guitar riff, it stomps along pleasantly if a little aimlessly. There are a few space invader type noises in the breakdown at 2:16-2:54 to add some variety, but it doesn’t help that MES, in places, sounds a tad bored with the whole thing.
The album repeated the respectable chart performance of its predecessor, reaching number 38 in the UK album charts. Both contemporary and retrospective reviews rate the album very highly. Pitchfork‘s Stuart Berman gave the album’s ‘lean, brute-force rockers’ 8/10. Reflecting on Smith’s references to his mortality throughout the album, Drowned in Sound‘s Nick Neyland encouraged listeners to:
‘Cherish him while he’s here. We won’t see his like again, and future generations will look back with considerable envy that we got to be around when an album that could so effectively eviscerate our expectations of what music is and can be was released by a band entering its fifth decade of existence.’
On the BBC website, Kev Kharas, after pointing out that the group had spent years, ‘looping in and out of critical approval as endlessly as the snarling, nagging guitars that have underpinned [Smith’s] scornful non-sequiturs’, struck a similarly portentous note:
‘Hipsters, slaves to the day, be damned – The Fall will abide: they have broken out of time, and exist slightly away from the rest of us. They are, as Smith proclaims on Mexico Wax Solvent, “Invincible”.’
Once again, John Doran in The Quietus provides the best overview, introduced by this statement:
‘In 2010 it should no longer be our job to explain to people why The Fall are the greatest English rock band of the last 40 years. In fact, I’d politely suggest the onus is now on others to find out for themselves instead of us having to draw them a f*cking map.’
In the accompanying interview, Smith expressed satisfaction with his newly settled lineup:
‘It’s a good balance and I hope to keep it, touch wood. You’ve got Pete, that’s who Cowboy George is, who is into really weird rockabilly. And then you’ve got the rhythm section who are really into Motorhead and sh*t like that and then you’ve got Eleanor who’s into German experimental stuff. It’s a nice combination.’
(There’s also highly worthwhile track-by-track review of the album on The Quietus by Luke Turner.)
Arguably one of the best opening tracks to a Fall album, Showcase is an exuberant, forceful statement of confidence and intent. It was played (generally as a set-opener, unsurprisingly) 55 times, 2009-11.
One of its main strengths is that it’s actually constructed from very little: direct, pummelling drums, a simple blues-rock guitar line supported by a throbbing bass and MES occasionally shouting ‘Your future, our clutter.’ Nothing difficult or complicated about it, which enables all the aggression and energy to be channelled into a focused assault on the senses. It bubbles with a ‘f*ck you, this is just what we do and who does it better?’ attitude.
After a brief, barely comprehensible bit of MES mumble (‘little Baco mongers’), Keiron strikes up a no-frills, no-nonsense muscular pattern that he batters away at unfailingly throughout the whole track. At 0:26, Eleni joins in with an oscillating synth motif; at 1:14 Greenway adds a bit of understated chugging top-string guitar; and then, at 1:25, it all kicks off gloriously.
MES is fantastic on this. He snarls, growls, shouts, basically does whatever the hell he wants; it feels like a lesson – this is how you do it; but don’t expect me to give a sh*t. And towards the end he even does some (relatively) tuneful singing. The way he enunciates ‘clutter’ (e.g. at 1:33) is worth the price of admission alone.
Smith talked about the meaning of the title phrase in a 2010 interview:
‘The title of the LP came, then that tune came, then I thought I might as well do the title of the LP over this tune. It was good because I couldn’t really articulate what the title of the LP meant but it’s like, you know – it does fit in with the rest of the songs. What sparked me off was I distinctly remember playing Belfast and coming out and remember saying to the bass player, there were all these posters – it was well before we started recording the LP – all these really massive posters in Belfast and it had like, “Our Equity is Your Future”. I remember saying to Dave, “That is really f*cking Irish.” Our equity is your future. That is like – you can’t say fairer than that, can you?’
What You Need was the epitome of the Fall’s work ethic in the 1980s; this is MES much older, possibly not much wiser, but still defiant and hell-bent on grinding out results. It’s the sound of a 50+ year old man who doesn’t give a flying one what you think but still knows how to make his group conjure magic – even if it’s a very different kind of magic than it was in the 80s.
Bury Pts. 1 + 3
After its introduction to the set in January 2009, Bury! quickly became a live favourite and managed an impressive 162 outings over the last eight years of the group’s career. It’s not difficult to see why: it’s a muscular, stomping bruiser that must have caused considerable moshpit mayhem.
After an almost uncomfortably extended lo-fi opening (which Drowned In Sound‘s review described as ‘like a muddy footprint being forced through a fax machine’), Spurr and Melling lock onto a tight groove that’s complemented by Eleni’s oscillating keyboards and Greenway’s carefully-judged thrash. There are plenty of other sounds lurking beneath to add to the entertainment: laser guns, someone trying to tune in an old AM radio and various clammy gurgles.
Once again, Smith’s vocal is crisp, coherent and perfectly timed and enunciated – ‘A French composition on a fluted instrument’ (3:35-3:43) and ‘Then one day a Spanish king with a council of bad knaves, tried to come to Bury’ (4:21-4:28) being notable examples.
In an interview quoted on Reformation, Smith offered this ‘clarification’ regarding the song’s lyric:
‘It’s just like… me and the rhythm section actually live in Bury, or we‘re adjacent to it. I’m actually Salford. But… for some reason I’m in Bury. It’s much more a comment, a Lancashire comment, cos the drummer’s from Burnley, and the bass player’s from Ramsbottom, and we were laughing about the attitude of Lancashire, you know. It’s our “California über Alles” [laughter] of Lancashire. One thing we did unite on mentally – “Bury – f*ckin’ sh*t!”‘
He (possibly) makes reference to Domino sending the album back for more work: ‘A new way of recording / A chain round the neck’. It also revisits the squirrel controversy of 2008 – ‘Got rid of vermin / Like the grey squirrels / By reading out Ben Marshall’s articles’. In addition, it features yet another MES reference to wolverines, previously seen in Arid Al’s Dream, Clasp Hands, Service and Session Musician.
Mexico Wax Solvent
After two intense openers, the group take things down a notch, with a track that still has a muscular, determined sound but also features some lighter, contrasting features: for example the delicate guitar arpeggio that first appears at 1:40, and the gently lilting, almost jazzy keyboard part that emerges around the four minute mark.
Smith’s approach is more relaxed here, but this suits the song’s laid-back groove well. In this interview, he explained that the song is about ex-pats living in Mexico. This may, to some extent, explain the reference to Bisto, but doesn’t quite clarify the lines ‘I don’t make chicken with rice screwdrivers / I don’t blind people with a trowel with some Bisto’. Equally bafflingly, there appears to be a reference to Doogie Howser: ’12 year old doctor / A fresh faced physician’.
Only played five times, all in 2010.
Cowboy George opens at a furious gallop, powered by a mix of surf-rock and epic spaghetti western soundtrack from Greenway; it owes a little debt to Link Wray’s Jack The Ripper (see also this excellent version) as well as The Seeds’ Pushin’ Too Hard. In addition, it features the unlikely scenario of The Fall sampling Daft Punk.
Halfway through, we descend into an eerie, experimental coda, filled with mangled delay-pedal guitar and oscillating electronics. Over this, Smith half-mumbles, half-croons a series of random thoughts, including a mention of Das Boat and the wonderfully incongruous line ‘Chicory Tip in a shopping centre’. The reference to two broken/brown bottles echoes the words of Hip Priest, but may also refer to Smith’s relationship with Brix. The lines ‘I had two broken bottles / I had two brown bottles / And a white nose as I entered / Five years of confinement’ seem to recall the first time MES met his future wife: ‘He had a bottle of beer in each hand and white powder coming out of his nose’. In the Quietus interview quoted above, Smith suggests that Greenway is Cowboy George.
The ‘unseen’ motif (applied to knowledge, facts, hills, footage, refinement and extension) is clearly important, not only in the fact that the word appears in the song 15 times, but also in its prominence in the album’s artwork. The Annotated Fall points out that ‘unseen hills’ fits well with the spaghetti-Western vibe of the music.
In a 2010 interview, Smith was asked about the ‘unseen’ theme in the song’s lyrics:
In “Cowboy George” there are lyrics about “unseen knowledge, unseen forces”. Is that about mortality? Death? The other side?
‘That’s, uh, very much sort of the case. That’s one of the tracks that was a first or second take. We done it about 100 times since in the studio, and as we listened to it before we did the final cut, said, “That is the best one.” I don’t even know what I’m saying really, because I’m still on medication from the wheelchair. [laughter] Heavy German medication, you know. Which I’m not used to. But it’s still the same lyrics. And it captures it more, I think. It is a bit mystical, that one, yeah.’
A tweet by Imperial Wax in early 2019 (Greenway, Spurr and Melling’s post-Fall group) suggested that Cowboy George was the song referred to by MES in a 2013 interview with The Independent where he claimed that:
‘Our publisher got this deal with that film Twilight. They said they’d give us $50,000 to come up with a song. So I said, I’ll give them some horror…’
Tim Cumming (the Independent interviewer) implies, albeit in vague fashion, that the song in question is actually No Respects Rev. from 2013’s Re-Mit. No Respects certainly feels more like a horror story than Cowboy George, but ultimately, this is just another one of those impenetrable Fall anecdotes.
Cowboy George was another long-serving live song: 137 performances from 2009 until (almost) the very end.
Spurr kicks things off with one of his trademark muscular and fuzzy bass lines; a hyper 12-bar blues. Keiron clatters in exuberantly, and then there’s a strange and unearthly chittering sci-fi noise; finally, Greenway joins in with a shuffling, snaky rockabilly/surf twang. And that’s all before the first minute is up.
At 0:43, the group wig out properly, but from this point the thrashing alternates with a more considered rockabilly shuffle, supported by Eleni’s ah-ah-ooh backing vocals (which – interestingly given the reference on the previous track to Smith’s first marriage – sound rather Brix-like on occasion). There’s a lot of effective stuff here, all layered and sequenced extremely well.
The lyrics reference both Slippy Floor and Chino; fitting, as musically the song sits somewhere between the manic thrash of the former and the dark, reverberating atmosphere of the latter. On The Annotated Fall, Zack points out that there is an effects pedal called Hotcake that Pete Greenway has been known to use.
Another popular live choice, the song made 97 appearances 2008-14.
Y.F.O.C. / Slippy Floor
Kicked off by a double-tracked Spurr riff, one that’s deep and gritty even by his standards; from 0:47 you can virtually hear his calluses scraping over the strings. Around two minutes in, it all explodes wonderfully, a barrage of pile-driving noise. Greenway bursts in, wielding a frantic, scorching riff; Keiron (who’s been quite restrained thus far) lets loose like Animal from The Muppets; The Eagle pounds away relentlessly; and MES shouts and snarls with venomous gusto.
Just after four minutes, a deep, sludgy, scraping noise makes its way into the mix, lurking menacingly beneath the chaos. Around the five-six minute mark, Greenway excels himself with a barrage of frenetic variations on the riff. This whole section is awe-inspiring; a piece of crazed but controlled garage punk mayhem.
There’s also a strange but lovely little coda: a lo-fi snippet of 986 Generator, followed by a series of random noises (including what sounds like a quick burst of tap-dancing) and a snatch of an answerphone message (apparently from MES’s osteopath).
At the time, the hospital references (‘all I get is a slippy floor in a hospital’) may well have been interpreted as Smith alluding to the alleged accident that led to his broken hip. Given that this wasn’t exactly the full story, the lyric becomes much harder to interpret. In interviews at the time, MES made several references to the recent credit crunch, which may be reflected in the line about ‘the land of finance retail’. Overall, however, it’s a distinctly cryptic lyric (‘I’m 95% in inside of B Drake’), but one that contains some beautifully crafted lines (‘This new approach is on the borders of necessity’).
Whatever it all means, Smith’s delivery itself is excellent, demonstrating the full range of his techniques: the strangely but somehow impeccably timed ‘is on the CIDV, underneath you’ (1:10); the oddly touching off-key croon of ‘we’re gonna get married’ (1:29); the guttural growl of ‘apartment hall’ (3:53); and the joyful, exuberant ‘hup!’ at 6:17.
It was played 42 times, 2009-10.
A richly atmospheric and ruminative track. Introduced by a pendulous, fuzzy bass glissando and swooping sci-fi effects, it soon settles into a heavy, ponderous groove, Greenway providing some considered, ominous reverb/tremolo-heavy guitar.
Smith’s plaintive refrain, ‘when do I quit?’ is quite jarring; seemingly at odds with his frequent pronouncements about work ethic, and certainly a long way from the sharp and acerbic instruction to ‘stop mithering’ thirty years earlier. His vocal is measured, controlled, but unusually fragile. What the title specifically refers to is unclear (there are several suggestions on The Annotated Fall, but they all feel like a stab in the dark), but there is certainly a sense here that Smith is vulnerable, confronting his own mortality. Two years earlier, he forcefully pronounced his defiance at turning fifty (‘What you gonna do about it?’) and demonstrated certainty about his longevity; here, he’s not so sure, and it makes for a touching, intriguing and melancholy experience.
When asked by The Quietus‘ John Doran about his intentions to ‘quit’, MES was somewhat ambivalent. He stated that, ‘It’s never something that I think about’, but also went on to say that, ‘I’ve thought about quitting once every two and a half months for the last 25-years’.
Like several other tracks on this album, Chino had a long stay on the setlist: 106 performances, 2008-13.
Funnel Of Love
The inevitable cover version arrives, and it’s not at all bad. It’s also a pretty straight one, with no major diversions musically or lyrically. The original was by Wanda Jackson, who achieved some success in the late 60s / early 70s mixing rockabilly and country. The main difference is that the group give it a more psychedelic-pop feel. They also add a bit of gusto in the forceful staccato middle eight.
It’s solid enough, although feels just a little inconsequential as a result of its placing between two rather epic numbers. It was played live 30 times, 2008-11.
Weather Report 2
Opens with a surprisingly jaunty set of guitar harmonics, before settling into an understated, low-tempo groove. The first couple of minutes are sparse and brittle, almost empty in places, but despite the slow pace and Smith’s delicate delivery, there’s still a sense of urgency about it – Greenway’s arpeggios around the two minute mark giving the impression that it’s about to break out into something much more expansive.
But when the mood does change, it’s in the form of an unexpected diversion into some deep, throbbing electronica. The rest of the song is framed around a dark, oscillating sequencer; everything is distorted and overloaded, broken up by sharp, snapping percussion, occasional electronic squiggles and a snaking, malevolent keyboard line.
Smith is once again in reflective and melancholy mood (‘You gave me the best years of my life’), delivering his vocals in a touchingly fractured and hesitant manner. The repeated refrain, ‘Nobody has called me sir in my entire life’ is an intriguing one: throughout his career, Smith was frequently at pains to point out that he cared little for the opinions of his peers, and was generally disparaging of those (e.g. Pavement) who were obviously influenced by his work. And yet, here he seems genuinely regretful that he hasn’t been shown a due level of respect.
Speaking in 2010, Smith makes the recording of the song sound rather haphazard:
‘It’s fitting that it’s the last song on the LP. It wasn’t meant to be like that actually. It’s a lot of people’s favourite as far as I can work out. If I’d have had my way, actually, I would have had it more instrumental. The only reason there’s a lot of vocals on there is the way we recorded it, it was quite difficult. We did that in Salford with Ding [Archer] in his studio. So it’s like you’ve got to do it very quick. The idea of it was to co-op an acoustic track with a machine track. Then I reversed it. Then Ding said, “If it’s going to work –” I was going to sing bits and bobs over it, just joining it up – and he said, “You can’t do that because we need a vocal level”. So a lot of that is getting levels. They are the lyrics for it, but the middle bits – they’ve come out very well, and the end bits, I would’ve chopped them out, but they work out very well. It’s good that I didn’t have too much of a say in the matter!’
Like 50 Year Old Man, it’s an astonishing piece of work; one that you cannot imagine being recorded by any other artist.
It was played live 50 times, 2010-15.
Your Future Our Clutter is sometimes described as The Fall’s ‘last great album’, and whilst there are still many great moments to come, it’s hard to argue with that viewpoint. It’s certainly one of the group’s most consistent efforts; since This Nation’s Saving
Grace, only The Real New Fall LP comes close to matching it on these terms. Whilst Funnel Of Love is inconsequential (but still fun), the rest of the album is simply essential listening.
There’s not quite the sense of transformation of, say, Dragnet to Grotesque, but there’s still a sense of a unit binding and hitting their stride. Imperial Wax Solvent had its strengths in terms of variety and diversity, but here the new group really lock on to a sound that’s their own.
It’s also a lyrically complex and intriguing album. There’s a thread of fragility and the recognition of mortality running through it that represents a level of introspection (although generally couched in the vaguest possible terms) that’s unlike anything we’ve heard so far.
Also, it simply rocks. It’s brimful of joyful, abandoned noisiness. All four musicians make crucial contributions: Greenway’s variations on a surf-rock garage thrash theme; Spurr’s deadly, coiled assault; Melling’s mixture of full-on thumping and subtlety; Eleni’s deep range of electronic effects and increasingly confident backing vocals. But it’s far from being a simple collection of heads-down rockers. The album is full of experimentation, for example the extended codas to Cowboy George and Weather Report 2. In the past, the group’s experimental tracks (W.M.C. – Blob 59, Das Boat, Unutterable and Early Life Of The Crying Marshal, for example) often felt like entertaining enough (to a varying extent) interludes that mainly served to break things up a little. Here, they make a much more meaningful and worthwhile contribution, extending and broadening the songs’ horizons.
The whole ‘comeback’ / ‘best album since…’ trope was by now a very well-established cliché in regard to the group’s work. But it really is true here. The fact that The Fall released such a vital, inventive and powerful album 31 years after their debut is a thing of absolute wonder.
Slippy Floor and Bury are both strong a-sides:
- Theme From Sparta F.C. #2
- Living Too Late
- Jerusalem/Big New Prinz
- Kicker Conspiracy
- The Man Whose Head Expanded
- How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’
- Totally Wired
- Free Range
- Behind The Counter
- Marquis Cha-Cha
- Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
- The Chiselers
- Touch Sensitive
- (We Wish You) A Protein Christmas
- Slippy Floor
- Reformation! The Single
- Cab It Up
- Cruiser’s Creek
- Hey! Luciani
- F-‘Oldin’ Money
- Higgle-Dy Piggle-Dy
- I Can Hear The Grass Grow
- Mr. Pharmacist
- Couldn’t Get Ahead/Rollin’ Dany
- Look, Know
- The Fall vs 2003
- Telephone Thing
- There’s A Ghost In My House
- Hit The North
- Bingo-Master’s Break-Out!
- Rowche Rumble
- Fiery Jack
- Ed’s Babe
- High Tension Line
- 15 Ways
- It’s The New Thing
- White Lightning
- Popcorn Double Feature
- Why Are People Grudgeful?
- Oh! Brother
- Rude (All The Time)
- Rude (All The Time) EP
I’m aware that I may get some stick for this, but nothing other than TNSG has given me as much pleasure as YFOC. It’s been an absolute joy to have this album on repeat and to write about it.
- This Nation’s Saving Grace
- Your Future Our Clutter
- Perverted By Language
- The Wonderful And Frightening World Of
- Hex Enduction Hour
- The Real New Fall LP Formerly ‘Country On The Click’
- Imperial Wax Solvent
- The Unutterable
- Fall Heads Roll
- The Marshall Suite
- Cerebral Caustic
- I Am Kurious Oranj
- Room To Live
- The Infotainment Scan
- Bend Sinister
- The Light User Syndrome
- Are You Are Missing Winner
- Middle Class Revolt
- Code: Selfish
- Live At The Witch Trials
- Reformation Post TLC
- The Frenz Experiment
Simply omitting Funnel Of Love (decent enough, but inessential) gives you a virtually flawless album, and I wouldn’t touch the sequencing, which is – unusually – spot on. (And I’m going to conveniently ignore the fact that this leaves the album 2:18 over the prescribed 45 minute limit.)