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Track-By-Track

The Fall's Your Future Our Clutter Appraised Track-By-Track
Luke Turner , March 8th, 2010 07:58

Forget your 'return to forms', a listen to Your Future Our Clutter proves that The Fall literally and demonstrably are as good as they've ever been.

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O.F.Y.C. Showcase

The Fall's nth album begins with a mutter from Mark E Smith, before pacey drums introduce a dirge crescendo of Moog parps from Mrs Smith and the hulking bass of Dave 'The Eagle' Spurr. Thus two years without any new Fall material are closed off with a strident statement of intent or, as Smith sings, "a showcase of proud talent". 'O.F.Y.C Showcase' has the upbeat, cocksure feel of 2008's Imperial Wax Solvent and is a cousin of the pugilistic 'Reformation', but Pete Greenway’s guitars are twanging in a fashion we're not accustomed to from Fall outings. It's an indication that, yet again, we're about to break fresh ground.

Bury Pts. 1 + 3

...begins with the band apparently attempting a recording session in the bath. Water seems to clog the sound of a leaden riff and lo-fi hiss. But like Smith’s onstage amp fiddlings, this wilful perversity serves a purpose, in that it sharpens the impact of the crystal-clear drums that eventually kick in at 01.40. As Smith puts it later in the track, this is "a new way of recording, a chain around the neck": perhaps a reference to the fact that, for the first time in years, The Fall are on a no-mess record label which wouldn't shy away from sending the 'Clutter’ back for some more work. Smith did tell me, nearly a year ago, that the album was finished, and wondered what Domino were up to in not having yet released it. Perhaps his customary mind games were being deployed. Either way, 'Bury' draws from a broad sonic palette: there are creaks and cracks evocative of wooden pegs turning in too-small holes; there are sci-fi swooshes over stomping rhythms; there’s a pleasant circular melody on keys. Meanwhile the lyrics reference "a French composition on a fluted instrument", "municipal buildings" and "a Spanish king with a council of bad knaves". There's also a line about "grey squirrels" that mentions Ben Marshall, who conducted the Uncut interview that led to Smith being investigated by the RSPCA.

Mexico Wax Solvent

There are hints here of 'Cheetham Hill', from criminally underrated Fall LP The Light User Syndrome, but it's in 'Mexico Wax Solvent' that the feeling we're listening to a very different Fall LP really begins to take hold. Circa 01:40, a pretty guitar melody suddenly pops its head above the parapet of sonic murk as Smith announces, strangely, "There goes old Archibald Yates!" Later, he comments that "they love their government in Mexico / Where are Britain's lowest prices", perhaps in a questioning look at the UK’s station in the world. But what are we to make of the constant references to Aqua Rosa, which Google reveals to be the northwest's premier make-up and hairdressing training academy? Again, Smith introduces himself to the narrative, surely referring to his recent ill-health and wheelchair incarceration as he sings: "A 12-year-old doctor / A fresh-faced physician gives a note based on lies / So I don't have to stand any more." The track ends, though, with a defiant proclamation: "I am invincible."

Cowboy George

And so we reach one of the strangest Fall tracks in years. Spaghetti Western chords give way to capering drums, as what seems to be a snippet of Daft Punk's 'Harder Better Faster Stronger' drop in and out of the mix. There's a fast-picked guitar riff (the likes of which, again, we've never heard before on a Fall record) and a bridge of curious chords, before Smith summons the storm clouds with a half-sung, half-mumbled "I had two broken bones / I had two brown bottles / and a white nose / as I entered / five years of confinement." The glowering mood is intensified by mangled electronic and guitar noise. Later, Smith’s vocals become more abstract and distracted, with talk of "unseen footage, unseen facts" and a "robin redbreast".

Hot Cake

The simplest track here: a rockabilly stomper complete with an "ah ah ah oooooo" from Eleanor Poulou. It's quite sassy, this one. It's also the halfway point on which the album hinges. From now on in, things become much darker.

Y.F.O.C / Slippy Floor

"Tales from the Castleford crypt..." At first this seems a minimal track, as groove bass engages in a call and response with metallic, loose-string thrumming. Then a stretched guitar riff leads into the sort of blustering movement that MES disciple Alex Turner might like to have written. Again, the lyrics are packed with medical references, possibly explained by what comes at the end of the track. After a section of hisses, clip-clops and the banjo interlude from '50 Year Old Man' slowed down, there's an answerphone message from a posh-sounding chap. He recites his telephone number, which a Google search reveals it to be that of a Salford-based doctor specialising in Baunscheidt's therapy, a treatment for arthritis "which causes quantities of lymph to be expressed through the skin, bringing with it the acids which cause joint pain".

Chino

"This was an actual account of the operational experience..." says Smith, his voice echoing and strange amid deep vooms, slow two-string bass, circulating fizzing sounds (similar to those last heard on Throbbing Gristle's Thirty-Second Annual Report live album) and a guitar line that has menacing, gothic twinges reminiscent of Killing Joke. You have never heard a Fall track that sounds like this before. There are sirens in the background, as Smith gets ruminative: "When do I quit? When do I quit? / I need to know / I can't leave this bench alone / To be with my doll / When do I quit? Oh can't you digress / Self when it came / When do I quit this hospital / Darling is waiting." This is what the fantastic Your Future Our Clutter has been building up to: with all the talk of illness, hospitals and doctors, Smith has delivered on the promise of a "personal" Fall album, and here we find him wondering if and when it's time to hang up his microphone. To the Fall fan, this is deeply startling. "When do I quit? / Can I leave this trench alone?" he asks as vicious guitars and an electronic phaser erupt. Is Smith aware that, by many, he's seen as the regimental sergeant major in a war against mediocrity? That we need him more than ever is confirmed by this, the best Fall track since 'Blindness'.

Funnel Of Love

In this cover of Wanda Jackson's 1961 hit (most recently revived by Jackson in collaboration with The Cramps in 2003), is Smith singing of a belated, and increasing, tug of domesticity? Whatever, where recently some of The Fall’s covers have felt a little too throwaway, ‘Funnel...’ has the same muscular, effects-drizzled feel as the rest of Your Future...

Weather Report 2

And thus we come to the end of the shortest – in terms of track count – Fall studio album since 1984's The Wonderful & Frightening World Of... The conciseness is no bad thing: Fall albums of the past decade have oft been slightly bloated. Your Future Our Clutter, by contrast, is a tight, focussed record with coherent sonic and narrative themes.

After two and a half minutes of delicate guitar work, 'Weather Report 2' starts to darken as a deep and threatening hum strikes up. The track resembles 1990’s 'Bill Is Dead', in which Smith bared his soul following the death of his father. Where then he sang, quietly and sarcastically, "These are the greatest times of my life," here the refrain is, "You gave me the best years of my life." It’s delivered in a voice that sounds both resigned and defiant, and almost drowned out by the noise.

"Nobody has ever called me sir in my entire life," complains Smith, perhaps ruing sacrifices he’s made as curator of The Fall for the past three decades. And then the album ends with Smith close to the mic as he offers an intimate, distorted whisper of "Never mind Jackson / What about Saxons / Recording of lost London / You don't deserve rock 'n' roll." There’s a final gasped intake of breath: it’s the moment in a film where the head lolls on the pillow as life escapes.

Louis Jagger
Mar 8, 2010 1:41pm

You have me slavering. The young man wants this noise. Account has it equal to years 19-96 through to 2000 and 3, when secret peak of 'formerly' great band became.

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Mar 8, 2010 1:56pm

Wtf Louis?

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Louis Jagger
Mar 8, 2010 2:31pm

In reply to :

I've expounded at (way) greater length on the DiS thread regarding this album, but the Nagle era + COTC is my favourite Fall period, and I am thrilled to see repute of their reluming

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cityhobgoblin
Mar 8, 2010 3:41pm

In reply to Louis Jagger:

Are your posts deliberately written in a parody MES style or do you talk like this all the time?

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Lucia Lanigan
Mar 8, 2010 3:47pm

How likely is it that you'll get a straight answer to that?

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your mum
Mar 8, 2010 9:01pm

In reply to Louis Jagger:

jeez, that makes me wanna read DiS even more than ever now, cheers

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LJ
Mar 9, 2010 3:33pm

In reply to cityhobgoblin:

charmed to meet ya

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city hobgoblin
Mar 9, 2010 6:11pm

In reply to LJ:

I've only two things to ask: where's the cursor? where's the eraser?

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LJ
Mar 10, 2010 1:30am

In reply to city hobgoblin:

answer in local library, filed under GOHOHOIO, godspeed

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Joshua Taylor
Mar 13, 2010 12:24am

I'm trying very hard to avert my ears from any of their new stuff until the album is properly released next month. Only 44 days left.

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LJ
Mar 13, 2010 11:10pm

OK, have now heard. Last three tracks are flat-out next-level. Fucking hell.

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anthony rogers
Mar 17, 2010 2:38pm

Ive also heard it-it is very disturbing. To me, both Chino and Weather report-have a finality to them that is uncomfortable. I was thinking of Friel for some reason (dont know why). you guys had to have picked up on the jethro tull references...bury..thye did a version of Bouree..also their album (that famously knocked metallica out of the 1st heavy metal grammy was named "crest of a knave"). a little insight maybe..to the whole bury, bouree thnag..but my my chino and weather report and slippy (better mix than the single) just tower...fabulous.. better each play

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Michael Brown
Apr 9, 2010 9:38am

can't wait to hear this, how does he keep doing it?!

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Councillor
Apr 15, 2010 2:14pm

...and with two extra tracks exclusive to the vinyl LP, As if I needed more reasons to buy vinyl.

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Brendan
Apr 29, 2010 2:56pm

In reply to anthony rogers:

Does Anthony mean Friel as in Brian Friel?!!!!

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Mr Fiona T. Wardle
May 22, 2010 9:23pm

In reply to anthony rogers:

The first record I ever bought was "Bingo Masters Breakout" when I was but a lad. The latest I ever bought was OFYC - I only have the CD version, the shop is sending me the vinyl later.

I have listened repeatedly over several days. First - bloody hell, weak, feeble. But no, just different, not like some others. Industrial - I can imagine MES himself, and him making others do same, clocking in each day and putting in requisite stint.

This is subtle Fall, strong and opinionated. The music is actually much better on 15th listen than I thought on first listen. Crispy guitar is just about right. Throbbing Gristle is good comparison. This one is a slow burner, and will feature in my playlist longer than anything since Country...and that itself was first since god knows what before it. Classic, but you just won't realise it until next week.

Read reviews, thought "sounds great". THen bought album, determined to think "I am look back bore and this cannot be good enough". Now...Look forward, but maybe it is too late? If this is testimony, which I doubt, it would be pretty good.

Tomorrow do the usual and compare to Live at the Witch Trials. Different, but just like Mr Peel said, I imagine - "Always the same, always different"

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May 22, 2010 9:25pm

In reply to Mr Fiona T. Wardle:

...oh yeah, enjoyed the review thing at the head of this, by the way. Now back to my ALSACE! wine.

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yawn
May 30, 2010 9:45pm

In reply to anthony rogers:

Finality, yes...in "Weather Report" - Smith can't go on the way he is for much longer, and this is a monumental album, a towering achievement.

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lloyd
Jul 23, 2010 3:38pm

so.... 4 months in, and still this remains on regular rotation. it is absolutely fucking huge. as good as anything they've done. ever.

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athorist
Sep 18, 2010 11:01pm

In reply to LJ:

up the stairs mister?

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benway
Dec 16, 2011 11:09pm

Mrs Mark E Smith's amateurish keyboard wandering detracts from an otherwise excellent Fall release.

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