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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.

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.

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