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The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter

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Artist: The Fall

Album: Your Future Our Clutter

Label: Domino

Review date: May. 4, 2010

Mark E. Smith has called a lot of things rubbish, but hasn’t used the word "clutter" in his lyrics before this record, which is somewhere around his 28th batch of new songs. It’s a word that could be attached to any Fall album. They are cluttered by design. Crisp and concise numbers might degenerate into throaway pop bait on repeated listens, temptations to draw listeners closer to the scrappy payoffs that don’t play nice at first. When a Fall album lands in your lap, it can be hard to figure out if it’s great or merely provocative. Micheal Crumsho had plenty of praise for thier 2004 realease, but came to the conclusion that "it seems doubtful that The Real New Fall LP will go down is history as a desert island pick." Six years later, it’s a plausible pick for those in the cult.

It wasn’t as apparent that the Fall were on an upward trend then. Or that progeny like Liars and LCD Soundsystem could be measured against Smith and Co.’s recent output, even as Fall lineups and label relationships disintegrated quicker than usual and the pace of releases slowed. The Fall are on a top-flight indie again, Domino. When this record leaked, there was buzz, which is hardly the normal course for bands that have passed their third decade.

Early information on Your Future Our Clutter had the title as "Our Future Your Clutter," like a jab at their own overproductivity. On the opener "O.F.Y.C Showcase" Mark E. Smith shouts the string of words in both directions. Apparently, Domino sent an early version back, asking for the whole thing to be reworked. That’s standard operating procedure for Smith, maybe even the pushback he was looking for. It’s easy to imagine him delivering a mess to his new management, just to see what would be refused. A major part of his songwriting is redacting the thoughts until meaning is more absent than present. The strikeouts make phrases borrowed from bureaucracy and advertising take on conspiratorial tone.

If the label wanted more polish, and a commercial-peak Fall sound, they got it. Slip most of these tracks between their Beggars Banquet singles; the big 1980s gated-drum beats, lead bass, keyboard hops and twang flow one into another. The structure of the first seven songs have the unshifting beats and repetition-repetition-repetition of early work. There’s some great later-period lyrics from Smith. What’s both difficult and wonderful about late period Fall, though, is that it gathers force with some extended familiarity with the discography.

So a track like "Mexico Wax Solvent," strong on its own, is easier to dissect knowing their last album was called Imperial Wax Solvent. It clarifies that the images of British discount shops and Mexican food are stand-ins for faded imperial glory. When Smith declares:

"It’s the winner of British lowest prices
I don’t bake rice with screwdrivers,
I fry chicken with a trowel"

...and he can’t deliver then next line without a giggle, it helps to know that he almost never breaks his straightman facade.

He gets positively lovey-dovey on the last two tracks. "Funnel of Love" is the requisite rockabilly cover, pounded out with unusual upliftingness. The closer, "Weather Report 2," has Smith actually singing notes, matching them (barely) to guitarist Peter Greenway’s corny arpeggio. As "you gave me the best years of my life" becomes the refrain, it seems as though the bastard has gone gooey on us. But a cloud of low frequency noise moves in, and the song becomes forbidding, an airborne toxic event straight out of Don DeLillo. As electronics arc and crackle, life dies off, and Smith leaves us with a punchline and a song that’s among his very best.

Those electronics have been supplied by Elena Poulou since Real New Fall LP. She’s Smith’s third wife, and a big part of what has kept the Fall’s futurism fresh. "Bury Pts. 1+3," a swipe at shit-fi garage, is elevated by her oddly placed synth glurps. If ex-wife Brix Smith pushed the band toward pop, Elena keeps the current sound from ever getting too friendly, keeping it congruent to the ornery leader.

Another futurist who looms large in the world of MES, Philip K. Dick, coined a word for the most nefarious clutter, the ever-piling mounds of doodads and consumer artifacts that pack the frames of Blade Runner and fill up our own closets. He called it "kipple." One of Dick’s characters says, "No one can win against kipple, except temporarily and maybe in one spot." This record clears a spot. And in some temporary way, wins against the ever mounting pile of post-punk consumer artifacts.

By Ben Donnelly

Other Reviews of The Fall

The Real New Fall LP

The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004

Reformation Post TLC

Imperial Wax Solvent


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View all articles by Ben Donnelly

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