Mark E. Smith. Pic: Paul Stuart/Camera Press
On May 4th Mark Smith and his current merry band of cohorts known as the Fall released the 28th album of his career - Your Future Our Clutter (Domino). I have been listening to Your Future Our Clutter for days now, and each listen brings new surprises. At 53 years old, Smith has delivered an album that lyrically and musically whips the rug out from under any of the current crop of rock darlings and quite a few of the legacy bands out there; all of whom should now take a serious look in the mirror and start asking themselves some tough questions - and that's no exaggeration. As Ben Ratliff puts it in his New York Times article about Smith and the album, "[It].. is good medicine for shortening historical memories. It is not a heritage act running through a hardened iconography; it’s a good rush, but perverse, wriggly and hard to reduce. It’s a useful reminder that the Fall itself has been worth paying attention to for a long, long time." Perhaps the constantly shifting Fall lineup keeps everything fresh, adding new blood to each album. [In a recent book, “The Fallen,” the British journalist Dave Simpson tried to track down every former member of the Fall. He counted 45.] If it is so, then it works, but I for one would love to hear more from this current lineup as they provide just the right edge-of-the-precipice rattle and hum, taught wiry sounds and never-flashy sonic bursts that drill through each song in near perfect tandem.
The production takes equal and typical Smith/Fall risks, especially on Bury Pts 1 + 3 where it sounds like the band is performing in a walk-in refrigerator with the door closed, until halfway through someone opens the door to reveal the band but not Smith; he remains isolated somewhere as he rails against the town, Bury in Northern England, his voice front and centre and drier in the mix. Here's Ratliff again “Bury Pts. 1+3” segues three different takes of the same song, recorded in different levels of audio fidelity, from practice cassette to finished take. In the second half of the record, a theme emerges of a patient held against his will. There’s a recurring image of a “slippy floor,” references to television, the need to go home, too much time to mull over gratitude and frustration. ”When do I quit this hospital?” Mr. Smith sings. “My darling is waiting. Can I leave this trench alone?”
Finally, on the last song Weather Report 2, over a bed of blipping and droning synthesizers, Smith darkly whispers, "you don't deserve rock n' roll." Unless rock n' roll is firmly in Smith's hands I'd have to agree..we don't deserve it.
Still, don't take it from me and Ratliff alone. Here's a review from a Fall fan on Amazon:
This one's an addition to the Please be brilliant canon.