MUSIC REVIEW – The Fall: Your Future Our Clutter

By Joseph Viney

yourfuture

Another year, another Fall album. Many have lost count but Mark E. Smith and his merry band of hired hands are on their 29th studio LP of a long and arduous career fraught with bust ups, booze and noise.

Your Future Our Clutter is a record breaking album for The Fall; in terms of longevity the current line-up is the longest since the group’s beginnings in the late 1970s. Moreover, it is the first time since 1994’s Middle Class Revolt that the same line-up has recorded two consecutive albums.

However, longevity does not a great album make. Given the crunching guitars and icy robotic sounds that permeated throughout 2009’s Imperial Wax Solvent the overall sound on Your Future Our Clutter is surprisingly flat.

Backed by relative unknowns Pete Greenway (guitar), Dave Spurr (bass), Keiron Melling (drums) and Mark E. Smith’s third wife Elena Poulou (keyboards) the band are evidently well rehearsed, though The Fall’s early and sustaining mantra of ‘repetition, repetition, repetition’ would stand any jobbing musician in good stead.

A number of albums in The Fall’s canon can be construed as nothing more than ‘plug in and play’ efforts but here the time has been taken to layer the sounds and leave more room for repeat listens.

The male musicians at Smith’s disposal can be excellent at times. Melling is a powerful drummer and it would be a cliché to compare him to Animal from The Muppets, but try not to tap your foot along with his thudding, insistent beats.

Spurr, on bass, looks suspiciously like Dermot O’ Leary but don’t let that fool you. He follows the great Fall tradition of fantastic bassists and blends jazzy rhythms with a good ol’ rock fuzz.

Greenway on guitar has grown as a talent and is not afraid to take advantage of the many technological advances available in a modern recording studio; various sound effects, overdubs and obtuse chord structures. It’s hard to believe it’s the same band that made their name initially on sparse and jagged guitar.

Well, given the multiple line-up changes it’s not the same band of course, but we as pigs with our willing noses in the troughs of capitalist society know that a ‘brand’ is a lot more than just a name; there’s always a certain reputation to uphold.

However, none of this is aided by the persistent and maddening one finger keyboard routine displayed by Poulou, and Smith’s insistence on filling any parts of song without his vocals with distracting samples and Dictaphone led snaps, crackles and pops.

Smith, once so cerebral and caustic in his younger days, is now reduced to spouting such nonsensical epithets like “…Chicory Tip in the shopping centre”, “…X is the third consonant” and a line that sounds rather alarmingly like “…little bagel w***ers”.

Where his lucidity, narrative and ability to grab a listener’s attention and tell a story was once his weapon of choice, he is now left barking out surreal fragments, scatter gunned lyrics and half-digested thoughts.

Despite its limitations there are a number of standout moments. The better-late-than-never George W. Bush baiting Cowboy George features a guitar riff straight out of the Ennio Morricone songbook and an unexpected Kanye West sample. Bury Parts 1 & 3 contains a jibe at their new record label Domino, rumoured to be at loggerheads with Smith over the recording of the album; “…a new way of recording, a chain around the neck” he growls over a throbbing bass line, skirting closely towards biting the hand that feeds him.

Hot Cake is not too dissimilar to fan favourite, 1981 album track Psykick Dancehall, and provides a welcome bridge for the older and perhaps more discerning fan with The Fall’s sprawling and sometimes confusing past and back catalogue. In a typically bizarre twist, up pops a cover of Funnel Of Love, a hit for the pioneering self-proclaimed First Lady Of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson.

As is the norm with The Fall, we are once again landed with an album that shows some massive potential but is lacking in the killer touch, the one song that may well push them over the edge commercially. Arguably, with Smith rapidly edging towards his mid-50s (and looking markedly older than that already), the chance for mainstream recognition has long since disappeared.

This won’t make them any new fans, but nor will it lose them any old ones. Everything will keep ticking over as usual. At least, as per tradition, there will be another album out at the exact same time next year to placate those not fully satisfied with this year’s effort.

In their history, The Fall have so far reached two creative zeniths; 1985’s This Nation’s Saving Grace and 2000’s The Unutterable, both strikingly fantastic records documenting a man reaching and re-reaching the height of his powers. There’s still time, but it remains to be seen if The Fall can one day make it a hat-trick of perfection.

5 OUT OF 10

Your Future Our Cluster is out in the UK on the 26th April 2010.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “MUSIC REVIEW – The Fall: Your Future Our Clutter

  1. pedantichrist

    A nadir is the lowest point it is possible to reach; presumably you mean ‘zenith’.

    • Joseph Viney

      …of course. Well spotted! I am genuinely aghast at my mistake.

      • Marty Mulrooney

        Haha not to fear, the editor has been to work and cleared that little whoopsy right up! Great review!

  2. Paul

    Cowboy George isn’t anything to do with George Bush!

  3. Nick

    Congrats on having the balls to call him on his vocal bs. Who else could get away with releasing this album with the vocals it has? There are live versions from ages ago where cowboy george has proper lyrics, coherently delivered. What, did he just not bother when it came to the studio version?

    MES = biggest arse licked man in music. It’s this crap that does him and his ego no favours. Speed heads, drinkers, musicians and celebrities haven’t the most clear self perception in the first place. MES has turned into a little hitler that no one will call out. But there’s nothing really wrong with that when your in a band, on tour, stressed, surrounded by hedonism. You freak out, you get tired, you act like a dick, fine. As long as there is someone there with the compassion to help you out and also the self respect not to put up with your crap. I dont think MES has seen much of these type people over the years…

    Let’s be honest. It is an average album. The hardcore fans are quite enthused by it, but like IWS before it, and The Real New, it could have been WAY better if more effort was put in. Frankly he’s just spouting crap at this point. Not even trying to make any sense, or interesting nonsense.

    You can clearly hear in this album and the others I’ve mentioned the potential for a classic record, squandered again! Fall heads roll could have made a nice ep, but instead it was an album with blatant and unacceptable filler. The best of the 00’s (discounting Unutterable) was The Real New, but even it has something missing when it comes to the 2nd half.

    Maybe it’s just his age, or his band troubles, or the utter boredom with what he’s doing, and how miserable it must be trying to make yourself enthusiastic about what you’re only doing for another paycheck… but still, this album could have been great. Really great. There are great songs here, but they aren’t finished. The band are too afraid to stretch out and experiment from their boss’ strict directions. And so because he isn’t ever forced to try to keep up with them, or feels competitive with them, he just meanders about and they try to keep up and please him.

    The less said about Reformation, the better. What should be noted though, is that the only decent track (Over! Over!) was the only one taken from 18 tracks he recorded with his previous band. They were set to release an album (which sounds like it would have been great, based on their previous work) but then they left the band and in his arrogance he added some crap effects to Over! Over! and recorded an entirely new and crappier album. The Smith and Blaney thing was beyond a joke. the most cynical excuse for a cash in i can think of.

    No one will call him on this stuff, except perhaps Domino, who seemed to with the order of a re-record. He has nothing left to sing about, so resorts to garbled crap about his celebrity, or whatever will do as a passable vocal.

    But it’s not hard to feel sympathy, when you consider the utter ****ing banality of the interview questions he gets asked and the tediousness of it all. How completely worn out he must be trying to fight against the small and limited minds that crush the magic in what he’s trying to do with their boring ideas on it. Help the guy out, make it interesting for him. MES is a character created by a guy called Mark, it’s a really cool one that has made some amazing music. Let’s not treat him like some caricature old drunk playing a part. I think I understand why he says “you don’t deserve rock ‘n’ roll” at the end.

    • Joseph Viney

      His (lack of) lyrics and delivery is a worry. Having never been the best or clearest singer in music history he’s always been at a disadvantage but, as noted in my review, his words and his mind were his weapons; both appear to have dissolved rapidly since the middle of the last decade.

      As for the ‘lost’ album, I believe we’re only basing those facts on interviews with Pritchard/Watts/Trafford/Birtwistle et al. They probably would have said anything had they been coaxed into it. They were a reliable line-up, but not as adventurous as this current one. Anyway, Smith was a fool to let Jim Watts go…he had a great ear for music that lad.

      What I don’t agree about modern Fall LP reviews is that they seem to get high scores merely because it’s released, as if they can’t believe Smith is still dossing around with the Fall name. Sometimes I can’t believe it either to be honest, but I wouldn’t patronise them with that tripe. A new release should always be reviewed on its own merits, nothing more.

      P.S.

      You don’t post on the Fall forum perchance? I’m Faust Banana on there if you do.

      • Doug

        Joseph,

        A spot on comment about Jim Watts. Although I do believe the RNFLP line up is better than the current. I enjoyed Ben P’s chords immensely.

        Doug

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