The Fall | Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)

The classic vs. the brave new Fall comes in the battle between Mark E. Smith’s incomprehensible patter—a stream of consciousness rant, really—and the fact that the band is now on a label that demands at least some structure from its artists.

The Fall came out of Manchester, England in the mid-’70s. While other seminal bands from the period headed off to superstardom or obscurity, The Fall remained a punk band, outlasting and defying formats. Their sound is best described as simply “The Fall.” It is uniquely their own, defined by its frontman, Mark E. Smith.

Smith is a true purveyor of punk. He doesn’t care what you think of his albums (the band has dozens of studio albums, and two to three times that number in compilations and recorded live performances) and doesn’t believe in anyone’s satisfaction but his own. The music the band has provided over its history is purely Smith’s creation; if you like it, fine; if you don’t, goodbye.

The band’s history is one that would doom any other band. Smith has fired all members of every incarnation of The Fall (there are several web pages that hilariously try to document the carnage), married two of his bandmates, and perfected the “I will show up on stage when I feel like it” aesthete of touring. However, this constant change and apparent lack of attention to audience needs has worked well for Mr. Smith and Co. While approaching advanced years for a rock band (not to mention a lead singer and songwriter), The Fall have produced some of their finest albums of late. In the last five years, The Fall released The Real New Fall LP and Fall Heads Roll, both great albums showing that their ability to carve out an impressive and unique niche and generate tremendously catchy songs had only escalated with age. They also reached a new unique audience with the inclusion of “Clasp Hands” in a Cadillac commercial. The same is true with Your Future Our Clutter.

Their first album in two years (an eternity for the band) after 2008’s Imperial Wax Solvent is ribald mix of sounds that can be termed both “classic Fall” and “brave new Fall.” Not that Smith and the band going off in a new direction is something one can actually see, as they have never actually been on a path, ever. The classic vs. the brave new Fall comes in the battle between Mark E. Smith’s incomprehensible patter—a stream-of-consciousness rant, really—and the fact that the band is now on a label (Domino) that demands at least some structure from its artists.  

I worried a bit that Your Future Our Clutter might mimic the poor quality of 2007’s Reformation Post TLC, which struck me, a diehard fan, as a dud.  It had perhaps one or two good songs, with the rest sounding like Smith performed them while sitting on a wooden chair propped up against the wall in the back of the studio. His singing seemed to be several seconds behind the music, falling back on the more clichéd tricks in his bag (the growling, snarling, openly caustic Mark is tiring). The album relied far too heavily on the talents of his band to provide an infectious beat, which the singer then proceeded to to stumble over. Imperial Wax Solvent only partially repaired that perception, with Smith appearing to take more interest in the music. Your Future Our Clutter remedies much of that, with Smith sounding well in control, once again the ringleader. 

The current band is tight and provides a tight layer for the singer to talk, sing, shout and invade. “O.F.Y.C. Showcase” offers a tour-de-force opener which meanders in, with Smith seeming to show us around the neighborhood, pointing out various inhabitants. Its solid beat propels the song, but not so much as Smith’s mix of scattered thoughts (the meaning of which people spend inordinate amounts of time trying to decipher). He is impossible to ignore. Maybe this is what sets fans of The Fall apart from other people: they love the mystery of the unchained mind. I swear, there are times when I just marvel at the whirring blender that is the mind of Mark E. Smith. The album contains several great songs that rank with some of the best the band has offered. “Bury pts. 1 & 3” stomps through offering ribald thoughts of France in two parts, while “Mexico Wax Solvent” is, I guess, a travelogue (complete with ad clippings) of the band while south of the border (alternately, it can just be meandering thoughts about a jar of hair care product). “Y.F.O.C./Slippery Floor” is a fantastic romp with Smith singing literally about a slippery floor, but it never lets up and it is about as fun as a song can be. The album ends a bit clunky with “Chino” and “Weather Report 2” enveloping the cheery “Funnel of Love.” The two songs drag down an otherwise fast moving and enjoyable album.

The Fall are a truly impressive band. Their immense output has barely slowed with time, and Smith’s creativity and willingness to take risks has only increased with his status as punk godfather has solidified. Where others might be off squandering their status with butter commercials (yes, John Lydon, I’m talking to you), Mark E. Smith and whomever he is calling his band these days offer a real lesson in how to age gracefully as a punk rocker.

For the brave new Fall listener, this new album is a great place to start; for the longtime fan, Your Future Our Clutter adds a great link in a long career of great music. Enjoy. A | Jim Dunn

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About Jim Dunn 126 Articles
Jim Dunn grew up in NY in the 70s and 80s. Even though that time in music really shapes his appreciation it does not define it. Music, like his beloved history is a long intermingled path that grows, builds and steals from its past. He lives in Colorado with his lovely wife and a wild bunch of animals.

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