“When do I quit?” Mark E. Smith asks listeners repeatedly during “Chino,” one of nine new offerings housed together for Your Future Our Clutter, the band’s first album in two years. The joke is that two years in between Fall albums is like an eternity. It was time well spent, and even Smith knows he’s delivered something special this time with his unmatched cynicism declaring it to be “a showcase of raw talent” a few minutes into the first track.
The concern is that M.E.S. is beginning to contemplate life after the Fall, but the optimist in me would counter that while Y.F.O.C. gives cryptic hints of finish lines, mortality, and growing old, it’s also an album where there’s a vibrancy to the production and the band is clearly on a roll as there aren’t any disruptions to the lineup since the last record, Imperial Wax Solvent.
There was also a concern for some Fall fans that the band’s last few offerings were growing increasingly reliant on garage sensibilities, disregarding a willingness to shake the arrangements up a bit, like Smith has done in years past.
The mix on Y.F.O.C. should end that concern, and with the attention to detail, the fair-weather fans who pass or purchase on such demands should find nine very good reasons to jump back on board.
Even though the gloss shines a little brighter on this, the band’s debut effort for Domino Records, which is a bit more prominent than the curators of their last few releases, they’re still acknowledging those cantankerous Nuggets gems that prompted M.E.S. to consider his career choice in music.
“Never mind Jackson,” he mutters on the great closing track “Weather Report 2,” shrugging off Michael Jackson‘s passing last summer. “What about Saxon’s?” he asks on the next line, reminding us that the Seeds‘ Sky Saxon passed away on the same day as the King of Pop, leaving only but a few devotes to notice.
Personally, I didn’t mind the homemade vibe of the last few efforts, but I will admit that the big production strategy on Y.F.O.C. makes the album immediately infectious. The sonic clarity makes it a blast to be able to try to decipher Smith’s wordplay without having to filter out the hiss and dirt of low fidelity production. Immediately, I need to mention that the first part of “Bury, Pts 1 + 3” was recorded through a cheap tape deck before giving way to better recording which then segues into the full-on studio recording. Yes, just because M.E.S. has spent a few extra pounds on the recording budget, don’t expect this one to appease mainstream ears.
Guitarist Peter Greenway delivers some tremendously colorful tones throughout and bassist Dave Spurr gets a few spotlights as well. Perhaps both are considering their inevitable sacking and have decided to provide their tenure with a memorable benchmark, which Your Future Our Clutter clearly will become.
The entire effort reeks of a welcomed surprise even when it shouldn’t; Smith has begun every decade with worthwhile offerings since the band’s inception and as he’s kicked off the fifth decade of his career with a not-so-subtle reminder that his senses are very much intact and that his bite can still draw blood, even when his dental work may suggest otherwise.
He bares the fangs on Your Future Our Clutter to everyone from the heath care providers who he encountered during a spill that left him with a busted hip, to the episode of Murder She Wrote rerun that aired beyond the reach of a remote control as he recuperated, and to the animal rights activists who called for his head after Smith admitted to killing a few squirrels with hedge clippers after the fuzzy-tailed rodents began chewing away at the fence in his yard.
But the strongest nip is served for those who doubted him musically, those who ponder if—at age 53 now—Smith would be able to break away from the comfortable garage primitivism that he can undoubtedly do in his sleep. The final words, whispered as the album closes, are saved especially for those doubters: “You don’t deserve rock and roll.”
Thank you sir, may I please have another?
Video: The Fall – “Bury! Pts 2 + 4”