The Fall - Your Future, Our Clutter - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Fall - Your Future, Our Clutter

by Rich Morris Rating:9 Release Date:2010-04-26

OK, let's get the regulation John Peel quote out of the way at the start. Peely once very sagely opinioned that The Fall were his favourite band because they were "always different and always the same". If we're being honest though, whatever line-up changes may occur, The Fall have more often been the latter than the former. However, on Your Future, Our Clutter, The Fall's 28th studio album and the second with the excellent new line up Mark E Smith assembled for 2008's return-to-form Imperial Wax Solvent, something has changed. Unbelievably for a band (or, more exactly, an enduring concept of what a band should be) entering its 34th year, new ground has been broken here, both in terms of the group's sound and their songs' lyrical content. On parts of this album, we're treated to bold experimentation and an unexpected vulnerability from bilious he-fossil Smith, with several lyrics touching on his recent spell in hospital.

Don't freak too much though, though. Plenty here is the same as ever. In fact, from the moment opening track 'O.F.Y.C. Showcase' kicks into life with a series of typically inscrutable Smith mutterings, you know you're listening to classic Fall. One of the joys of this band is how they find subtly different ways of repeating the same patterns, like Warhol and his soup cans. 'O.F.Y.C. Showcase' is The Fall all over, from its Krautrocky rhythm to Smith's chanting of the album's title. "A showcase of proud talent," he gurgles at one point, and he's not lying.

Second track 'Bury Pts. 1 + 3' initially sounds like it's being played through a knackered transistor radio. Typical of The Fall's willful perversity, this turns out not to be a gimmick but a fair portion of the song. Once the 'real' song crashes in, it reveals itself to be a fat, bassy beast full of odd squelches, bludgeoning guitar and atonal organ. Smith, on garrulous form, barks about "a French composition on a fluted instrument", "municipal buildings" and "a Spanish king with a council of bad knaves". What could it all mean? Your guess, frankly, is as good as ours. Tellingly, however, there's also a line about "grey squirrels" and a mention of Ben Marshall, who conducted the Uncut interview that led to Smith being investigated by the RSPCA. This, together with the music's claustrophobic atmosphere, is the first indication that this album sees Smith shed some light on his personal life.

Following the excellent Add N to [X]-style electro glitterbeat of 'Mexico Wax Solvent' comes 'Cowboy George', arguably the album's most thrilling moment, definitely its oddest. It's an absolutely mental concoction of wobbly guitar, spaghetti western fanfares, cantering drums and what sounds like a Daft Punk sample floating in and out. Weirdly, this backdrop suits Smith well. He croaks about "unseen hills, unseen facts" like a man with a serious phlegm problem and something to hide. Near the end, the track collapses into a morass of antiquated-sounding synth oscillations and controlled feedback over which drifts Smith's dislocated, desolate-sounding voice.

Elsewhere, 'Y.F.O.C./Slippy Floor' opens with Smith declaring "Tales from the Castleford Crypt!" over a loping, steady beat before an almighty, balls-out riff kicks in and everything suddenly charges forward like a seriously spooked squirrel. At nearly eight minutes, it's the longest track here and, as on 'Cowboy George', the repetitive beat soon gives way to a darker undertow of ambient sounds and disembodied voices. It sounds like Smith and his band have been checking out Faust's seminal 1973 work of sonic bricolage, The Faust Tapes. Throughout Your Future, Our Clutter, it almost sounds as if a different, competing set of songs are trying to break through the skins of the ones we can hear.

This sense of something murky beneath the surface reaches it apotheosis on the album's final track, 'Weather Report 2'. Here, a slower, more thoughtful tempo and a truly lovely guitar melody frame Smith's fragile sounding vocal. "You gave me the best years of my life," Smith sings in a sweet, gentle voice before a malevolent buzzing, humming noise intrudes. As the beat drops away and the kind of industrial noises last heard coming from albums by Throbbing Gristle and Nurse with Wound bubble forth, it's like the darkness finally engulfs Smith, leaving him drifting in an empty space and confronting his mortality. "Nobody has ever called me sir in my entire life," he rasps, sounding genuinely sad, befuddled and, most surprisingly, old. It's an incredibly brave, challenging ending that will startle even longtime Fall fans.

Other parts of Your Future, Our Clutter are more conventional, but no less welcome. There's no filler here. Both the unreconstructed rockabilly of 'Hot Cake' and Wanda Jackson's 'Funnel of Love', which joins the pantheon of great unexpected Fall covers, hold their own against the more outré moments on an album that genuinely has no fat on it. After all this time, Smith has delivered an indisputable triumph. If you love The Fall, rejoice. If you've yet to discover this most contrary and quixotic of bands, you could ask for no better jumping on point than this.

Richard Morris

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