Perfect Sound Forever

The Fall Are You Are Missing Winner

by Al Spicer (August 2018)

"Keep the cap on your pen and your dick in your pants." If only more of us listened to Mark E Smith's advice, we'd live in a better world.

So, how best to follow The Unutterable, The Fall's previous release? If you're Mark E Smith, the obvious thing to do is sack the old band, spend all the money, and start again with a new line-up, recording in penury, obviously.

AYAMW is a dispatch from the front lines of a battle forgotten. Twenty-something years down the line, with twenty-something albums notched up on the discography, it's a snapshot of a band short on ammo, cut off from HQ but refusing to go down without a fight. Propped up, possibly literally, by his untried gang of scratch volunteers, MES returns to the microphone like a shell-shocked military officer obliged to submit his report while the enemy are at the gates. And the news from the war is rarely encouraging.

We kick off promisingly enough with an old school stomping riff, an emphatic declaration of intent that makes Jim's "The Fall" a stirring opener. It's reminiscent of the clean, thoughtful music that comprised I AM KURIOUS ORANJ, and seems destined to be instrumental until somebody lets Mark at the microphone. After a throwaway remark, "We are new Fall," the lyrics veer across the road mumbling money problems and disappear into the woods.

Mark pulls himself together for "Bourgeois Town," an old Leadbelly song from the days when Bourgeois was still an insult, and shows some genuine commitment to the words, but for "Crop-Dust," he allows new recruit Birtwhistle to do some proper musical composition and put together a decent tune. He makes it much better when he blunders forward and slurs random poetry across the music like an early Patti Smith / Lenny Kaye performance, there's beauty hidden in the chaos.

True fans understand that MES was born fully formed and sneering, so "My Ex-classmates' Kids" must be about someone else but whoever it was seems to be writing sneaky song lyrics while pretending to watch a cooking show, about the cost of bringing up children. Hidden behind a toppy, dentist-drill guitar sound is the lament of a man who'd much rather be at the pub.

You might think that "Kick The Can" can be seen as a threat to leave a relationship if the other doesn't stop drinking to excess, but I couldn't possibly comment. It seems rebuilt from the component parts of two songs, and like a "cut & shut" automobile, it's cheap, fun and a bit risky.

All through the album, volume levels rise and die at random, vocals weave between clarity and "teeth against the metal" mic damage: even in "Gotta See Jane" (The Fall's second cover of an original by R. Dean Taylor, fact fans). It's shoddy, and not always in a good way. The deadpan delivery of lyrics suggest this was a first run-through to show the group the chords and changes, that ended up on the record because nobody could be bothered to try harder.

By contrast, the standout track on the album "Ibis-Afro Man" is obviously assembled with care from many different versions, including a live version recorded in London. MES deconstructs Iggy's "African Man" and puts it through the mincer. This is Experimental Music, evoking an anarchist band based in rural West Germany in the late 60's. Mark seems to walk from room to room, interrupting his fellow communards and recording their reactions on a cheap cassette machine. Ugly and magnificent.

Although "The Acute" certainly merits your attention, it's really little more than a couple of stray lines from an argument reprised by a vengeful drunk, trying desperately to sober up by taking speed.

"Hollow Mind" brings the angry young man of twenty years previous back to the front. He's sneering, not slurring. This is reflective, self-criticism after an argument that spiraled out of control . It leaves us nothing but the "Reprise: Jane Prof Mick Ey Bastardo" that closes the album. Eventually. Stopping. And starting again. Not irritating at all. Provocative swine!

Seen in the context of the band's entire career, this is one that marches on the spot, taking stock and a breather before dashing heroically back into the fog of Rock'n'Roll warfare. Assembled on the cheap, badly mastered and at times more than willfully difficult to understand, this is far from their finest hour, but it's heroic all the same.

See the other items in our Fall post-millennium discography review

Also see our Fall tribute

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