Perfect Sound Forever

The Fall Shift-Work

Mike Wright
(May 1998)

(Please note that for this review I am using The Fall's UK CD release of Shift-Work. The UK release has additional songs included on it.)

Well, when we last met with MES and The Fall's ever changing lineup, MES was spewing mucho venom from the last proper release (Extricate). Much of the anger was coming from recent break up with wife Brix E. Smith. Some of this anger is still here on Shift-Work, but I consider this the 'Getting over Brix' album.

Side A: Earth's Impossible Day

To me, the first song off of Shift-Work, the slightly sound distorted "So What About It?" is MES trying to explain to people why he and the misses aren't together anymore. Lines like, "I can not sleep, but I'm happy? I can not eat? so What About It?. It happens!!!" This kind of makes you feel sorry for the old coot now doesn't it?

Don't worry. He directs his anger at other targets soon enough. Take track 2, "Idiot Joy Showland." One of the fall's best in my estimate. His target this time is Manchester and Manc. bands (probably Happy Monday's, Inspirals, Charlatans, etc.). "Idiot Groups with no shape or form, out of their heads on a quid of blow?" This song contains the classic ranting we have all come to love from MES. I am paraphrasing but here it is: "Hey You, imitators, come on up. Hey little singer, come on up, show us your house and show us your c*ck. The working class has been shafted, so what the f*ck you sneering at? Your progative in life it seems, driven out some ad mans dream!." In the song MES mentions, California has Disney Land, Blackpool has Farmland, but this place (Manc.) has Idiot Show Bands! Lovely, yes truly lovely.

Ahh, onto better subjects- "Edinburgh Man," the next track. This song is a beauty, and is as close to anything the Fall has done to really give you a glimpse of the man MES, and not just the myth. This song is kind of reminiscent of "Bill Is Dead" on Extricate. Great descriptions of the Scotland City appear in this song. Hell, I visited it as a U.S. resident based almost entirely on the description that MES painted with his words. Also contains the line "Keep me away from the Festival" which of course is talking about the Edinburgh Festival where tourists from all corners of the globe flock. You see, MES doesn't much like tourists!

"Pittsville Direkt" is the next track. Turn up the first 30 seconds of the song to hear MES buried deep back in the silence. I recorded this part really loud so it sounds normal and then I brought the volume back down to what you would expect, just so I could hear what MES was saying. In Short, "Pittsville Direckt" is someplace that MES doesn't want to go to. How is that for a deep meaning?

"The Book of Lies" is the next cut. I don't care much for this one. Kind of an annoying verse over and over again. Recently it has come to my attention that this "Book Of Lies" was an evil book. Maybe the book is a myth, who knows. Maybe this is once again a dig at Brix and some interviews she was giving at the time. "You don't listen to anything I say, Or do anything you promise to do, so why should I?"

"High Tension Line" is the next gem, one of the free tracks on the UK version which is great. Is it talking about MES balancing his life, his band? "High Tension Line" could be a play on words about how he is feeling. "I see 40 year olds, in multi-colored shirts. It never use to concern me but now it's making me sick!." (Note to self. Throw out those shirts). Also, MES states that he is far too fast for sampling. Once again showing that the hip priest is way ahead of the curve of other bands trying to immitate.

"The War Against Intelligence" concludes the Earth's Impossible Day side of the CD. "Notebooks out plagiarists," is the best line in this song, and is a precursor to Side B. You can once again see that MES is concerned by bands ripping off the fall's sweat and precog. Also MES uses the 'Hey Dude' line a lot, which makes me laugh because this line was a common greeting from Frat boys etc. while living in the US in the early 90's.

Side B: Notebooks Out Plagiarists

"Shift-Work" sounds too me like MES accepts that Brix is gone and it was meant to be. Is this about Brix, or is it about a new flame in Mark's life? "But being abandoned by your woman - cries for Shift-Work!" Is the work the excuse why Brix left Mark? Who knows? It sounds as if Mark is blaming the work for his problems.

"You Haven't Found It Yet" could be another game MES is playing with his fans and also relationships. Who hasn't found what? The fans, groups, writers still don't understand him. Brix doesn't get him? The questions still are there for me. This one again tends to get on my nerves a bit, kind of like "The Book Of Lies." Neither of these songs is really bad, it just looks as though things could have been slightly changed and the songs could have came off better.

"The Mixer" lightens things up again. Kenny Brady's fiddle has kicked into high gear at this point. Did MES know that Brix would end up with Kenny? This song is funny and is about some mixer who lives by MES. "The Re-mixer" (which as you can probably guess is a mix of "The Mixer") is even better. This is a great live song as well.

"White Lightning" is the cover version of this album. This one comes free on the UK release of the CD. This is a great cover, and holds pretty close to the original with MES changing things just a bit to make it more of a Fall song. "White Lightning" is another funny rock-a-billy song that you have all come to love from the Fall. A Must!

"A Lot of Wind" is an attack by MES about what is on British telly. He puts down Carl Lewis the Olympic athlete with the huge ego, so it can't be all bad. What is it with MES and Olympics that he hates so much? More questions as usual. "YOU SEE IT ON THE KIDS PROGRAMMES - They talk a lot of wind." Once again this song I would lump in with "The Book of Lies" and "You Haven't Found It Yet" to be a little on the annoying side because of the same versus repeated over and over.

"Rose," the next song, is once again a very pleasant song about a woman named... you guessed it, Rose. Is this the next flame in Mark's life? Hopefully, but looking back in retrospect if it is she didn't last long either. Maybe this is an old girlfriend. Maybe it was written to once again piss off Brix. The line "He is a good Man - Rose" may be Mark giving his approval of the old girlfriends new love interest. "I've got a good woman - sometimes" also leaves the observer thinking that MES will make it, and record another album. I also like the appearance of the flute in this one.

"Sinister Waltz," is one of those throw away songs that the Fall loves to do. This one isn't too bad for a throw away. Probably one of the songs that is played as the Fall are walking out to do a live appearance. I like this one as well because if you put this on before you go bed, it will ease you to sleep. This reminds me of a crazy musicbox. Many a Fall fan have used this when getting married to dance with their grannies, just to have the appropriate Fall content in their momentous occasion. Well it was either this or "Cary Grant's Wedding"!!!

This review like all of the Fall's albums should be taken for what it is. Part truth, part lies, and part misinterpretations, full of mis-spellings and guessed at lyrics. I always consider Shift-Work and the next album Code:Selfish to be part of a pair of albums. To me, this is the better of the 2.

If I were to rate fall albums (1 being their worst, and 10 being their best). I would place Cerebral Caustic at 1, Grotesque (after the Gramme) at 10, and the UK version of Shift-Work with the bonus tracks at about 7. Definitely something to add to the collection if you are a Fall fan and haven't got it. Also, it is good introductory material for those that are too timid for songs like "Papal Visit," "And This Day," and "Impression of J. Temperance."

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