‘Our next record will be something that scum like that choke on.’ – Mark E Smith in 2009, referencing The Fall’s imitators of previous album Imperial Wax Solvent.
My favourite album by The Fall is what I regard to be their best release of the last 10 years. Your Future Our Clutter is a definitive high point in the band’s storied career and captures what the group does better than anyone else.
The album was released in 2010 by Domino Recordings, home of the Arctic Monkeys, so its was of a big deal for both band and label, who I imagine were excited to have such a legendary group on their books. Beginning life in 2009, the album (or a version of it) was famously rejected by Domino, presumably not willing to have their name on a sub-standard Fall release. Respect must go to these guys – they knew the potential was there and weren’t afraid to stand up to Mark E Smith’s caustic bite. After several more sessions, Your Future Our Clutter was finally released in April 2010. Judging by the snide remarks on the back of the album sleeve and the obvious lyrical reference to Domino’s interference – ‘A new way of recording / a chain around the neck‘, Smith’s relationship with the label was permanently damaged and this was to be the band’s only Domino release.
There’s a sense of occasion about this set of songs, ‘a showcase of Fall talent‘ as Smith puts it on opener ‘O.F.Y.C Showcase’. The album moves at breakneck pace, racing through some of the band’s strongest compositions in years. Smith’s voice hangs heavy over the storm of instruments erupting around him, leading proceedings in typical shamanic style. The album is centered around the astonishing drum production which literally shakes the speakers – cymbals come spinning in from all angles and the kick drum sound is the stuff of legend. Props must go to producer Ross Orton (who also produced the drums on Arctic Monkey’s AM), who’s work really defines this album.
What makes the Your Future Our Clutter experience so powerful is the combination of brute power and dashes of unexpected noise that are daubed across the record. It’s not just the strangled guitar lines or warped synths – it’s the brief Daft Punk musical excerpt, the doctor’s answer phone message and the weird Dictaphone noise that colour this record so effectively. There’s a Beefheart-esque, cosmic other-worldliness to Smith’s lyrics and delivery on ‘YFOC’. Lines such as ‘and you will suffer all the seasons on the sides of municipal buildings‘ and ‘the warmth that is inside / cannot be made / be your stain’s own ink‘ suggest the work of a man not quite of this world.
Despite the kind of chaos often associated with Smith’s vocal delivery, there’s no denying the power of the man’s delivery on YFOC. I think there’s something very considered to the rhythm and cadence of the lyrics on this album – every syllable seems necessary and I come back time and time again to these songs for this reason. Perhaps it’s ‘cos I’ve listened to it a million times, but Your Future Our Clutter has remarkable depth.
My favourite song? Most definitely Cowboy George. My brain was nearly split in two by the intensity of this song live, which was stretched out to nearly 6 minutes at a gig I attended in Reading in 2011. The spoken word outro is stretched out on stage too, with an added monologue involving ‘white monks’ descending down ‘the wibbly-wobbly road‘.
The album’s final descent into hellish noise is another highlight for me. ‘Weather Report 2‘ maintains a theme running through the album – that Smith is ill and in a bad way. There’s a number of references to his health and much of the album was written and recorded whilst he was wheel-chair bound recovering from a broken hip. ‘You gave me the best years of my life‘ remarks Smith, who seems in a rare nostalgic mood. As the keyboard synth rumble drags the song deeper, ‘the whirlpools grow wider and wider‘ . The album’s whispered last line ‘you don’t deserve rock and roll‘ isn’t just what’s cool about this final song – it’s Smith’s intake of breath that follows, suggesting another line is imminent. Then silence. The end of one of The Fall’s most powerful musical statements.
There are many more highlights in The Fall’s career, this just happens to be the one I identify with the most. What happened next for the band? After a difficult UK tour to promote the album (Smith angered audiences in Scotland by not exactly being present at several shows), the group released YFOC’s follow-up Ersatz GB the following year. Despite the patchy production, it was a good one too. More on this another time…
Give this album one or two evenings of your time, please! Check out the reason #1 why I love The Fall here.