Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

The Fall, 'Your Future Our Clutter'

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3 stars

It's called a riff -- that chord progression or melodic twist that repeats and repeats, giving a rock song a chugging foundation. In classical music, this device is called an ostinato, derived from the Italian word for stubborn. The Fall, in every one of its myriad incarnations around the central snarling demon that is Mark E. Smith, are masters of the riff. Fall songs start the riff early, jumping them like a motorcycle crank. As the riff rumbles -- stubbornly, so stubbornly -- Smith is then free to mutter and mumble and bellow and bark until the riff is shredded and spent and the engineer finally just shuts off Smith's saliva-covered mic.

"Your Future Our Clutter" is another bright spot in the Fall's three dozen or so albums, once again throwing an anchor back to the bottom-heavy but tuneful magic of the mid-'80s Beggars Banquet years. The riffs are again colossal throughout the three-part epics of "Bury, Pts. 1-3" (evolving through its original handheld recorder document to a full studio blast) and "Y.F.O.C./Slippy Floor" (the second part of which is a thundering, melodious wall of sound, with several guitars sparking and plugging the same chords like a tuned diesel engine). Over it all, classic Smith: tuneless, unintelligible most of the time, slurring his words and spitting out every final syllable ("expat-uh!" "I tell you this-sssssuh!"). In the middle of "Mexico Wax Solvent," even he finally chuckles at his own absurdity.

For "Cowboy George," another epic in three parts, the band (the same lineup as the last album, which rarely happens in the Fall) lays down clear, ringing spaghetti-Western tracks in a studio, over which Smith's honking sinuses are heard through what is probably another handheld recorder, in a closet. Then the track blasts into orbit, with Smith sleepily blurting about "unseen knowledge, unseen footage, unseen facts, unseen refinements" over synthesizer noises with enormous wavelengths. He sounds like he's in the cockpit of a Soyuz capsule.

The Fall is so prolific it's hard to find an entry point, but this is one of a handful of Smith's staggering rides worth taking.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on June 4, 2010 11:00 AM.

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Downtown Sound series under way in Millennium Park is the next entry in this blog.

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