"In 2010, is there even such thing as a casual Fall fan? Those brave few who have attempted such a one-way relationship with Britain’s most ornery and volatile post-punk band have invariably and inevitably been snuffed out by the sheer onslaught of material, which has continued unabated for over thirty years. For those keeping track at home, Your Future Our Clutter is full-length album number 28 (!) from Mark E. Smith and whatever backing musicians he hasn’t off and fired yet. And you know what? Therein may lay the secret to Your Future’s success as a curiously strong late-period Fall record. For the first time in what feels like forever, the line-up for this album is identical to its predecessor, 2008's already quite solid Imperial Wax Solvent. I certainly don’t expect it to last long—we are, after all, barely three years removed from a Fall record (Post Reformation TLC) which employed the amendment “TLC” as an abbreviation for “traitors, liars and cunts”—but, as always, it’s best not to get hung up on just when (or how) Smith will inevitably disband this group, but to simply savor the riches of this present incarnation. With that in mind—and with little chance at this point of converting the skeptical—it might be easy to overlook that Your Future Our Clutter may be the best Fall album in a decade. And on the off-chance you disagree with that assessment, I still don’t feel it inappropriate to label this the most progressive and focused batch of songs Smith has collected in quite some time.
I mean, really, it’s amazing what a couple years of touring and collaboration can do for a volatile unit such as this. The contrasting duo of “O.F.Y.C Showcase” and “Y.F.O.C./Slippy Floor”—which, depending on which version of the record you pick up, either bookend the blazing first side of the album or anchor the shorter CD sequence—on their own bear witness to a fire that Smith constantly has had boiling under the surface but can seemingly only sporadically contain. In fact, every cut on the record sees Smith in particularly focused form, unleashing sharp tirades nearly equal to those in his band’s mid-80s prime. He may be a long way from the blatant crit-baiting of Perverted by Language or the infamous opening lyric of Hex Enduction Hour, but there are still moments on YFOC where Smith emerges with gale-force energy to take down passé consumerists and record label blunders (“Bury Pts 1 + 3”) or dunderheaded doctors (“Mexico Wax Solvent,” which could’ve gotten by on Smith’s awesome pronunciation of “Meh-heee-cooh!” alone). Elsewhere, “Hot Cake” finds the band tightening the approach into one of the record’s most easily digestible nuggets (this is one of only two songs on the album that clocks in at under five minutes), harkening back to the focused boy/girl almost-pop of the band’s most cherished work.
Two songs on YFOC really stand out from the surroundings. “Chino” tears in with a heaving, channel-swaying chord progression, approximating (among others things) the industrial tendencies of many electronically curious rock acts from the 80s, yet with none of the flagrant synthetic elements that marred much of the band’s 90s work. It’s an interesting track in that it utilizes the Fall’s minimalist design towards a totally different end than what is typically associated with post-punk. Not to mention the fact that the lyrics may be alluding to an impending retirement, which itself is a scary proposition for those of us who take solace in the fact that Smith seemingly (and against all odds) will never give it up. The CD closes with the even more surprising “Weather Report 2,” which begins as a fairly traditional slow-burn ballad before being swallowed by a revving coda of full-bodied drone and incidental noise. It’s an arresting moment wherein Smith seems to be purposefully drawing attention away from his band’s newfound inspiration to direct the spotlight back onto himself. And really, when was the last time the Fall—and here I mean THE FALL, as an entity—was able to compete and support Smith so competently that he would have to even attempt such a move? After all these years, if you can’t get on board with that kind of workmanlike progression, then Smith has a message for you as the album fades to black: “You don’t deserve rock ‘n’ roll." [78/100] [Published 06.04.10]