Are You Are Missing Winner
CD – 4 disc digipack
After the glory of The Unutterable, Mark E Smith and his fractured but not broken Fall returned with a brand new band after his trademark clearout to produce an album that has always divided opinion. Wayne AF Carey goes back into the vaults…
As reissues go the 22nd album by The Fall was always going to be interesting. The new line up of Pritchard, Blaney, Watts and Birtwhistle (all except Blaney were members of Manchester band Trigger Happy) was always a question of ‘How long will they last?’ Never one to mince his words, the grumpy old bastard quoted the hilarious line “If it’s me and your Granny on bongos it’s The Fall” Just read Renegade to get a little bit inside his head or any of the Hanley books. I don’t need to bang on because anyone who’s into The Fall is a fan for life and we all have our own take on the twisted mind of the late genius.
Are You Are Missing Winner is a difficult album yet captures a time where Smith goes back to his Dragnet and Witch Trials days, bringing down the production values and experimenting with his usual bizarre take on music under his tin hat of carrier bag lyrics. A crowd splitter of an album that has always divided opinion on Fall fans across the globe. Not my favourite yet the flecks of his talents shine through on a lot of the tracks for all to hear. My Marmite Fall album if you can coin a phrase…
Ex guitarist Ed Blaney comments on his time of recording:
“We pretty much wrote, recorded and produced the whole album in just over two weeks in Salford. Mark insisted all the new band members contributed which they did. The pressure was on and at times it was full on with all the usual Fall-esque chaos. The studio engineer was Steve Lloyd (RIP). I approached him and he knew what was required but stood for no nonsense during the recording sessions. In many ways it was a complete u-turn from The Fall’s previous album, back to rock n roll basics, drums, bass, vocals and guitar. No frills and very raw. That’s exactly what we wanted. This album split The Fall’s fan base in two whilst enticing and attracting a whole new audience. The end result speaks for itself and was the beginning of a new Fall era, one of which Mark embraced with open arms”
It’s an album full of twists and turns with opener Jim’s “The Fall” kicking in with scrawling guitars and a foreboding bassline laced with Smiths “We are the new Fall and you’d better have a look”. Cover versions are the order of the day with Leadbelly’s Bourgeois Blues coming in with the rockabilly cockiness of the cool as fuck MES. Crop Dust still sounds abrasive as fuck with the paired down dirty production backed by the familiar riff flowing throughout. Smith is cryptic as ever with the lyrics and the layers of sound crunch in and out with a hypnotic glare. My Ex-Classmates’ Kids is a pure lo-fi rockabilly stomp which sounds like Smith is actually enjoying himself again and having a rant about getting old.
Kick The Can is exactly what it says on the Can. A drum pattern lifted directly from Oh Yeah from Tago Mago. It’s a great Fall moment, especially when it changes pace halfway through which is another Can lift that works with the magic of MES drawling and drolling over it. Gotta See Jane drops in a simple yet effective bass line that kicks off another slice of rockabilly favoured by Smith in this era. Simple and sound. Ibis-Afro Man is MES arsing around with sound and experimentation at it’s best (or worst). I actually can’t fuckin handle this one. “I ate a monkey for breakfast, I ate a skunk for lunch” Try listening to this and tell me it’s not surreal and sometimes unlistenable, especially when you get a load of monkey screeching and background mumbling messing with your ears for a portion through the middle section. Jesus, it sounds like a bad speed trip.
The Acute goes all country, a simple song with the immortal line “Keep your cap on your pen, and your dick in your pants” A comedown from the mental Ibis-Afro Man. Hollow Man is pure Smith-uhh! An acoustic jam that sticks in your mind as classic Fall. A predecessor to the brilliance of the next two albums we all know and love. Reprise: Jane / Prof Mick / Ey Bastardo is a tricky bastard that starts and stops to wind you up. You have to put up with Mark. He is a bastardo. A weird bit of fuckery to end the album. The pauses just fuck you up. It’s like a shit jamming session that gets out of hand yet it keeps you dragged in until the end.
The three live albums are worth a listen as there are some gems in there, especially Live At The Knitting Factory in LA. Apparently all gigs at the time were cancelled in that area and The Fall were the only live band to catch on the night. The people flocked and you can hear the excited crowd thoughout the set, loving every note. And Therein and Mr Pharmacist get the rowdy treatment and it sounds like a riot of gig. The Garage, London gig sounds like another night of debauchery from Smith and his band of soon to be fucked off urchins that knew the firing line was not far off. The ATP Festival CD which has a similar set list with a few surprises thrown in is your typical live Fall fare with a mixed up set of shambolic fuckin’ around and a one two three of Shake Off – Enigmatic Dream – Ketamine Sun to whet the appetite of your hardcore Fall following.
Like I say it’s definitely not my stand out Fall album, yet it’s a glimpse into The Real New Fall and the excellent Fall Heads Roll which followed. A great listen into a new old era of the mesmerising brain of Mark E Smith…
Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here