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"Are you are missing winner" is the 23rd studio album by the cult Mancunian band The Fall.
Released on CD in 1991 on Cog Sinister/Voiceprint records later in 1992 as a limited edition vinyl picture disc the album sees the bands foray into Garage rockabilly and drop the techno-billy sound of the highly acclaimed predecessor album "The Unutterable".
The reason for this sound change was simple, the band was a different set of individuals and the only remaining member was the lead vocalist Mark E Smith. The change of line up and quick release of the album led to a much rawer and rock influenced sounding band with a much loser and less rehearsed sound.
The 10 tracks on the album are a somewhat scrappy compilation of songs and the volumes of the mixes as well as the tone seem to vary throughout. The album has since been re-issued and remastered but I haven't heard that so cannot comment.
The opening track of "Jim's The Fall" was co-written by Jim Watts the bands bass player and occasional guitar player. The sound is a really dirty and bar chord rock song with crashing symbols and gritty guitar sounds. Mark declares in his lyrics "We are the new Fall", which is a position that he has been in with many line up change of the bands unsettled decades of existence.
The second song "Bourgeois Town" has the same sort of mix and is locked into a repetitive blues riff that could be the bigger brother of an older Fall song "Living too late". The song is a bastardised version of Leadbelly's song "The Bourgeois blues". Mark sings about being in a bourgeois town and declared "Spread the news" around in a vocal style not dissimilar to Rolf Harris singing the "Spread the light all around" in his hit "Sun arise".
The third song "Crop-Dust" is a real gem and has a sound of Classic fall. The rumbling drum beat is covered with swathes of reverb soaked guitar chords and an Indian sounding guitar lick. Over the top of this Mark heckles and shouts a plethora of lyrics in an invigorating and compelling manner.
The next track is "Kick the can" (lots of online listings have the tracks in the wrong order). The song starts with a really flanged and spacious guitar, like some 60's psychedelic rock. Strangely though after a few verses of standard rock fodder the song halts and then is reborn into a 2 note rockabilly riff with loads of lyrics about having to "Kick the can" - maybe an alcohol reference(?). The sound is still raw and has a pub performance sort of feel to it.
The garage mix and trashy feel comes to a head with the next track "My ex-classmate kids". Mark is distorted and swamps the mix with his distorted vocals like a bad karaoke mix! The overall result is great as it gives the music a rigour and sense of urgency. The song is a four chord rock song, and boy does it rock! The lyrics are as ambiguous as ever -
"Pressure under and over,
Pressure over the skips,
Over price adverts,
Broken down laptops"
The obligatory cover version is up next and the Fall's rendition of R Dean Taylor's "Gotta see Jane" raises a smile as it sounds almost civilized and polite when compared to the preceding track. Mark gives the song a good vocal stab but the background music sadly sounds reedy and pale by comparison.
The album turns totally bizarre with the next song that starts off with a mix that sounds like it's been recorded in a bathroom. Just when you are about to skip the track a studio recording of the track starts up and is equally as odd. Mark sings about living in the bush, staying in an Ibis hotel and eating monkeys for breakfast. The slow plodding tune is splattered with other out of time recordings that are faded in and out of the mix to create a total cacophony. It's when Mark proclaims that he's eaten a skunk that the track is suddenly littered with samples of screaming Monkeys that you realise that this isn't going to make a top ten single. Just when you've given up on the song it then burst's into a rough version of Gene Vincent's "Race with the devil" as song the band had learned and played for John Peels 50th birthday party.
In total contrast the next song "The acute" is an upbeat country sounding song with acoustic guitar riffs that would befit a Johnny Cash song. The lyrics are totally odd and Mark sings about the need to keep a cap on your pen.
The acoustic theme continues with the next track "Hollow Mind". The tracks once again have a live feel to them and the drums really crash and drive the song along at a frantic pace. There are some odd low grumbling backing vocals in this track which really add to the overall ambience.
The closing track "Reprise: Jane - Prof Mick - Ey Bastardo" sounds like an outtake. It starts and stops with several takes of some cymbal ringing drums and bits of "Gotta see Jane" and Mark in high spirits singing in a strange pseudo accent repeatedly "Spen is a bastardo"! Totally mad yet quite compelling in a nosey neighbour kind of way!
Several takes in and we see lots of guitar riffing and a more usual vocal take, and then the album is over!
To most The Fall is a difficult band to listen to and are considered a little odd. This album will undoubtedly reinforce this view (especially the hoards of screaming monkey noises on Ibis-Afro Man).
The album though, despite its oddness, is something of an unpolished diamond. There are some really great songs on the album; though they are maybe a little under-produced or overly raw.
It's a million light years away from the previous album, but I think the personnel change had given the band a fresher and more direct sound on this recording.
Not essential, but not too bad either.
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Jim's "The Fall"
2 Bourgeois Town
4 My Ex-Classmates' Kids
5 Kick The Can
6 Gotta See Jane
7 Ibis-Afro Man
8 The Acute
9 Hollow Mind
10 Reprise: Jane - Prof Mick - Ey Bastardo