Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Day 30: News Of The World?

So here's one that could easily soundtrack a current news story, despite being released over 20 years ago, the current phone-tapping scandals are nothing new, but obviously still relevant.

Song: Telephone Thing
Album: Extricate

Year: 1990

This is a repetitive one, but is augmented by some deep keys and some nice stuttering vocal effects as MES backs himself up (lack of Brix on here meant he had to fill out songs in this manner). It's a good old-fashioned Fall slow-burner, leaving plenty of space for Mark's invective. The subject here is obviously phone tapping and paranoia, quite why anyone would need to tap into Mark's call is anyone's guess, but here we have it. The line everyone always quotes is: "How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you?" which is amazing, simple, direct and memorable. 'Assume' is an interesting word, that holds different meanings for different people, he visits the word in more depth on 2005's Assume off Fall Heads Roll, where he applies this cryptic head-scratcher: "If you assume, you are a Hu(l)me/ If you half assume, you are a Hu(l)me/If you don't assume, you are a cap-it-an!!"

The mentions of Gretchen Franklin (left) here are apparently nothing to do with the elderly and now deceased actress who played Ethel Skinner on TV's Eastenders. When asked why he had mentioned this relatively minor character, Smith claims he thought he had made the name up, so maybe influence through osmosis? She would certainly be the type to listen in on conversations on another phone in the house, but subterfuge and clandestine recording techniques seem a little out of her league, she was, after all, famous for having a dog called Willy who she would constantly talk about making cheap accidental double-ententres such as "Have you seen my Willy?" I don't see her as a dark character capable of spying, but it's always the quiet ones as they say! Her character Ethel actually made a dark departure from the show, dying with assisted help in a euthanasia storyline featuring fellow character Dot Cotton, who helped her to die.

I prefer Coronation Street, a bit more real and dull, everyone on Eastenders seems hell-bent on world domination, whereas Coronation Street seems relatively real, except people talking to their neighbours all day, as if anyone does that!

Back to the song, these lyrics stand out for me: "The use of [..] and your smug advertisements/Of your tendril ocean bed achievements does not/Justify your abuse of privacy piracy act" in that he seems here to be calling out telemarketers, I'm presuming the tendril ocean bed he speaks of is that old one for some bank or loan company where the lad goes diving for pearls among seaweed. Again, MES is an oracle, predicting the future, telemarketing has become a beast of epic proportions, despite the rise of mobiles and the slow death of landlines and people are still breaking the law to listen to private conversations, not quite on the level of Powder Keg here, but pretty similar.

I like the references made to this (as we now know) fictional Gretchen Franklin as a 'nosey matron type' it conjours up twitching curtains and hankerchiefs on receivers, as ever, a dark take on suburban lives from Mr Smith.


  1. wow my memory is bad today but i swear the origins of this track have something to do with lisa stansfield. somethign like mes looped a part of a coldcut track with stansfield on it and sang over it and then coldcut built it out from there. maybe. damn you memory!

    not sure how that cna be true though as this is the only coldcut/standfield track i know of: and its very different

    anyway great track off a great fall album

    I had no idea who gretchen franklin was either

    oh and i prefer eastenders

  2. That, again, is amazing, the man's a genius.

    I seem to be doing quite a lot of the songs from Extricate, but it is one of my favourites!

    I think its because I grew up with Corrie, they are a lot more hard-faced on 'Enders.

  3. it seems to be a northern vs southern thing. i'm from the midlands so could go either way but i just prefer the darkness of eastenders