Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Day 50: Bend down and scratch the carpet for insects.

Another strange one today that doesn't offer much in the way of context immediately, but it's still fun.

Song: The Aphid
Album: Cerebral Caustic

Year: 1995

This marks a turbulent time for The Fall (although it could be said it's all turbulent) but this marked a slight return for Brix, who co-wrote about half the album, including this one. Smith actually got rid of two excellent musicians around this time, Craig Scanlon and Dave Bush, which many thought was a mistake, so this is their last appearance on an album.

Anyway, this song is another great example of MES bringing in influences from great writers of novels, this time Philip K Dick, of whose 1977 science fiction novel A Scanner Darkly this is based on. It only encapsulates the first for or five pages, but with such a strange opening to a book, I can see why he may have been affected to write in this style. The pages explain a man who is obsessed with bugs in the carpet, whether these bugs are real it's not clear, but he has a strict method for collecting them. What MES has cleverly done here is write from his perspective, almost like an inner monologue, a step-by-step guide for removing aphids/bugs from a carpet, with precise instructions on how to find them, what jar to use, how many steps to take across the floor etc. It's all very OCD, something which lends itself to Mark's vocal delivery, the list-like way he sometimes emits his words fits in well with a list-like personality he is trying to portray. I'd say this is a fantastic effort, it left me bemused before, but having now found out the reasons for such abstractions, it makes perfect sense. Lines like: 'Bend down/Scratch around the carpet for insect/Get hook clamp, stand up/Get frame, put insect in jar' you can imagine being recited over and over by someone rocking back and forth in a padded cell, very affecting.

I think you can tell Brix is back, the riff that leads this is of her style, uniform yet playful, it has that cool, effortless charm that she bought to the group in the 80s, but I wonder how many people thought it was an attempt at finding former glories. It does bounce along nicely and it is a catchy song altogether, but it does seem to be a tad lethargic, thankfully the lyrics and vocals save it, as well as what sounds like a sample from the A Scanner Darkly film which ends the track.

On more thing to add, the album cover, an early Photoshop mistake? There are some terrible album covers from this era when graphic design on macs and PCs became widely available, is this the worst Fall album cover? Its either this or the patchwork nightmare of Shift Work for me.

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