Fade it in now
Our intersection colludes
Into a vacation you became
When your profession
Dropped you in a job, exhilarant,
It hits you
And the terror
Your brain is a bubble of water
And a blank sheet
For a top-up (3)
The frost covers up what the summer men made (4)
The frost covers up what the sloth bird brought
The frost covers up what the summer men made
The summer covers up
What the sloth bird, sickening you with its false notes
And love that you secretly love
At the intersection it colludes
Into the vacation that became your profession
And dropped you in a job (5)
1. Amorator! The Fall aren't messing around here--in my line the most challenging thing, as is obvious, I suppose, is when MES puts something in the lyrics that doesn't immediately make sense, but doesn't exactly subsequently make sense either. In other words, something that obviously demands a note, but for which I have no note to add. The 2013 EP The Remainderer, steadfast in its impenetrability, looks to be the apotheosis of this phenomenon. You will never understand these lyrics, nor will I.
But, despite the fact that the attempt to understand Fall lyrics is an international pastime, practiced in such places as the Fall online forum--in fact, there's even a web site called The Annotated Fall dedicated to deciphering Fall lyrics--the fact is that, in fact, it is a fact that no one has ever understood a single Fall lyric anyway, with the exception of "Last Orders," the lyrics of which were written by Tony Friel in what was most likely a calculated attempt to add a song to the repertoire that one or two people could understand. So, the EP is cause for rejoicing: more puzzlement just in time for Christmas.
Fortunately, however, this site does not exist for the purpose of explaining Fall songs. I do try to track down the references and plow a straight furrow through the surface of songs, but the other thing I do--interpreting the lyrics--should not be mistaken for explaining them. Although there are certainly many things on which we do not agree, most Fall fans undoubtedly agree that a good song is not written in code--the lyrics can't be paraphrased in plain English; they are intractable in that way, and all the better for it. A good interpretation, and by that I mean one that I am satisfied with (which is always a matter of degree), should give the reader something to think about, and open up pathways in her mind which she can then follow herself, and perhaps even clear the way for other paths that I have not seen nor suspected, but it does not settle things once and for all, nor, of course, can it ever replace the thing itself. A Fall song is what it is, and my notes on a Fall song are what they are, and, although the last thing I want to say is "never the twain shall meet," in some unfortunate cases that may not be far from the truth. But, when it comes to interpretation, as opposed to identifying references and allusions, the key distinction to be made is not between songs I can figure out and songs I can't, but rather between lyrics that I can work with to a greater or lesser degree (and of course the meaning of a Fall song does not reside solely in the lyrics!).
The one thing, however, that is not a desired outcome--the one thing this site is the sworn enemy of--is confusion. There is a difference between ineffable and impenetrable, just as there is a difference between elusiveness and obscurity. We may not know exactly what a song means, but a song--at least, a Fall song--should not leave us feeling defeated for all that. Things for which we lack words are not all of a piece, and even if it's impossible to give a taxonomy of the unutterable, we yet can develop a sense for it. And, despite the easy self-deceptions of anti-intellectualism, this should not be mistaken for anything but hard work. So let us get down to business.
The word Amor is familar as the Latin word for love, and it appears in more or less the same form in several Romance languages: Spanish, Catalan, Portugese, and Galician, as well as the French L'Amour, and the Italian Amore (and it roots English words like amorous, amiable, and amateur). In Portugese, ator means "actor," so amor ator would mean "love actor," although it may have to be something like ator de amor and, although that is a phrase that one is not likely to see, based on my Google results, I did (sort of) find it in a couple of headlines: "Ator de Amor, Jean-Louis Trintignant anuncia aposentadoria aos 82 anos" ("Love actor Jean-Louis Trintignant announces retirement at age 82") and "Ator de Amor Revolução diz que não sabia que beijo gay não iria ao ar" ("Love Revolution actor says he did not know gay kiss would not air"). I was hoping, for annotation purposes, that Trintignant was something called a "love actor," but, unfortunately, he was merely a Love actor, having starred in Michael Haneke's 2012 Amour.
In any case, -ator is a suffix used to form agent nouns, like the more prosaic -er, so "amorator" may be an alternate form of "lover." I should say that it is an alternate form of lover, in the sense that, while that may not be at all what MES means, it is doubtful that someone would coin the word without being aware of this meaning, and even if the coiner doesn't know it, it's right there in black and white, isn't it? So I am on pretty safe ground plunking it in the notes.
Somewhere between "revelatory" and "not worth mentioning," one or two people have the handle "amorator" on some of their internet accounts (pre-dating The Remainderer). And, there is one person in the state of Florida said (by Google) to have the first name "Amorator," although closer investigation reveals it to actually be "Amoratoro."
"Amorado" is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an English word, labeled as both obsolete and rare--if it was anywhere but the OED I'd say that makes no sense!--meaning one who is in love. The OED only gives one example of its use, from 1608, so they may have figured not enough time has elapsed between utterances for them to judge it obsolete without hedging--it may be averaging one usage every five hundred years, in which case a demotion would be precipitous. According to the etymology blurb, it probably came into the language when someone misheard the Spanish enamorado as "an amorado."
Apart from the cover of a Fall record, the most likely way for an English speaker to encounter this combination of sounds is when someone says "a moratorium," meaning of course a postponement, suspension, or temporary cessation of some activity or other. I suppose you could say the Fall have declared a moratorium on making crappy songs, although it's not like they were making many of them before.
At this point Dan pipes up:
What you don't have yet is the legal adjective "moratory," which means "causing delay," derived from Latin (like "moratorium"). Or there's also the word "orator," a French/Latin borrowing meaning supplicant/petitioner, or someone who is eloquent. (When is the last time you heard someone use "orator" to mean "supplicant"? Even the OED has to be hovering over that one with an eraser...back to Dan:)
I wonder if you could take "a" in the sense of "non" or "not", so "a-morator" could potentially mean someone who does not delay? You can also find the word "amoration" on the internet, and in various books and other publications, though not in the OED or Chambers Dictionaries. The dodgy "urban dictionary" defines it as "Possessing profound love in every moment, in any possible way." But we can certainly see it signifies "loving". I guess "enamouration" expresses a similar sentiment. And apparently the psychoanalyist Jacques Lacan coined the word "l'hainamoration", meaning "hateloving".
Finally, Grudge Natch on the Fall online forum identifies a possible Donna Summer connection:
"Heard 'I Feel Love' on that vintage telly channel last night and guess what the keyboard sample reminded me of??
I suppose an amorator could be described as someone who feels love?!"
And that's all I have for the title for now, but I hope some readers weigh in if they think of anything good.
2. I'm not sure if these lines are correct, but it seems like it may be some kind of reference to baldness or a toupee under the hat. Many of the lyrics on The Remainderer, as is suggested by the title, seem to be concerned with some themes that are not altogether unprecedented in MES's lyrics: nostalgia, aging rock musicians and their attempt to recapture success and/or cash in on past success, bands reforming, rock music treated as a business rather than an art form, and mortality, which is the undercurrent that seems to me, in different ways, to run cold and swift beneath the surface, rendering what may seem like cheap contempt into something a little more humane, if not compassionate (which has never been MES's primary mode, in any case). Death is what awaits us all, of course, but it seems to announce itself most insistently when we try to turn away from it and look toward the past. I suppose it is possible to talk about aging without concerning oneself particualrly with death, but when the topic is the denial of aging or the attempt to recapture past glories, we cannot avoid letting death speak, at least in a stage whisper from the wings. MES, whose lot in life has been a fairly stable head of hair, as well as a band that, while not exactly stable, does not break up either (except in a sort of "the bass player is dead, long live the bass player!" sense), has always seemed to cast a suspicious eye on balding, as if it is somehow in poor taste. In fact, middle age in general, along with the sort of bourgeois decisions that often accompany it, isnt often looked upon kindly in Fall lyrics. In "Rememberance R," we enocounter unnamed musicians who "appear out of nowhere and, like, expect you to treat them like an equal, while they've been decorating or teaching for like the last 10 years, having a life and a wife and kids." In some way, we are meant to understand that it is not noble to break up your band and take up a family and a straight job or, at least, that having done so, one must not return. In fact, reforming a band seems to be generally looked down upon by MES, except when the lineups are contiguous, although this position may have more subtlety than I can detect. Typically, MES doesn't explain much about this view, nor does he seem to care much whether anyone understands or agrees, but the lyrics are never semantically stable enough, even at their most pointed, to be truly dogmatic. In fact, I can't even come up with a paraphrase of the whole thing that doesn't sound at least faintly ridiculous, nor do I have any idea what the real world correlates of this theme in the lyrics may be (although my visitors, and particularly the English ones who seem to have a good sense of the appropriate cultural references, are as usual encouraged to straighten me out). But if there's one thing I've learned doing this web site, and I hope this is something some of the visitors here have also noticed, it's that it's very rare for the ideas in Fall lyrics to look less interesting, less nuanced, or even less reaonable, if that's the right word, once we start to understand them a little better.
3. In fact, the human brain is an incredible 78% water (actually cerebrospinal fluid, which is itself 99% percent water). A "top-up" is a bad idea indeed--too much fluid on the brain, called hydrocephalus, can cause mental disability and death. The "blank sheet" line, on the other hand, would direct us away from hydrocephalus to a metaphorical reading of the line, perhaps in reference to the mind rather than the brain proper. If so, the line is somewhat remarkable for the fact that it does not contain the word "mind," since the latter is one of MES's favorite words, appearing in around 40 Fall songs (not counting covers). Tne word is often delivered with a special kind of relish that reminds me of Rod Serling's narration to the beginning of The Twilight Zone.
4. This powerful and striking lyric gives us an unpleasant glimpse of death, no longer content to drop hints in the form of baldness, becoming quite insistent. In one sense the line may refer, if we are to pursue the "reformed band" theme here, to the work of recording artists, the "summer men," that has seemed to age along with them. And of course, here and elsewhere (see again Simon Archer's recitation at the end of "Rememberance R," mentioned in note 2 above) these recording artists are derided for laying down their guitars and getting straight jobs--it seems as if MES sees them as "summer soldiers," a phrase which originated in the Revolutionary War to signify soldiers who had signed up in warm weather only to desert when winter came, and is now a common phrase to describe a person who only sticks with something in comparatively easy circumstances. The character in "Rememberance R" is particularly pathetic: "You play in the winter sun/With replacement teeth"(and cf. "Mister Rode," 'Its summers were all in a day," which may or may not be related to all this). On the other hand, it is impossible not to remember that, whenever summer may have been, the Fall were presumably making music--it's hard to imagine that the targets of the lyric have been around all that much longer, anyway--and the line has a ring of universality about it that elevates it from a cheap shot to a profoundly troubling reminder of mortality, which has an arrow in its quiver for each one of us. And, finally, it is possible to read the line as designating the Fall themselves as the "summer men," whose work is, in broad terms, on the one hand buried under a snow bank of undeniably, for the most part, less worthy cultural artifacts (in terms of exposure, or, to be entirely schematic, we can just look at the Billboard charts and see what sits "on top" of the Fall's material), and on the other hand rimed with the same frost as everything else, even in the summer. In fact, the most obvious allusion here is to A.E. Houseman, since it's impossible to think of summer and death without calling to mind "Loveliest of Trees," which reveals the white blossoms of a cherry tree to be the summer frost of death hiding in plain sight:
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
5. The most obvious interpretation of this line is that the job is "decorating or teaching," the profession the retired musician adopts when he leaves the music business. However, like so many Fall lyircs it seems to go both ways: earlier, "you" are said to be "exhilarant" at being dropped in the job (or else it is called a "job exhilarant," it is hard to parse). When MES was eighteen or so, he quit his job on the docks to pursue music for awhile; it is easy to imagine this feeling like a vacation. Almost 40 years later, then, he is still grappling with the perplexity of finding himself with a career: having his most cherished thoughts and feelings packaged for consumers, and negotiating the ethics of a profession in which it has never been as easy, for as thoughtful a man as Smith, as making a simple choice between maintaining one's integrity and "selling out."
6. Here are the lyrics to the alternate (studio) version included on the mostly-live Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun and Winter, Son. Shrimper transcribed them and I altered them a bit to fit my ears, although in places this is highly speculative, and I might have made changed some things Shrimper had right:
(MES): I can do the (ooo)
Tape it now
Tape it now
(Eleni): This beaty-beat he do presume £20 pound notes whirling horrific autumn
Amorator tender it's beatific friendly (?)
Your intersection colludes into a vacation
When it became your profession
Locked you in a job exhilarant, and hit you...
Tape it now
Save it now
I just can't stand ya
I just hate ya - ha ha-baby
And when your intersection secludes into a vacation
That became your job!
And you're melting into your profession
A crispy dippy day-glo crashing
As a 20 pound note a-whirling in your horrific autumn
And the melting
Friendly silver approaches
With home-made sandwiches
With...And the intersection colludes...
Tape it now
From "Rememberance R," note 1:
From Joseph Mullaney I have learned that "The Remembrancer is an official of the City of London who sits in the British Houses of Parliament." MES may have been thinking of this, as if you remove the space (and MES's superfluous "e"), there you have it...also, Wrayx8 points out that "alternative names for the Rememberancer come very close to 'amorator': memorator, rememorator." More here.