Jawbone And The Air-Rifle


The rabbit killer left his home for the clough (1)
And said goodbye to his infertile spouse (2)
Carried air rifle and firm stock of wood
Carried night-site telescope light

A cemetery overlooked clough valley of mud
And the grave-keeper was out on his rounds
Yellow-white shirt buried in duffel coat hood (3)
Keeping edges out with mosaic color stones

Jawbone and the air rifle
Who would think they would bring harm?
Jawbone and the air rifle
One is cursed and one is borne (4)

The air rifle lets out a mis-placed shot
It smashed a chip off a valued tomb
Grave-keeper tending wreath-roots said
"Explain, move into the light of the moon"

"I thought you were rabbit prey, or a loose sex criminal"

Rifleman he say "Y'see I get no kicks anymore
From wife or children four
There's been no war for forty years
And getting drunk fills me with guilt
So after eight, I prowl the hills
Eleven o'clock, I'm tired to fuck
Y'see I've been laid off work"

The grave-keeper said
"You're out of luck
And here is a jawbone caked in muck
Carries the germ of a curse
Of the Broken Brothers Pentacle Church (5)
Formed on a Scotch island
To make you a bit of a man"

Jawbone and the air rifle
Who would think they would bring harm?
Jawbone and the air rifle
One is cursed and one is warm

The rabbit killer did not eat for a week
And no way he can look at meat
No bottle has he anymore
It could be his mangled teeth
He sees jawbones on the street
Advertisements become carnivores
And roadworkers turn into jawbones
And he has visions of islands, heavily covered in slime
The villagers dance round pre-fabs (6)
And laugh through twisted mouths
Don't eat
It's disallowed
Suck on marrowbones and energy from the mainland

Jawbone and the air rifle
Who would think they would bring harm?
Jawbone and the air rifle
One is cursed and one is gone (7)


1. A clough is a steep-sided ravine, usually with a creek or river running through it.  


2. This line has inspired a fair deal of analysis on the Fall online forum, as the hunter is later said to have four children. Sure, she could have become infertile after they were born, but would a man with four children really be bemoaning his wife's infertility in any case? Thus, theories have arisen that she is spiritually barren, that the children are from a previous marriage, that MES really means "frigid," that he actually says something else in putative "four" line, etc. Perhaps, however, he just wanted more children; some people do have quite a few. Or maybe he's not worried about it, but the narrator mentions it anyway, because...because...  


3. Duffel (or "duffle") is a coarse woolen material; duffel bags were originally also made from it. According to my spies, duffel/duffle coats are common in the UK. 


4. On Hex Enduction Hour the song is mixed curiously, as the vocals on the chorus are very low in the mix. The Peel session foregrounds the vocals for a much poppier effect.  


5. A Google search for "Pentacle Church" turns up a bunch of Wiccans and the like, and certainly the church in question here is not of the Christian stripe.  


6. This maybe refers to the pre-fab homes built in Britain after the second World War to accomodate the demand for cheap housing.  


7. The air-rifle is gone, and only the cursed jawbone remains. This may suggest the hunter has died.  


Comments (10)

  • 1. Huckleberry | 13/07/2013
Is the clough perhaps Prestwich Clough, and the cemetery the one next to the North Manchester Synagogue (which from the map seems to overlook the path running south from Prestwich Clough)?

The subtitle of the song in the Lough Press book is "A wee tale from the Anthrax Isle", which indicates that the "Scotch island" is Gruinard (but MES might also have been thinking of the Wicker Man).
  • 2. Huckleberry | 13/07/2013
Also, possibly "one is warm" refers to the Beatles song "Happiness Is A Warm Gun"?
  • 3. Martin | 14/07/2013
According to Mark Fisher, in his essay entitled "The Fall's Pulp Modernism" (Mark E. Smith and the Fall: Art, Music and Politics", Ashgate, 2010), the "song is a tissue of allusions, such as to [M.R] Jemes' tales "A Warning to the Curious", "Oh Whistle and I'll come to you my lad..." to Lovecraft's "The Shadow over Innsmouth" to Hammer Horror and to The Wicker Man."
  • 4. John | 01/08/2013
"Infertile spouse" to me is a reference to his wife being post-menopausal. The "there's been no war for 40 years" jives with this, and I envision a couple in their 50s or 60s.
  • 5. John | 01/08/2013
Actually, 60's makes more sense: he might still be working, hence laid off and not retired and having trouble finding work, post-menopausal wife, and apparent war veteran since he laments no war, not that he'd be old enough to fight.
  • 6. dannyno | 26/08/2013
Huckleberry: Prestwich Clough: good find! I'm convinced.

Bob J
  • 7. Bob J | 02/05/2015
A duffle coat is a common winter coat in the UK http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duffle_coat
Michael F
  • 8. Michael F | 20/08/2015
The scotch island may relate to the one (called Grunard or something like that) that was contaminated with anthrax due to bio weapon testing. The spores are still active on dead bodies decades later. G I symptoms are common and include loss of appetite.
  • 9. Alan | 23/04/2016
The inspiration for the song comes, in part, from a short stay in Edinburgh. A few friends took Mark to see a few unusual sights including Whalebone Arch in the Meadows - Marchmont area of the city. Happy memories.
  • 10. Bedoah | 16/06/2016
re the Clough The cemetery is more likely to be the one at St Mary's which does overlook

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