How can we stand firm?
How can we stand firm against the process?
And the malefactors
Cropped by night
Nocturnal surprise
Felicitatious malefactions  (2)

When will I get grasp of Monocard?
Is it bread? When will it begin?

I walk into village
Fate-infected (3)
Trenches in Hounslow (4)
The true chiefs (5)
Gorilla's an apprentice
Of Chiswick (6)

At my peril and at my demand Monocard
From Prussia and Chiswick 

Give me grasp
Of monocard
Is it bread?
Or is it yeast?
Will it, with it give assist
At my peril and at my demand

I should apprentice possess
In Chiswick
And rats
Of style
Of Mono

Ersatz apprentice
Okay style
Okay mono
To be one Cosmo (7)


1. Monocard (called Monosorb and Chemydur in the UK and Monoket in the USA) is a trade name of a drug containing isosorbide mononitrate, which treats angina by dilating the blood vessels. It is produced by Drug International Ltd., a Bangladeshi corporation. I am uncertain as to which markets it is sold to under the Monocard name, although Bengladesh seems likely. In order of decreasing likelihood, the name also applies to a Swiss card for entering parking garages, a Georgian (as in Republic of) phone card, and in the US a trademarked "CAMERA FOR PHOTOCOMPOSING AND PRINTING BY PHOTOGRAPHY A COMPOSITE IDENTIFICATION CARD BEARING A PHOTOGRAPH OF A SUBJECT AND RELATED PRINTED IDENTIFICATION DATA." Despite the appealing paranoiac overtones of the last one on my list, it occupies that place because I don't think the card was ever actually produced, and the trademark has expired, so it is the least likely one for MES to have encountered.

Regardless of where the title comes from--the angina drug seems by far most likely, and is usually assumed to eb the relevant reference--it is possible that the name appelaed to MES as a lyrical device or pregnant symbol that, in typical Fall fashion, is open to multiple avenues of interpretation. "Monocard" could mean one card, or one heart (as the etymology of the drug name suggests), or, then again, absolutely nothing--the name may simply be a nodal void around which the songs imagery gathers and rearranges itself.

The gentleman behind The Story of the Fall, who seems to get grumpier the further he delves into 21st century Fall, bashes the song for being the kind of prog-rock MES once despised, and some fans find it hollow and tedious. It doesn't sound very prog-like to me; rather, the most obvious musical antecedent is Black Sabbath, as the slow, doom-laden riff pounds and grinds with an incessant seriousness. As for whether the song is tedious, it's a curious case: it can come over that way, if one is not in the right state of mind. If one is in the right state of mind, on the other hand--and I leave it to the individual listener to decide whether some sort of chemical assistance is appropriate in reaching that state, but I don't think it's absolutely necessary--one encounters a work that is extremely intense, and in which--like many of the most repetitive Fall songs--the melodic uniformity is offset by subtly shifting textures, rhythmic ecstasy, and a sense of total commitment on the part of the musicians.


2. On "cropped by night," quoth Danny:

Night cropping seems to be a thing in relation to animals.

It's also used in relation to trimming illegal fighting dogs' ears. So you could see why a "malefactor" would trim his dogs ears at night, perhaps.

Of course it's also used about plants and lots of other things, but it's less obvious why a malefactor would do it at night in those cases.

Or does "cropped by night" not mean "cropped at night" but "cropped by the night", metaphorically?

"Felicitatious maledfactions," believe it or not, is adapted from an episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, in which a baddie named Plankton (Season 3, Episode 18 "Missing Identity/Plankton's Army") addresses his confused henchmen with the line:

"Felicitations, malefactors-- I am endeavoring to misappropriate the formulary for the preparation of affordable comestibles. Who will join me?"



3. Buy Kurious! on the Fall online forum suggests that this may be "I walk into village fete, infected..." This is a clever alternative, but it is really hard to beat "fate-infected," which is a genuinely memorable lyric, and the pauses and stresses tetify on its behalf as well.


4. Hounslow is a suburban bourough, and a town within the borough of the same name, in Greater London. MES seems to despise London, and really every other place south of Greater Manchester--to be honest, he despises every other place north, east, and west of Greater Manchester, as well as, in fact, Greater Manchester itself, but he particularly dislikes London and the south. On the other hand, when he is writing songs that touch on occult matters, London seems to hold a certain mystique, and such songs are often set in the capital and its environs.

Hounslow Heath is a large, formerly giant, heath in the vicinity of Hounslow, which was formerly more properly in the vicinity of Hounslow Heath (now 200 square acres, the heath used to amount to 4,300 squate acres). For Americans' sake, a "heath" is basically a large and barren field. In former times the heath, which got a lot of traffic, was a hotbed of banditry. In 1793, a cavalry barracks (informatively, if prosaicly, named "Cavalry Barracks") was built on Houlslow Heath. The barracks were erected to fend off the French, and apparently this was successful as Wikipedia tells me that Hounslow is in England. The heath was a site of military activity many times over the centuries before the permanent barracks were erected. Since trench warfare began in World War One, this may be the era that MES has in mind, although of course there were no battles fought in Hounslow during that conflict. The (hypothetical) trenches may have been dug for training purposes, or MES could have archaeological evaluation trenches (for instance, I came across this brief and suggestive abstract on the Internet: "Four evaluation trenches were dug in advance of redevelopment of Hounslow Heath Garden Centre. The only features discovered were of modern date and concerned with agricultural activity. No evidence was found for a prehistoric ring ditch or round barrow, nor for any occupation prior to the 19th century"). Trenches, of course, are also a natural feature of the landscape, and it's entirely possible that this is the sort of trench intended. 



5. This line may refer to the Secret Chiefs, who are spiritual rulers that just about every occult order of the late 19th and early 20th centuries claimed to be in contact with, and to derive their legitimacy from. The Secret Chiefs are sometimes said to be discarnate or existing on a rarefied plane, and in either case the method of contact is sometimes claimed to be through evocation or trances. Madame Blavatsky claimed to be in contact with "Asended Masters," whereas William Westcott and Samuel "Macgregor" Mathers, founders of the Golden Dawn, used the postal service. Aleister Crowley claimed to have authorization from the Secret Chiefs to break with the Golden Dawn and found the  A∴A∴, and the principal Chief in this case, his Holy Guardian Angel, Aiwass, was variously said by Crowley to be a god, an aspect of Crowley himself, and an ordinary living man. The Secret Chiefs have sometimes been said to control human history, and often they seem to have been thought of as gods. In some cases--particularly that of Crowley--the myth-making aspect of this talk of Secret Chiefs was apparently quite conscious.


6. Chiswick is a suburb in Hounslow. William Hogarth, the famous artist who pioneered cartoons, was a resident of Chiswick.

The Hammersmtih Gorillas, according to Danny, were the first act signed to Chiswick Records. Coincidence? Anyway, the band, which later shortened its name to simply "The Gorillas," played a high energy and somewhat generic brand of rock, sort of like Foghat only more likeable, making their initial splash with a cover of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" that arguably out-does the original in sounding like a song the Kinks would have recorded in 1964. Perhaps this is why Allmusic describes them as "one of the forgotten innovators of the punk movement." Their importance to the development of punk cannot be emphasized enough (in the counter-factual historical novel I'm writing in which Ray Davies was never born and the Gorillas wrote "You Really Got Me").


7. This is a somewhat puzzling line, as "cosmo" is not an English word, apart from its use as a truncated form of "cosmopolitan," in the sense of the cocktail. "Cosmos" would be more expected, and indeed the line makes me think of the occult doctrine of the isomorphism of macrocosm and microcosm. On this reading, the narrator seeks to achieve a spiritual state where he has made himself inwardly harmonious, and in doing so in some sense unites with the cosmos. On the other hand, he is said to be an "ersatz apprentice," so perhaps this spiritual journey is so much bunkum. Yet there is an intensity in the music that makes it hard not to feel there are genuine mysteries lurking somewhere in all of this, or at least mysteries that are meant to be taken as genuine within the world of the song, if not in ours.




Comments (8)

  • 1. dannyno | 26/08/2013
"Felicitatious malefactions"

There's a line which is eerily similar in Spongebob Squarepants episode, "Plankton's Army": (start at about 1:40.

  • 2. dannyno | 18/12/2013

I feel sure that the fact that Houslow's Cavalry Barracks was built on Hounslow Heath is relevant here.
  • 3. dannyno | 18/12/2013
The Hammersmith Gorillas were the first act to be signed to the Chiswick Record label.
  • 4. bzfgt | 12/02/2014
Danny, the spongebob link doesn't work (it says the account associated with the video has been terminated). Do you have another one, or can you explain what it is?
  • 5. bzfgt | 12/02/2014
Never mind, I doped it out via Google. How the hell did you figure that one out?
  • 6. dannyno | 14/02/2014
It's not for me to say, but if people wanted to call me a genius I wouldn't be able to stop them.
  • 7. dannyno | 22/03/2014
"Cropped by night"

Night cropping seems to be a thing in relation to animals, see for example:

It's also used in relation to trimming illegal fighting dogs' ears. So you could see why a "malefactor" would trim his dogs ears at night, perhaps.

Of course it's also used about plants and lots of other things, but it's less obvious why a malefactor would do it at night in those cases.

Or does "cropped by night" not mean "cropped at night" but "cropped by the night", metaphorically?
  • 8. Thop | 06/01/2016
'Ersatz GB' was The Fall's debut LP on Cherry Red records, whose main premises (as far as I know) is on Power Lane in Chiswick. So there's maybe a reading of this track as a reflection on the moves from label to label. With the mixed usage of the word 'grasp', 'When will I get grasp of Monocard' could be questioning when a label will come off well for MES and/or when he will 'get with the programme'. Reconciling the two way relationship between recording artist and label.
I recall MES speaking quite positively of Cherry Red from the off, saying he could see the group releasing a few things for the label, which the Fall since has (speaking in 2016, 4 and a bit years on).

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