The spirit of the devil is in canajetta (2)
He can't help it
He sits upon--waiting--
Metal fire escape (3)
Half way, half way, waiting
He takes refuge in
Deserts, deserts him
Don't forget Rememberance R
He sits upon fire escape
The ipod doesn't work (4)
He smothers his own, own tomorrow
Remember the trance
And the sadness comes
The train to spite
With objects that worth
He sees visions in gothic club
And the house is keeping up
He doesn't realize
Sitting on the black steps of the fire escape
Has to go home
He's forgot his guitar (5)
But his soul break loose
And become a tree
Make me sick at a bar
You play in the winter sun (6)
With replacement teeth
The cackle has
The cackle has
And a screw will break loose.
[DING, spoken]: (7)
How can I start to tell you, like me favourite bands, (8) there's hardly any. They just reform after 17 years, and like they've forgot about the sweat and the long journeys in the back of vans. They're just running on Rememberance, and remember this is an encore time at the end of 90 minutes on the stage. They 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 a kids. And they say a tenner an EP, get home for half three. I smell the brown mews in the dark, I recognise the sparse carpet weekend '89. Deep seated, early finish. Rust, rememberances are dust, the early push, the fear of parking fee.
1. In which we are told of the perfidy of old rockers who attempt a comeback, motivated by either greed or desparation, most likely both. I'm not entirely sure what is quite so sinister about it, but certainly it strikes a few nerves with Smith that are recognizable from other songs. The very fact that his avocation is also his vocation has always been a source of perplexity for Smith, alhough it may be more accurate to say it has been a source of material for Smith and perplexity for his listeners, as he doesn't seem particularly confused about it. It is indeed a complex situation, and I know of no one who has written more lyrics that bring the relation of art and commerce into richer focus than MES does in his lyrics. This is in part because the positions staked out in Fall songs, if they can be called that, are always ambiguious, and here this is entirely appropriate since the situation itself is so ambiguous. It is not, for Smith, a matter of drawing a simple distinction between purity and selling out--in fact, while the phrase "sell out" is occasionally used, it is never used unironically in a song Smith has written. In the early song "Last Orders," the narrator proclaims "I'm no sell out," but the lyrics were written by Tony Friel, not by Smith; and in "It's the New Thing" the line "we have never sold out," ironic in context, is put in the mouth of a character from another band which is perhaps fictional but, in any case, represents the triumph of commerce over art and not vice versa. For Smith, the key factor isn't how something is sold, or to whom--he happily allowed "Touch Sensitive" to be used in a Vauxhall commercial--but the purpose for which it is made. The crime is to write a song for fame, fortune, or sex, not to sell it or to even use it to get any of those things. Smith has always recognized that it is his job to sell music: he wants to make music and to people hear it. Thus, the phrase "selling out" does not capture what it is he finds objectionable: what is objectionable is to make music for the sake of commerce, not to engage in the business of selling music.
It's possible that whatever band or bands he is thinking of in this song are in it for the money, or got back in the game to pay the mortgage. It's also possible that the characterization is entirely unfair. It's particularly hard to say because I don't have the faintest clue whom he's talking about (although I hope my readers can enlighten me, or at least come up with a plausible theory or two). Either way, the lyrics are an occasion for reflection on the place of popular art in a capitalist society, and it must be remembered that, even if the characters in the song are real people, they are ultimately fictional (and vice versa, I would even think).
And there's an exception to every rule, of course:
"Do you always think it's bad for a band to reform? After all you've been on stage with the Monks..
MES: Yeah but you can't really class The Monks like any other group. They were all sort of resentful because of having to reform."
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.
Thanks are in order to Rainmaster and The BEF on the Fall online forum for deciphering most of the lyrics.
2. Yup, "canajetta." That's the closest thing phonetically, anyway. Haydn in the comments has drawn my attention to the fact that in Middle English, "jetter" means (according to The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia) "one who boasts or struts; a spruce fellow." The Oxford English Dictionary, which notes that the word is obsolete, has "A person who behaves ostentatiously; a boasting or swaggering person." Thus, Haydn speculates that the line is "canny jetter," which seems about as likely as anything, although MES pronounces it "cannajetta," as given above.
3. From a 2018 interview with the final version of the Fall in Perfect Sound Forever, this is from Peter Greenway (thanks to Dan):
I later went down to a London studio with Mark for another rushed recording session with Grant Showbiz, putting additional guitar tracks and textures on the LP. I remember Mark having me do the acoustic guitar on Alton Towers in the fire escape, sitting half way down the stairs, he liked how it sounded there.
5. From MandrakeAnthrax: "I think this literally refers to Greenway's guitar that was left in the studio while he wasn't there (he and Eleni seemingly don't appear on this track at all). This line is soon followed by some tuneless guitar noise that couldn't been made by anyone but MES."
6. Cf. "Amorator!", "the frost covers up what the summer men made." The image of winter here suggests mortaiity as well as the perhaps equally frightening prospect of the "death" of one's popularity and, if these were ever present, talent and integrity.