Surmount All Obstacles


You must retreat into mysticism
To find an origination (1)
Locate the base enclave
Surmount all obstacles
Surmount all obstacles

Heinz is guilty, 
He says "Look, I let the shot go by accident
I'm a black belt" (2)
His face is full of ex ex ex ex-cruelty
Guilt, blue-eyed
A caring, sharing man
Embarrass them into extinction

Must he retreat into mysticism
Or locate the base and climb?
Surmount all obstacles

(You can surmount all obstacles)
We can surmount all obstacles

We can surmount all obstacles

Why can't we surmount pointless reflection...

It must have taken 
Hours and hours, that
What an interesting article

Heinz is guilty
On the borders of your imagination

We can surmount all obstacles

Das Richard und das Judy
Are the cobwebs on your couture cuticles (3)

All obstacles 


1. The ambiguity of this line is remarkable, and indicative of MES's ambivalent attitude toward mysticism and spiritualist phenomena in general; the imperative "you must" is balanced by the word "retreat," which has a connotation that is at least slightly negative, and hints at another, more direct course of action--we learn later that it is to "locate the base and climb"-- that would be preferable but for whatever reason is not possible at the moment.


2. "Heinz" seems to be either the addressee of the song, or an example of someone who, among others, is exhorted to surmount all obstacles. I am not sure whether he is an entirely fictional character, or whether a historical personage is meant. I have found two Heinzes associated with shootings, although neither seems to have practiced martial arts, and whether either is relevant to the song seems doubtful. On June 20, 1913, an unemployed school teacher named Heinz Schmidt entered St. Mary's Catholic School in Bremen (the setting of another Fall song) and opened fire, killing five schoolgirls and wounding 20 other people. And Heinz-Wilhelm Eck was a German U-boat commander who was executed after World War II for ordering his crew to execute the survivors of a Greek ship sunk by the German U-boat under Eck's command. There's not enough information in the song about MES's "Heinz" to determine whether he may be referring to one of these people, or to some other real person, but for the sake of completeness I have included the above information with the admittedly tenuous hope that it may someday lead somehwere if someone comes along who knows more than I have been able to discover.

On the other hand, Danny points out that "I let the shot go..." may not refer to guns at all, but soccer (or what the barbarians refer to as "football")...Danny posits that it may be a "goalkeeper's apology." There have probably been numerous goalkeepers named Heinz...who knows?


3. Yes, this last line is unintelligible; according to Samuel Johnson "cuticle" can, aside from its more common meaning as the dead skin at the base of human fingernails, mean "A thin skin formed on the surface of any liquor," so maybe the image refers to a liquid that has been left in the kitchen so long that its cuticle has hardened to the point where it can collect cobwebs. I doubt that much thought went into the phrase, however, and it also may be a play on "kitchen cubicle." 

RIchard and Judy are British television hosts, and mention of them is also made in "A Lot of Wind," "North West Fashion Show," and probably "Is This New." 


Comments (12)

  • 1. Mark | 29/04/2014
I've always heard it as "the base enclave" (en-clarve) and "couture cuticles".
  • 2. bzfgt | 13/05/2014
I think "cobwebs" is right, though.

Can anybody make out what it says right after "Why can't we surmount pointless reflection"?
  • 3. dannyno | 21/06/2014
The Rex Sergeant mix has some lyrics about British affection and base swindlers around that point. "British affection" evidently got changed to "pointless reflection", and the base swindlers got buried.
  • 4. dannyno | 21/06/2014
"Shot" suggests guns, but not necessarily, and in context the phrase "I let the shot go by accident" seems to make a tiny bit more sense if you hear it as a goalkeeper's apology. A gun would "go off by accident", wouldn't it?

So now I'm hearing it as a football reference rather than a shooting reference.
  • 5. Martin | 22/01/2016
I have to say I don't agree with the goalkeeping idea. A goalkeeper would say "I let the shot in...", and not use the particle by or indeed any other particle.
  • 6. Martin | 22/01/2016
See here for a bit more evidence that the preposition used is "in" (and note also the absence of the verb "go". I can confirm from personal experience that this is very much the construction used for conceding goals in football.)

"They thought right, stick me in goal and they’d just keep the opposition away from me. It turned out I was rather good at it, cause of the size of me it wasn’t easy for them to get the ball past me. And we won and that was it, I was like a hero, they thought I was great, it were fun. Cause I was thinkin’ ‘if I let a goal in, I’ll get beat up’, you know, that’s literally what it was like, so I didn’t let a bloody goal in."

Manager Luis Felipe Scolari after his team lost to Barcelona:

"We lost 3-0, but it's not much different to what has happened to other big clubs. At least we didn't let in four like Real Madrid."
  • 7. bzfgt | 12/03/2016
They wouldn't ever say "I let the shot go..."? I take it "by" is a non-issue, because it's part of "by accident."
  • 8. Martin | 14/03/2016
One problem is that we don't know for sure how much football vocabulary MES knows or care (or cared) to use correctly. He's spoken a lot about the game but this doesn't necessarily imply anything at all.

You could say "I let the shot go by" in an instance where the goalkeeper knew the shot was missing ("by" here would here imply "by the post") the goal and was allowing the ball to go out for a goal-kick.

On possibility might be the idea that "I let the shot go [in]", which would be an admission that you allowed a shot by an opposing player to enter into the net for whatever reason (bribery, blackmail, pissed off with your own team's performance, or whatever).

Could it be that MES meant to say (or couldn't be bothered for whatever reason) to say the italicised word in the following phrase: "I let the shot go off by accident"? This would tie in much more neatly with the gun theories expounded in the notes above.
  • 9. bzfgt | 19/03/2016
But he doesn't say "I let the shot go by," that would make grammatical nonsense of the lyric. He says [I let the shot go]//[by accident]
  • 10. bzfgt | 19/03/2016
Maybe with "off" but he doesn't say it so I don't think it safe to assume...
  • 11. dannyno | 08/09/2016
If you google "I let the shot go" (add "football" or "soccer" as additional terms), you will find loads of examples of footballers, if not goalkeepers (might have called that wrong), saying "I let the shot go", meaning they kicked the ball at the net, I guess.

Just some examples, not even going to source them:

“Nobody picked me up right away, so I let the shot go,”

"I closed my eyes when I let the shot go, hoping it would go in,"

"I had a nice angle with my left foot so I let the shot go,"

"I take a deep breath and I let the shot go."


So there are real world examples of usage in football, if not exactly what I suggested. Letting a shot go by accident could therefore refer to a mis-kick.

It could still refer to shooting a gun, but this alternative reading does stand up.
  • 12. bzfgt | 15/10/2016
Oh right, like "I just closed my eyes and let the shot go"...makes sense.

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