MES first introduced us to the concept of time locks way back on ‘Wings’. On The Remainderer, he travels backwards and forwards along his timeline, and along the timelime of The Fall, in order to associate and interrogate the multitude of MES’ and The Falls that there have been.
The time travelling hi-jinks kick off with title track ‘The Remainderer’, and it’s double drum, percussion heavy sound takes us back to the days of Hanley and Burns. The Fall always were at their best with two drummers and this shows that whether the decade is the 80s, the 90s or the 10’s, this is a sound that fits The Fall like a glove. Here the song has the percussive beat of a wardrobe with a gorilla shoved inside, bouncing around the hold of a ship in the middle of a frothy Mediterranean storm. Meanwhile MES’ vocals contrast the 80s throwback-ness with his growly vocals that place the song purely in the 10’s. But on say, Ersatz GB, where the hawking phlegm voice seemed like a poor attempt to wallpaper over the cracks that they’d entered the studio without enough songs to go around and he’d entered without enough lyrics, here, instead, the double tracking and layering/layering/layering of vocals makes the delivery seem more like a deliberate attempt at experimentalism as opposed to laziness, using his vocal techniques as a musical instrument. And as he uses different strengths of growling and Captain Beefheart-ing, it sounds like different MES’ are coming together, like a Doctor Who special. The most notable of these discussions is when one MES opines: “it was a good day” only for another MES to retort: “whatever that is”.
‘Mister Rode’ features a starring role from a previous MES. It’s shocking in context to hear the ‘chorus’ “I gotta name, I gotta face /say ” so clearly enunciated. It’s a stark reminder that he can let us hear the words if he wants to, it’s just that he doesn’t. As such it feels like the MES from The Unutterable has turned up for this song, from prime drinking-and-firing phase.
“He smothers his own, his own tomorrow” says MES in ‘Remembrance R’, providing a pithy epithet both for himself and his attitude towards his bands’ flirtation with lime lights. The song itself is a throwback to Reformation Post TLC, and his general ire at reunion acts, if anything it shows that when RPTLC came out it was the thin end of the wedge and he didn’t know how lucky he was. When Ding’s spoken word vocal comes in it’s like when Mike Bennett or Ed Blaney would do a bit. Meanwhile at the start the whole “canajetta” business takes us forward to the evolutionary dead end of the growling, being so close to parody it must be deliberate.
It’s our turn to travel through a time lock when a message in a bottle washes up from the 1990’s, a indistinct fragment of an undistinguished run through of Gene Vincent’s ‘Say Mama’. And did you notice the current MES warning of us about Remembrance R dubbed underneath? A slurry of noise hits us and we pass through a time lock into the present where the current band is doing an equally in distinguished run through of Gene Vincent’s ‘Race With The Devil’. Hanley becomes Spurr, Bramah and Scanlon become Greenway. The fact that these are fairly mediocre run throughs of Gene Vincent songs aside, the importance is the interaction with the past, the acknowledgment that somewhere is time there is another Fall with other band members. On all the other Fall albums, we’d get just the modern crappy version, but by cut and shutting it with the old crappy version what matters is the effort to try something new, to play with our perceptions of time and to bear witness to the changing nature of The Fall and MES. Like a time lapse of a flower opening, this is a decade long time lapse of the band. Things change, the young become old and everything has it’s time.
And then the reveal, then the grim punchline. On ‘Touchy Pad’ Tasmin Middleton screeches “where’s my time machine?” I’ll tell you where it is, Marky’s got it! And then when he talks of “the tentacles of the old ones” he could practically be talking about himself.
And so nearing the end of his span, MES acknowledges his other selfs and engages with them, admits that your former guises and lives are as equally valid as the one you inhabit now and the ones you will inhabit in the future. Then, having made peace with himselves, all that is left is… the remainderer.