Saturday, 27 May 2017
Oliver!: The Fall - Return (15 March 1992)
Peel was still getting plenty of mileage out of The Fall's Code:Selfish album and he programmed four tracks for inclusion in this programme, two of which made my shortlist. In doing so, he put me into a position similar to that when I was trying to select tracks from Revolver's Peel Session. One minute, both tracks were in, then only one of them, then it was a different one from the one I thought I liked more, then I would go back to liking them both before briefly considering skipping them altogether. Ultimately though, the Twilight Zone referencing Time Enough At Last misses out and instead we have Return, a tune which my initial notes on the show lauded as featuring Mark E.Smith's vocal at his most lushly romantic. Being that this is a Fall song though, nothing is quite so straightforward.
What's clear is that there has been a major row between Smith and his lover. References to "Hellas" suggest that she was Greek, perhaps foreshadowing Smith's subsequent marriage to Elena Poulou. The tone of the track is broadly speaking, one of reconciliation, but Smith manages something very interesting in his vocal line - a skill he would lose as the years passed - listen out for the slightly pleading nature of his "Baby, baby, baby, come back to me", but note how he follows that with the single word, "Return", which by contrast, comes out like a command. It's a nice, subtle touch - and it suggests that the detente between them may be a fragile one. I also like the touch of male fantasy that crops up when he talks about the object of his desires leaving because she found it difficult to stay calm while doing the ironing. Even misanthropes from Prestwich want their gorgeous women to do whatever housework they can. The final verse finds Smith in the unusual position of the solicitous lover, "Sparkle and pander her", while the line, "I'll change the latch on the door/I'll get locks all over" can be read either romantically - the girl returns through an open door and he buries himself in her golden hair, showering her in sweet nothings - or more cynically that he will keep her locked up so that she can't leave him again, but he'll keep spinning her sweet words so as to distract her from the realisation that she is his prisoner. Given that the album has a few tracks in which Smith attempts to play something close to a balladeer, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it's a romantic track. Any other interpretations are welcome in the comments box.
Video courtesy of Jake.