Friday, 13 March 2015
Oliver: The Fall - Jawbone and the Air-Rifle (1 December 1991)
For non Fall converts like myself, it's often the feel of a Fall song that makes an impression ahead of the content and if I have to listen to Mark E. Smith, this is how I want to hear him: buried under a barnstorming racket. I did the decent thing and looked up the lyrics. I had thought it might be a song about what happens when non-lethal firearms find their way into the hands of the terminally bored. I mean when you hear about accidents with air-rifles, it's usually either the eye or the arse that gets hit, but I figured that with Smith being a poet, the jawbone appealed to his sensibilities as a potential source of physical pain.
Instead it seems to be a haunting tale of a meeting between an unemployed poacher and a Hamletesque gravedigger whose gift of a cursed jawbone leads to the poacher being plagued by nightmarish-voodoo like visions equivalent to the Wicker Man in Prestwich, a feeling re-inforced by the shifts in tempo throughout the song. On a Fall message board, one poster said that the lyrics to this song were comparable to Edgar Allen Poe. It's a measure of how good this song is that the comparison does not seem too far-fetched.
Update as of 16 March 2015 - listening to the track again today, I can't believe I missed the vegetarian/non meat eating subtext that runs through the latter half of the song. The rabbit hunter's visions of advertisements becoming carnivores and road workers becoming jawbones make greater sense now. The vegetarian angle is particularly interesting given that numerous rock magazines have been recently commemorating the 30th anniversary of the best known vegetarian album, Meat is Murder by The Smiths.