Forgotten Frenz - 20 Overlooked Fall Songs: No. 9 - Tommy Shooter
With 12 entries to go, I could almost complete the series with the whole of “Imperial Wax Solvent”, the most bewilderingly ignored album of The Fall’s career. Almost never discussed critically, “IWS”’s relative neglect may be circumstantial - no singles were taken from the album and it went out of print fairly quickly, especially on vinyl where the pressing was limited to 500 copies (worldwide!). The album saw a brief return to a major label for The Fall, Universal having inherited the release when they bought Sanctuary Records late in 2007. Whilst their superior distribution saw a Fall album in the top 40 for the first time in 15 years, the album was chopped out of the catalogue with typical corporate haste.
“Tommy Shooter” was one of the album’s many highpoints. Entering on an ear-catching keyboard motif from Poulou, Smith’s lyric is a dark warning, the foreboding described in terms both humorous and severe; whilst there is joy to be derived from the clouds “darkening with wings of chickens“, there is no doubt that something grim is afoot. The deep, crisp arrangement from the group works a treat - Greenway’s guitar is low and dry and Melling’s double-time drums keep the momentum; had he gone for a more conventional four-to-the-floor approach, the track would have lost much of its tension and drive. Smith’s delivery has considerable punch and shows little of the phlegmatic growl that was soon to become overused. The passage between the 2nd and third choruses is particularly spirited and the whole lyric has a generous leavening of nice Smithian touches: for example, the use of “shoulder bone“ rather than just “shoulder“ and that fact that the clouds are darkening rather than the skies, as would be more traditional. Totally different from the more supernatural cautionary tales to which we were perhaps better attuned, “TS” is hard and earthy, a scene viewed through narrowed eyes, lit only by halogen streetlights and the stark single flame from a cigarette lighter.
Although the track was a live favourite, Smith would regularly hand over the vocals to a roadie or even Ed Bl**ey (IIRC). It’s unclear why - it could have been self-sabotage or it could have been boredom but one way or the other, the song did not live so long in the live set. Which is a shame, as this edgy, spooked interlude on what is largely a brash and colourful album was most welcome. We shall return to “IWS”, for sure.