July 15, 2004

Protruding Brick Chip

It was the fault of the government
I was walking down the street
When I tripped up on a discarded banana skin
And on my way down I caught the side of my head
On a protruding brick chip
It was the government’s fault
It was the fault of the government
I was very let down
From the budget I was expecting a one million quid handout
I was very disappointed
It was the government’s fault
It was the fault of the government

You might be wondering how this follows on from Blake’s verse, quoted yesterday. Smith returns with characteristic vitriol, voicing the embittered Englishman who blames the government for their misfortune. He hereby gives the lie to Blake’s rousing words on English patriotism. Note that he “tripped up on a discarded banana skin” – not, as one might expect, an uneven pavement. This evokes that timeless sight gag beloved of silent comedies, but it is also worth mentioning that one tends to slip on rather than trip over banana skins.
By conflating the ragged pavement with the gripless husk of a yellow fruit Smith allows for the possibility that the complainant to which he gives voice may be full of little more than hot air. Nevertheless, he still remembers to catch his head “On a protruding brick chip.” It may be the government’s fault after all. Disappointment now inevitable.
Wait a minute, there’s more.

I became semi-automatic type person
And I didn’t have a pen
And I didn’t have a condom
It was the fault of the government
I think I’ll emigrate to Sweden or Poland
And get looked after properly by government

It’s not quite on a par with the “Dog is Life” preamble as far as poetry goes, but by this point in the song the music is more than making up for it. Unlike Blake, whose pop career was brief and torrid, Smith goes on and on, and this is what I find respectable in his approach to work. Artists ought to be prolific. There should be no sympathy for those poor suffering songsters who after one album feel too desperately pressurised to make another, and inevitably collapse in the pointed beam of the spotlight. If you’re a musician (and I know some of you are) then make music. Make lots of it. You cannot make too much, and you cannot break what you have made by making more.
I expect an album a year from you, and nothing less.
Incidentally, I too emigrated to Poland for a brief period of my life. I had a packet of colourful pens, but I had to get my condoms sent from England due to horror stories concerning the reliability of Polish rubber bellwraps. This too was the fault of the government, so I might have been better off going to Sweden.
I was very let down. Dum dum di-dum. Dada dum dum dum.

Doctor Pockless

3 thoughts on “Protruding Brick Chip

  1. Knowing that Mark E Smith fritters away all his meagre royalties from underwhelming sales of Fall records on booze, ciggies and skincare (OK, maybe not the skincare), I can only assume that you’re doing this as a favour to him, to help him get a boost in the public eye and help the sales of his back catalogue. Yes?

  2. Oh… damn… I thought I was off the hook. Well, if there are any takers, I’ll put my apron back on. I did say All Day Breakfast.
    As for the sales of Mark E Smith’s back catalogue, I’m happy to be doing my bit to counter the slew of box sets and compilations currently swamping the Fall sections of Britain’s record shops. Get out there and buy yourself a perfectly good slab of Period Fall.
    Failing that, the new box set “50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong” has a superb title and an even better portrait of Mr. Smith on the cover, so I’d suggest that as a sensible alternative for beginners with no inclination to become sorry completists like myself.

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