If I’m honest, I always found Failure’s early lyrics more interesting than the space rock/science fiction themes they’d play with on Fantastic Planet onwards. They seemed…more disturbed, more macabre, more evocative early on. It’s hard to argue with the seediness and spilt seed of “Princess”, the paranoia of “Screen Man”, or “Count My Eyes” in its gory, morbid glory; maybe the shift away from Jesus Lizard-style noise rock is why they ended up dropping it, but I still feel something got lost along the way.
In the same sense, the Comfort outtake “Gone” is unique because it’s one of two Failure tracks to deal with the philosophical, the other fittingly being the Comfort classic “Macaque”. It’s not hard to imagine the Barbary ape of the latter telling of the place of wonder of the former. Moreso than “Macaque” though is the way “Gone” addresses the abstract itself: while the monkey song focuses on the monkey, “Gone” crawls from amazement to deception to purpose back to amazement in its four verses, giving rise to one of my all-time favorite Failure lines: “all things had their mission”.
Sonically, “Gone” makes good use of studio Pachyderm’s hollow acoustics and Steve Albini’s way of recording those acoustics, sounding more like lazy, watery bass and guitar noodling in the other room than a proper song between the verses. Of course, it’s those verses where the band slams a bit harder on their gear, and where Ken lets his guitar fade to feedback with increasing frequency. Like a dripping faucet, the only constant throughout is Robert Gauss’ ride cymbal keeping time. It’s an eerie mix; rarely does Failure go this minimal, and to good effect.
Of course, when you’re dealing with dynamics this extreme, the only way to end such a song is with dissonant “Unit Shifter”-like squalls and pounding drums, drawing closed a track that’d remain in the band’s vault twelve years before its release on Golden. Why it was left off Comfort, only the band can say, but given that their taste for fucking around was introduced to the world on “Macaque”, I can’t think of a good reason.