The Fall got together exactly 40 years ago, to the day. Mark E Smith’s modus operandi of basic rock n roll accompanied by a very singular kind of northern beat poetry remains true to his original vision, albeit delivered by an ever-changing supporting cast of musical misfits. And assorted wives, girlfriends and lovers, older and otherwise.
Think what you want about him but nobody gets that lucky this often. The guy is a fucking genius and we are privileged to be breathing the same air as him.
Would I want to hang out with him on a regular basis?
Has he recorded songs that have made me happy, consistently, over a number of decades?
Do his lyrics still dazzle with a deranged, unique and often completely unexpected poetic worldview?
Has he presided over some of the most insane gigs I’ve ever seen in my entire life?
So, this is a few songs from the canon of MES. There is no definitive list of great Fall songs and people who tell you otherwise are liars. These are five MES songs I like today. It’ll change tomorrow.
And that is entirely appropriate.
PUNK ROCK DISCO. When punks tried to make dance music and when dancing music people get a bit punk rock. Or something. All bets are off.
I’M PRETTY sure this is actually the worst interview I’ve ever done.
The content, written by the lead singer of Dudley industrial metal band Head of David, who’d recently signed to Blast First when we did this postal ‘interview’ in 1987, is not uninteresting in itself – there are one or two truly off-message moments – but with a brief that appears to have consisted of ‘just go through the alphabet and talk about your favourite things that start with each letter or something’, the poor guy was up against it.
Even worse, I clearly ran out of time when I was putting the magazine together – ie Prittsticking, Letrasetting and photocopying idiotic shit onto pieces of A4 – and just pasted a bare transcript onto the page and handwrote an introduction in biro. This is laughably amateur, even in the context of fanzineland, but it’s also a shame because the rest of the magazine had a bit of style to it. No, really.
I’m not sure if Justin Broadrick was playing drums for Head of David at this point but I didn’t get to talk him. Skillz.
I’ve always despised heavy metal – obviously – and I think I tired of Head of David’s stuff pretty quickly, although some of it doesn’t actually sound that bad today. Either way, the whole thing just about represents the nadir of my interviewing career. Or it, would do, if I wasn’t still trying to pull this kind of shit.
I don’t know what to say to you.
AT ONE point it seemed like the same old story.
A group of eager young hopefuls – who are every talented but also very naïve – start to make wonderful music and are taken under the wing of a backer who is more worldly wise and get taken for a ride. It happens all the time.
But the devil doesn’t always get the best tunes. The forces of good and grooviness sometimes get their act together. And that’s exactly what happened with Rotherham’s highly-regarded Beeswax label, which is run by music heads Lee Oakes and Leiam Sullivan (usually known by his DJing name of Sully) and business brain Robert Lovell.
“The deal was that we would set up Beeswax as an independent dance label alongside Empire Studio’s own mainstream label, and anything we did that had mainstream potential would be released through them,” says Robert, who is by far the gobbiest of the trio. “We didn’t want commercial mixes on our records, we didn’t want to go in that directional at all. They didn’t listen to us.”
IT’S nine o’clock on a cold Saturday evening and Ali Cooke and Dave Beer are in their tiny office in the labyrinthine Music Factory, looking suitably shagged out after a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to collect Back to Basics’ prestigious Mixmag club of the year award last night.
The two bleary-eyed promoters clearly enjoyed the occasion to the full. They are not at their best. And all this less than a year after the club’s first night.
“I didn’t even realise you got awards for stuff like that,” Beer says. “When we set the club up, it’s not as if we did it to put ourselves in the limelight.”
“Dave wanted to go to a club where he’d like the music and the people around him,” adds Cooke, who also DJs at Basics. “And I wanted the chance to play the kind of music I want to play.”
GAD WHIP are a quartet of non-hairy and also hairy freaks from various northern shitholes who present an ungrateful world with a very pleasing hodgepodge of high-energy, low-fidelity punky psychedelia and post-industrial musique concrète, via the medium of cassette tapes, mostly.
Let’s not get hung up on the medium at the expense of the message.
Named after a murkily arcane North Lincolnshire ‘old religion’ ritual involving a long cattle whip being shaken above a priest’s head on Palm Sunday or something, Gad Whip are old enough to know better but they don’t. Me and singer / drummer Pete started swapping zines through the post in the mid-Eighties and I later met Geoff when he moved in across the road from my girlfriend, and their band Aki began to gig around Scunthorpe.
And here we are, 30-odd years later.
On first hearing, these analogue fundamentalists’ albums sound like the craziest and greatest mixtapes you’ve ever heard, but within a few listens each track begins to sound like it could only have been produced by Gad Whip. And you have to wonder what kind of weirdo would have these kinds of mixtapes recorded for them. Me, apparently.
Musically, Gad Whip are all over the place. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason to their outré oeuvre. They point and laugh at genre politics. The constants appear to be a willingness to experiment and a weary exasperation with the essential rubbishness of modern life.
While middle-aged blokes are always moaning about something (exhibit one: the Twitter stream on the right of this page), seldom has this kind of male-menopausal grumpiness been expressed with such invention, energy and style. They have yet to repeat themselves. And busying themselves with this shit definitely beats waking up one morning and leaving your missus and kids for a florist named Lance or even buying an elaborate surrogate phallus in the shape of an expensive car / motorbike.
I like what Gad Whip do very much.
THE STRANGEST thing about Uncarved Block is just how much everyone seems to hate it.
Flux of Pink Indians’ first album – the snappily-named Strive to Survive Causing the Least Suffering Possible – was a very likeable kind of angry, knockabout Crass punk with tunes and feedback.
By contrast, their second, The Fucking Cunts Treat Us Like Pricks, was a very unlikeable maelstrom of feedback, shouting and no tunes whatsoever. And that was kind of the whole point.
Even so, the greying, befuddled online remnants of the anarcho-punk community seem to prefer The Fucking Cunts to Uncarved Block, the band’s third album, an ultra-accessible collection of loose-limbed dub funk with lyrics inspired by Taoism.
“Uncarved Block was the most unexpected of the band’s three studio albums, delivering more polemic allied to dance and funk rhythms that left their previous audience totally nonplussed,” says some guy off the internet. “It was a dreadful effort.”
Uncarved Block is, it seems, “largely uninteresting”, “self-indulgent rubbish” and, according to Flux guitarist Kev Hunter in The Day the Country Died, “nothing to do with punk in the slightest, a completely neutered record with no balls at all. Trumpets and bongos on a punk album? Arty-farty shite, I’m afraid.”
You have to peer into some very dark and dusty corners of the internet to find another view.