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.
Leave the Capitol is one of my favourite songs, by anyone, ever. That it came out via the perfection that is the Slates 10-inch – the most perfect marriage of medium and message since the postcard – merely makes it all the more fantastic.
To my eternal shame, I’ve never seen the Fall doing Leave the Capitol live but Brix and the Extricated did a version at the Brudenell Club in Leeds a couple of years back – complete with the Hanleys rhythm section – and you very nearly saw a grown man cry. Leave the capital! Exit this Roman Shell!
What You Need is my favourite song off This Nation’s Saving Grace, today. This tale of what the Fall need has got a weird-beard Wickerman folk vibe to it, yes, but it just goes on and on, with Steve Hanley ploughing the same bass groove forever – until it moves up a gear and Smith gets into his stride.
And what the fuck is a verbose kitchen when it’s at home?
Theme from Sparta FC is from the later period Interim album, an album of live and rehearsal tracks that screams ‘contractual obligation’ but remains one of my favourite Fall albums of this period. This was used as the theme tune for the BBC’s Final Score at one point. Like that’s supposed to make any difference. Sport Billy bullshit, obviously, but I prefer this version to the studio effort on The Real New Fall LP. And Elena Poulou’s vocal sounds as fierce as fuck.
The next one is not strictly or even remotely the Fall but let’s face it, we’re talking about 40 years of MES as much as we’re talking about 40 years of the Fall. And Mouse on Mars making music with MES as Von Sudenfeld’s was probably the most successful short-term collaboration he’s ever been involved with. And Fledermaus Can’t Get It is a) batshit and iii) vintage Smith and FIVE) seminal MoM. And the album, Tromatic Reflexxions, also has a great track about Sven Vath pissing the bed. Highly recommended.
The local council in Bury were that impressed by the Fall song of the same name from the Your Future Our Clutter album that they put the video on their website, for reasons I still can’t quite fathom. This is from eight years ago but its big, bossy, bloodyminded groove could have emanated from Smith’s frazzled psyche at any point in the last 40 years.
Here’s to the next 40 years.