Tag Archives: the fall

Five x The Fall

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?

Fuck no.

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?

Fuck YES.

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.

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Five x US presidential election bombs

IT MUST be a confusing and unsettling time for Americans. How awful for you. Welcome to the party. Where the fuck have you been until now?

I don’t have any advice for you. As one of your former colonial overlords, it’s not really my place to tell you how to vote. The best I can come up with is: Make America Great Britain Again.

Obviously, as someone who inhabits the same hemisphere as all you paranoid, gun-crazy, passportless halfwits, I have a view – for what it’s worth: Hillary is your only rational choice. Trump is an obvious nut case. You can only blame yourselves for this lack of meaningful choice – but why would you listen to me?

And whoever you vote for, the government wins, right?

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There is no hesitation, this is your situation

OBVIOUSLY, I was a bit dubious about Punk n Disorderly, a shop selling punk rock clothing in bohemian Chorlton, south Manchester.

Taking its name from the Abstract Records punk compilations of the early eighties (featuring Vice Squad, Disorder, the Insane and the like), Punk n Disorderly specialises in the kind of mail order punk attire you could find in the back of the music papers in the days of yore.

You see, we made our own studded biker jackets when I were a lad. But miserable no-fun puritans have been boring on about boil-in-the-bag rebellion ever since Viv and Malc set up shop on Kings Road. It’s getting a bit old.

Either way, the woman behind the shop was lovely, and if it’s choice between kids buying T-shirts of bands they know nothing about from Punk n Disorderly or buying them from Top Shop, I’ll keep it local, thanks very much.

I was never big on band T-shirts in any case. But I made an exception for an excellent Cravats T-shirt, featuring the front of the Cravats’ single for Crass Records, Rub Me Out.

Now I’m not going to tell you that I still have my original copy of this record, that I know all the words, or that I could probably even have a decent crack at naming all the members of the Cravats – even though all those things are true.

There are the rules for buying a band T-shirt, right? Everyone knows that. It’s a given.

Unfortunately, the shop’s lease ran out and the owner decided not to renew – they’re still online. I guess there are only so many old punk rockers who want to buy Cravats T-shirts out there. I didn’t spend enough money in there, clearly.

The only other thing I ever bought was a little A5 comic which, in its own way, is every bit as excellent as my Cravats T.

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Flies, Brix, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock

FLIES ON YOU lumber onto the stage, and contain not one, but two of my very oldest and dearest friends, while the crowd contains lots of other old and not-so-old friends from far and wide. It is very much a family affair, and all the more wonderful for it.

I even run into the lovely Maureen, who used to sell me pot back in the day. It’s like some kind of obscure DIY band, fanzine writer, drug dealer convention.

Having missed the debut gig of the Extricated in Manchester a couple of months ago, due to circumstances beyond our control, going to see them at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds was the next best thing, particularly when I found out my old friend Doug’s band, Flies on You, were supporting.

The gruesome twosome of Doug and Paul (who is standing in for studio bass monster Andy Watkins), plus a couple of guys I don’t know, play short, spiky, angular rock tunes with great titles like Can You Smell That Burning Noise? and You’re the Anaesthetist, John.

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Slates by the Fall (Rough Trade)

NEITHER fish nor fowl, single nor album, the Fall’s dinky 10-inch Slates is a little record that makes a big impression.

“I was looking through the import bins in Wax Trax in Chicago, and I found Slates,” said Brix Smith in an interview with Guitarist magazine. “I took it home and became obsessed. It was the most brilliant thing I ever heard. It was outrageous. Two weeks later they were playing Chicago at Cabaret Metro, so Lisa and I went along.

“Stephen Hanley was totally, totally hypnotic. I was scared of Mark E Smith. They played a lot from Slates. After the gig, Lisa took off with some boyfriend, leaving me at the bar on my own. Before I knew what was happening I was talking to Mark E Smith ..”

And we all know what happened after that.

Slates made a big impression on me too, although unlike Brix I didn’t end up marrying Mark E Smith. I have a vague recollection of buying it from some record fair some time later. But I’m not entirely sure that people like me and Brix were the target audience for Slates in any case.

“That’s what I was trying to do with Slates in England, you know, get across to people who have no music,” MES told an interviewer in New Zealand. “People who either haven’t been told about the music trappings and the rubbish that surrounds it or people who do know it and don’t like it.

“That’s why it was a 10-inch, neither single nor album. It’s very conceptual, do you understand? It’s like an attempt to get over to these thousands of working class or middle class people, whatever, in England who don’t listen to records anymore, who don’t buy records  .. I’d be one of them if I wasn’t in a group, I know that.

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Words and pictures .. and anyone but England

I’VE SAID it before and no doubt I will say it again. Even 30-odd years down the line, the Fall are still producing records with more good ideas in one song than many bands have in their entire careers.

The group’s latest opus Your Future Our Clutter (Domino Records) contains a joyous thumping racket that, I prophesy, will come to be regarded with the same high regard, nay veneration, as many of the legendary ye olde Fall albums of yore.

Heed me, miscreants!

The current line-up is a really tight unit playing some particularly inventive music, with the album’s production job by Ross Orton and Ding proving both sympathetic and absorbing.

For example, Bury (the video for which Bury council have decided to stick on their municipal website) initially sounds like the Glitterband recorded through cottonwool before – in time-honoured Fall fashion – switching up a gear and morphing into a swaggering ultra-heavy kind of 12-bar blues, with an intricate, densely layered sound full of odd detail and funny-clever bits.

Of course, Mark E Smith is on conspicuously good form too. “And one day, a Spanish king with a council of bad knaves tried to come to Bury ..” he sings. Disappointingly, he doesn’t finish the anecdote, talking about how they don’t make them like they used to instead.

And in Funnel Of Love, the group sound the poppiest they have in ages – it even has  a chorus and everything. In other times I might have forecasted a surefire big-time chart hit, but do they even have chart hits these days? I have absolutely no idea. And if so, where is the stupid Facebook campaign to get the Fall to number one?

Yeah, precisely. There isn’t one, you idiotic cunts. If you were sucked in by all that Rage Against The Machine hype at Christmas, please, do yourself a favour and give this album a listen. You owe it to yourself. It’s brave new world.

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Mark E Smith *2

MARK E SMITH of the Fall is talking to me, eyeball to eyeball, giving me a few pointers about how I might like to approach our interview:

“Is he an idiot like Oasis? Or is he friendly like New Order? Or is he reclusive like Morrissey?” he whines in a fey, airhead manner, before snapping back into reality and fixing me with a surprisingly steely and clear-eyed gaze. “Say what you want. But watch your back.”

MES doesn’t have much time for the people others might regard as his contemporaries. If you see Manchester as one big happy musical family, Smith is the surly step-child in the corner, loudly singing off-key and out of time, spoiling it for everyone. Loving the fact that he is spoiling it for everyone.

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