Thursday, 12 July 2012

12 OF THE BEST: The Fall (Part One)

So this edition of '12 OF THE BEST' is dedicated to Mark E Smith and his legendary ever-changing outfit The Fall. Formed in 1976, released at least 29 studio albums to date and have had about 5000 different members over the years (OK this is an exaggeration but MES has sacked a hell of a lot of people from the band). It's pretty much impossible to pick 12 definitive tracks from a band who have released so much great music over the decades, so consider this 'Part One' of my Fall 'Best Of', and an ideal introduction for those who are new to the group's music. You can listen to these 12 excellent tracks on a playlist which is embedded further down this page (requires Spotify).

It's hard to pick the BEST Fall album but my favourite has always been 'I Am Kurious Oranj' (the first proper Fall album i ever bought... influenced partly by Richard Herring and Stewart Lee's 'Curious Orange' character from their silly spoof Sunday morning magazine show back in the late 90's). The version of 'Jerusalem' is incredible, with MES grumbling about slipping up on a discarded banana skin "I was expecting a one million quid handout... I was very disappointed... It was the government's fault..." and 'Big New Prinz' pisses all over the original 'Hip Priest'. 

There are a number of Fall albums that I have only heard once or still haven't actually listened to yet, but 'Extricate' is another record I regard highly, especially since it contains the excellent 'Telephone Thing'. The lyrics contain a most unexpected reference: "How dare you assume i wanna parlez-vous with you, you Gretchen Franklin nosey matron thing...". Gretchen Franklin was actually the name of the old lady who used to play Ethel in Eastenders. Mark must have heard the name somewhere and without knowing, buried it into his subconscious mind as he told the NME he had thought he had made the name up...

I'll never forget the song that introduced me to The Fall. It was back in the very early 2000's, on a night when I was listening to the John Peel show. He announced the next track would be from The Fall, and warned us of the appalling sound quality of the recording. I didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't the harsh live rendition of 'Psycho Mafia'...

The sound was awful, the singing was comically bad and the band didn't exactly sound polished. But there was something exciting, raw and uncompromising about this thrilling noise. The track was actually taken from 'Live 1977', an album that contained the earliest known recordings of The Fall and an album I purchased as soon as I saw it there in HMV. The album itself was more of the same... amused by Mark E Smith constantly sneering "You spit in the sky, it falls in your eye!!!" and making countless references to some bloke called John Tindall (possibly a journalist who criticised the band at some point), hearing the bassist (who at the time I thought was Marc 'Lard' Riley) telling the crowd to "stop fucking spitting" was also a treat. Later, it turned out that this gig was played before Riley actually joined the band, but the voice does sound very much like him indeed. Listen to the fierce, manic 'Last Orders'... what a tune. The album is rounded off with a sloppy and chaotic rendition of 'Louie Louie', which is disastrously hilarious and pretty much unlistenable.

11 years after buying that copy of 'Live 1977', in May 2011 at the Cheese And Grain in Frome I was lucky enough to witness The Fall playing live, a set heavily leaning on material from their 2010 album 'Your Future Our Clutter'. Before the band arrived on stage, the audience was subjected to a brain-frying video featuring morphing faces, repeat-motion sequences and ear-splitting white noise. Ending with a raucous 'Psykick Dancehall', this was one of the most extraordinary shows I had ever witnessed in my life, and a fascinating one too. Just being in the same room as MES was an experience in itself. Photos can be seen HERE and a gig review (with videos) can be seen HERE...

1 comment:

  1. Good post, I for one can never read too many reminders of how great the Fall are. One point - I haven't heard Live 1977 but I presume the John Tyndall MES talks about was the notorious English far right politician. The Fall were staunch anti-racist campaign at the time so I can't imagine Tyndall would have been one of their favourite people.