24 May London LA2
12 June Ashton Witchwood
13 June Hull Adelphi
14 June Middlesborough (prob. Corner House)
15 June Glasgow King Tuts
16 June Edinburgh Liquid Room
17 June Dundee West Bar
18 June Aberdeen Glow 303
York Fibbers on 23 March
What a relief to see a rejuvinated Fall in action at Fibbers. This is the tightest, most rockin Fall line up I have seen in a long time. It reminded me of the Fall gigs I saw around the time of Totales Turn/After The Gramme/Hex Induction Hour in Blackpool and Liverpool. Everyone on stage seemed to be enjoying themselves (although Julia can't play guitar she adds something to the general cachophony), and it was good to hear songs off the recent albums being thrashed about live , apart from He Pep which was shambolic. Only reservation there were not many young people in the audience.
Leeds Duchess of York on 24th March
The Fall, Duchess of York, Friday 24th March 2000 (for Charm magazine).
Some things in life are more important than a Charm night at The Wardrobe. The Fall at The Duchess is one of them. Looking like a random sample of their audience, the band kick off with Jet Boy, a New York Dolls number now playing like a Fall original riff. The groove located, we are graced with the spindly splendour of their singer, sporting police-blue shirt, black belted slacks and shiny shoes. He toys with every microphone in the house before selecting the first and issuing a regulation "Good evening, we are The Fall". Lip twitching, he aims a sudden sideswipe at the ride cymbal and consigns it to the floor. The band sound is sharpened by its absence but, more importantly, Mark E Smith has established early control.
There follows an understated, almost absent-minded reading of And Therein; at 10 years, the most senior Fall song of the evening. And then the hits hit the fans: a big clattering He Pep, a tortured Levitate that rocks out and sprawls out by turns, a rabble-rousin' F-oldin' Money and a slapstick panto Touch Sensitive that takes the comedy biscuit home. There is the odd filler, but there are more frequent spells of genuine inspiration. An unexpected highlight is The Caterer, from the "spoken word" LP, feeling the full benefit of a live drummer. Even better is the breakneck skiffle of Butter Flows (?) or the avant-garde assault of Antidotes, with MES riding roughshod into the valley of voice-as-instrument. The drums are sparse and solid, the music hard, guitar-driven and the keyboards plug its holes like pudgy fingers. The vocal mix is clear, the words naturally distorted, and the singer is obviously enjoying himself. He rolls vowels round his jowls like a palsied wine taster and spits them out in similar style. He banters between songs, confers with his musicians and ad-libs a piss-taking career résumé for each to the tumbling tidal backdrop of Ketamin Song.
And therein lies the difference. MES, rarely glimpsed in such good humour, is actively communicating. The audience is no faceless witness to his erratic art; we are all invited to the party. When the band launch into a second encore, a pounding industrial rock rendering of A Past Gone Mad, the microphone is handed down into the grubby paws of three pissed blokes who lock synchronously into a "Pay Your Rates" chant, a fall soundbite from 1980. A past gone mad perhaps, but it sounds shockingly good and MES signals his appreciation with a sinuous snaking sort of lapdance, replete with pelvic gyrations and spastic fingerclicks. Not a pretty sight exactly, but curiously compelling nonetheless. Invigorated, he reclaims the mic, firing out fragments of old rockabilly, snatches of his own back catalogue and some bizarre tale concerning two dead men on a hillside. The sonic maelstrom around him gradually condenses into a new linear channel and his vocal homes in on a new hookline. Can't Find My Way Round Here, the most immediately arresting of the new material, is a dark tale of disorientation with a riff to kill or die for. It is also the last number of the night and its sudden cessation leaves a bemused hall blinking at the house lights, wondering where its head has been for the last hour and a quarter.
"If its me and me granny on bongos, it's The Fall". Thus spake Mark E Smith after the messy multiple fracture of his band in 1998. All respect to Granny Smith, but I'd rather see The Fall as a shit-hot 5 piece any day of the week, and especially on Friday. After a long and often painful live weaning, the 28th incarnation of The Fall has teeth. And they don't just bite; they make a bloody great grin too.
the Lou Reed cover had some great lines in it at Leeds, 'he liked to fuck sheep and ......' which I take is not in the original. Lots of Yorkshire stabs too. 'and in Yorkshire you fail to find somewhere where a microphone works' or something similar. He just seems to play up the Yorkshire banter in Leeds.
The Duchess rocked. The fans were up for it and the Fall were even better. Smith was especially spontaneous.
Ant Jung Nev
When they first came on I thought we were going to get the usual bollocks, but MES really seemed to lighten up after knocking the cymbals over. Definitely one of the best performances I've seen in many years.
Nice opening crack: 'A first for Yorkshire - a microphone that works!' - although started encore telling sound man to 'Turn the fucking mike up!'.
Mumbled comment on Duchess closure: 'So the Duchess is closing down, think I'll do myself in. Grow up, get over it' (something like that)
From When Saturday Comes,
Postal address is: 17a Perseverance Works, 38 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DD. email@example.com
pics by Tony Davis
So You Call Yourself a Football Fan?
Time for a chat with Mark E Smith of The Fall, whose football experiences include encounters with a goalkeeping plumber and a controversial match against the Icicle Works.
You grew up in Salford, which is more United than City. Is there a reason why you're a City fan?
Not really, just to be contrary I suppose. Also you want to support the opposite team to your dad , and my dad had been a United fan. Back in the 1950s he'd go to away games on his bike - he'd cycle to Leicester. But I converted him to City.
I had another United connection, though. I applied for a clerical job at the Edwards family's meat factory after I left school. It was 9 a week. It might even have been Martin Edwards who did the interview. He said "Well the meat wagons come in, just sit there, fill in these forms and file them." I said, "When would the job start?" and he said "You've started" and he left me in the office.
How long did you keep the job?
An hour. I was there all by myself. He'd locked the door. When he came back, I left.
Did you watch United winning the Champions League?
I was walking to my local pub just when they scored and this huge roar went up. There was a free bus into Manchester laid on half an hour after the game and they said "Come on, even though you're a Blue, you're getting on this bus" and I have to say it was a great night - all the clubs you could never normally get in had their doors open, free drinks and everything. And in a funny way it didn't feel like it had happened to United, it was like they were a cricket team or something.
Did you used to see City regularly?
I used to stand on the Kippax but one of the reasons I stopped going was because of the moaning. Now, when you have to sit down, you can't escape them. In the Peter Reid days, they'd be winning 2-0 and they'd be saying, "Oh, it'll be 3-2..." The thing about the rnoaners is you know they're always going to come back. I remember talking to these young City fans before Joe Royle came and they were practically suicidal and I said, "Look, it's always been like that." When I started supporting them in 1965, they were bottom of the Second Division. But these kids think City's history began with Colin Bell.
Just about the only good thing Oasis ever did was to threaten to take over the club. That galvanised people into action and they got this new guy, Bernstein, in like a shot. Now Sky are involved and it could be the downfall of them. Does Murdoch know what he's taking on -30,000 miserable gets? "Live from Maine Road, it's Man City v Hartlepool." Try selling that in America.
Who were your favourite players?
Harry Dowd, the goalkeeper in the championship team in 1968, was the best. He still worked as a plumber part-time and my dad was a plumber too. We used to go behind the goal and Harry would wander over and talk about washers and copper joints. I remember being at a cup tie once and Harry was saying "Do you know if this goes to extra time today, only I've got a job on at half-five?" then suddenly people are shouting "Harry Harry!" and the tearn we were playing are charging down the pitch and Harry rushes out, dives at someone's feet, throws the ball up the pitch then comes back and starts again, "So, is this extra time today .. ?"
The local paper had a "where are they now?" feature recently on City's team from the Rodney Marsh time in the early 1970s. There were a couple who just seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth. One was quoted as saying "if I wasn't a footballer I'd be a tramp" and I think he's done it.
Did you collect things like football stickers?
Yes, I had the 1970 Mexico World Cup set. The Romanians had been photographed in black and white then coloured in. You'd open a packet and it would be one of the east Europeans and you'd scream. And then when the World Cup came around, half of them weren't even in the squad. The pictures were all from about 1962.
Did you go to see other teams in the area?
Quite a few. Prestwich Heys were the local non-League team and I went to see them in an Amateur Cup tie against Sutton United. I was on the pitch celebrating a goal and got arrested by my neighbour, who was a part-time policeman. At Bury you could get in for free if you went though the cemetery behind one end and jumped over the fence. They were always losing though, because they had the best pitch, this great lush grass that all the other teams liked to playon. We used to goto see Oldham when they had Ray Wilson from the 1966 World Cup team and he could hardly walk. You could see why he became an undertaker, because he was halfway there. They were bottom of the Fourth but they suddenly started winning every game and in three seasons they were up near the top of the Second.
Was the first player you met?
Funnily enough, I met George Best a few times - first was in some drinking club in London in the early I 980s. He heard I was from Manchester and went into this big rant about how he'd used to get all this stick from the crowd at United when they thought he wasn't doing enough. It was true he did used to stand around doing nothing for 80 minutes but I thought that was all right, given that he'd still win them the game. But he'd still get stick when he was going off from Bobby Charlton and the other players. He was the type who'd just walk into his local boozer and there will always be people wanting to have a go, if you're like that.
The Fall did a song about football, Kicker Conspiracy, back in the early 1980s.What sort of reaction did it get at the time?
You couldn't mention football in the rock world then. We were on Rough Trade and I told them "This is about football violence" and it was all "You don't go to football do you?" I remember Melody Maker saying, "Mark Smith's obviously got writer's block having to write about football." About five years later, the same guy reviewed something else saying it was a load of rubbish and "nowhere near the heights of KickerConspiracy". And now, of course all the old music hacks are sat in the directors' box with Oasis.
Have you ever watched a game from the directors' box?
My worst experience at City, actually, was when the agent we were with the time got us into the directors' box for a David Bowie show at Maine Road. And it was a disgrace. They had pennants on the wall, like the European Cup-Winners Cup, all creased up in plastic. They hadn't changed the photos since 1968, they still had black and white blow-ups from the Manchester Evening News and the trophy cabinet hadn't been cleaned. The bar itself was like a kiosk- it was worse than anything on the Kippax. Alex Higgins was there too and he sort of collapsed into it. I've been to United's, and of course that was like something on Concorde.
What is your favourite football book?
The best one I've read is Colours of My Life by Malcolm Allison, which covers how he turned City around. When he came back in the late I 970s he was totally broke. He'd go into all the best clubs in Manchester like it was still 1968 and take a load of mates, like an Oliver Reed scene. He'd be asked to pay at the end and he'd just say, "Pay? What do you mean, I'm Malcolm Allison." But sometimes it didn't work and they'd have to have a whip round, he'd go around collecting fivers and loose change in his hat. As far as football writing now, the newspaper coverage here is terrible. I was looking at
One paper during Man Utd's games in Brazil and I thought, "Am I reading the financial pages?" It was all about Man Utd haven't got a press guy and what a disaster it was they were the only club who didn't have one. And I'm reading it, thinking "Yeah, but what was the score?"
Have you kept in touch with football when you've been abroad?
Going to Germany in the early 1980s got me back into football when I was going off it a bit. In places like Hamburg there was an avant garde rock scene among fans at some clubs, something that isn't there in Britain. And you get big pints of beer at German matches for, like, 25p, and a nice clean sausage. I saw Germany v Bulgaria at the 1994 World Cup. What a day out that was.
The German players were limbering up like an hour before the game, doing leap-frogging and gymnastics. Then they showed an interview with someone from the Bulgarian staff on these massive screens around the ground and he said, "I'm just glad we've all turned up. We only had nine men half an hour ago." In the stadium they were trying to be nice to Everyone and they brought in these guys with red caps all dressed like Michael Jackson as extra security. We were in the German end and in the middle of the game this South American filmcrew come and sit in front of us, and I'm asking them to move. This red cap comes up and asks me what's wrong, then a policeman comes over and he brings over this guy from the US soccer federation who looks like Ronald Reagan with white hair and he's saying things like "is your seat not comfortable sir?" And I'm saying no, it's fine, it's just this film crew. Then he says "Ah. You're not German are you sir?" I think they had this idea that football was like some germ from Europe that might infect them.
Do you play yourself?
I've started playing again. I'm a central defender. I like tackling, but when I play I walk.
Like Franz Beckenbauer..
Similar. I trip people, tap them on the shin. But I don't like the niggling little fouls they do now, all that shirt pulling. The annoying thing about that Beckham foul in the World Cup, when he got sent off, was he hardly even kicked him. f you're going to kick them, kick them.
The Fall used to have a team, we'd play university teams before gigs. We played the lcicle Works when we were both in this hotel in London. There were eight or nine in our team, the group and couple of roadies. This guy called Big Dave from Lincolnshire, who was like the fattest lad you've ever seen, went in goal. And they turned up in replica Liverpool kits with "The Icicle Works" on the front and they've got this mock European Cup with them. It was 20 minutes each way and we went 5-4 in front in injury time and their tour manager's the referee, so it went on and on until they won 6-5. It'd gone dark by the time we finished and in the bar they're telling all the music journos they've won and passing the European Cup around...
Have you had any encounters with football hooligans?
It seems to me that the fascination with rough lads we've got now is a very middle class thing. They're from small places, but not impoverished places either - stockbrokers who can forget about being new dads for a day and have a fight. It's a sadomasochism thing, wanting to be hit. It's like the kid at school who was always hitting people, you just knew he was a closet case. I used to get it on trains coming down to London. They get on at Milton Keynes and they're staring you out and all this.
I remember Man City had this group called The Main Line Service Crew. We were on a train on a Saturday afternoon going down for a gig and they were asking us if we were City or United and all that. And I said, "Hold on, it's three o'clock, City are at home today. What are you doing here?" And they were going to Spurs or somewhere to try and cause trouble at halftime, then they'd be back up on the train to get to Maine Road when the away fans are coming out. That's the sort of mentality they've got.
Glow Boys won't be released on vid in the near future (was supposed to be Feb).
A few things following, many thanks to Paul Saxton:
From the new Q, MES in their 'Instant Karma' section:
What is your full name?
Mark Edward Smith.
What is your state of mind?
Recently I've been plung-ing into deep depression, and from that into euph-oria. I don't know why, post flu or something.
What's the last book you read and hated?
The Bill Gates book. It explained a lot to me about why you end up with shitty seats on planes, and he sort of boasted about it. It was dead expensive as well.
What footballer do you most identify with?
Nicky Weaver. I always identify with Manchester City goalkeepers, I feel sorry for them.
What embarrasses you?
Having to ask for money. From record companies.
How do you react when you see a nun?
I sort of admire them. I'm not a Catholic, but there used to be a nunnery at the top of my road. As kids we used to see them working, and they used to lock one up in the top of the building as punishment, and she used to tap on the window to communicate, so she was obviously in, like, solitary. It was pretty spooky.
Have you ever tried Tantric sex?
Is it something to do with coupling with aliens? (Q explains) Oh, what? The Eastern way, less effort, conserve the god's own holy energy. That's not much fun is it?
Do you practice Feng Shui?
I did it for a bit. BT changed the phones around in my house and it's a real bastard: I've got to phone from the hall now, but I've noticed it's made me friendlier. I don't know if that's a good or bad thing.
Is there a god?
I think so. I'm a kind of Christian, nice to the poor and all that.
Is death the end?
No. I pick up a lot of atmospheres. I walk in rooms and feel something's died pretty nastily in here. When I go to museums I can feel spirits.
Sigh, yet more Fall stuff from this month's Q - a review of A Past Gone Mad:
The Fall's 90s saw them hurtling along a rum trajectory indeed: they began squatting within spitting distance of the charts, only to eventually collapse into a very lo-fi kind of acrimony. In April 1998, frontman Mark E. Smith played a gig at London's Dingwalls backed only by keyboards and drums. He explained it thus: "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's The Fall." Hard-bitten fans are already debating A Past Gone Mad's track listing in earnest, and it's fair to say that the compiler, comedian Stewart Lee, would find himself in trouble whatever his choices. That said, the claim of successor status to 1989's A-sides album is borderline ludicrous: the absence of such singles as Telephone Thing (90) and Glam Racket (93) prove that this is a rather more impressionistic selection of tracks. Even on that proviso, A Past Gone Mad is still rather baffling. Last year's patchy Marshall Suite album is awarded twice the space given to 90's esteemed Extricate, and why Lee chose the execrable I'm Going To Spain is a mystery. Still, you get such chunks of spindly wonder as Free Range, Behind The Counter and Hey Student, so things could be worse.
*** (Three Stars)
Influenced by: Can - Tago Mago
Influence on: Blur - 13
Review by John Harris
And from the same issue, Justine Frischmann:
"I always wanted to be in The Fall, but Damon always wanted to be in U2."
Fucking hell, yet more stuff from Q. This from their '100 Greatest Acts of Rock 'n' Roll Folly' article. At number 8, The Fall:
THE FALL 'DO' A BALLET
Sour faced Mark E Smith gets it together with bare-bottomed modern dance icon. Result: a lot of nonsense.
The words "Mark E Smith" and "ballet" rarely appeared in the same sentence until his bewildering 1988 decision to seek respite from indie rock drudgery via a modern-dance collaboration with tutu titan Michael Clark. Their subject, inevitably: the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But their unorthodox take on William of Orange's invasion of Britain and related matters involved a Celtic/Rangers derby, and the central argument appeared to be that the Dutch invented birth control. To prove it, Clark hurled himself around the stage in a variety of his buttock-baring cozzies while Smith's then wife Brix thrashed her guitar atop a large plastic hamburger. Entitled I Am Curious Orange, the improbable revue ("Much better than it sounds" - a critic) undertook a short tour which concluded with a two-week stint at Sdalers Wells. Spin-off album I Am Kurious, Oranj - followed. "I wrote it while we were on tour," recalls a regret-free Smith. "I'd send cassettes over to Michael's ballet studio in padded envelopes, then we met up in Amsterdam and did four weeks rehearsal. It was marvellous, something ambitious, like a film by Fassbinder or Warhol. It could have ran and ran."
From today's NME, another review of A Past Gone Mad:
It is, of course, an appalling concept. Allowing writer/comedian Stewart Lee to compile a selection of his favourite latter-day Fall tracks smacks of misguided marketing; an ill-informed attempt to glean the collegiate vote for what surely remains the most virulently anti-student band in Britain. Duh! Anyway. The onset of the 90s saw Mark E. Smith-uh and his ever-changing chums embrace new technology with gusto - a gambit that would provide a fresh framework for Smith's misanthropic, bean-bag faced rants. While tracks such as last year's brilliantly disorderly 'Touch Sensitive' could've been plucked from the riotous preserve of their late 70s heyday, 'A Past...' shows the ramshackle approach of yore superseded by a battalion of samples and grinding, zeitgeist courting and techno beats. It's an approach that has yielded some of The Fall's finest songs - with the synth-heavy, anti EU wrath 'Free Range' and the deceptively sweet 'Rose' proving Smith's invective wears many, equally effective, disguises. With 'The Chisellers' being the only glaring omission, this is a fine collection: brave, broad and admirably biased.
Review by Sarah Dempster. 8/10.
Amateur bands who sound like The Fall - apparently:
From today's NME, how the world has changed since the last Elastica LP:
The Fall are at a crossroads. Though dropped by Phonogram, the original axis of Mark E Smith and bassist Steve Hanley remains intact. Smith's behaviour is becoming a little more erratic - the previous year he booted an NME photographer in the head - but the group are still notionally on course.
Always an influence, now contributing vocals to 'The Menace', the new Elastica long-player, Mark E Smith's career seems to be ever so slightly on the wane. A slew of ill-conceived reissues/hits/outtakes LPs blots his oeuvre, and his band of randoms seem less customary rockabilly pick-up, more routine letdown.
Free Uncut CD contains Who Makes The Nazis? Here's what they say about it:
Discordant, perplexing and more than a little controversial, 'Who Makes The Nazis?' - from 1982's seminal Hex Enduction Hour - arguably sums up The Fall's entire musical ethos. Inspired by their first American tour the previous year - where, according to Mark E. Smith, "We played deep south KKK places nobody plays now" - it remains one of the Salford bard's most ingenious satirical offerings, with an acid wit unique to The Fall alone.
And in Select (as has already been mentioned) there's a bizarre three page meeting between Bush's Gavin Rossdale and MES. There are a number of pictures of them sat together on a park bench with Smith looking like Rossdale's shrivelled old grandad - lovely stuff. And Finlay Quaye sez: "Mark's a poet and an artist. His eyes are always open."
From Uncut, a celebration of HEH by our pal Simon Goddard:
OUR FIEND IN THE NORTH
Simon Goddard savours the barbed genius of THE FALL's Hex Enduction Hour
Good evening, we are The Fall-ah!/The northern white crap that talks back/The only difference between you and us is that we have brains-ah! With these words, Mark E Smith audaciously introduced The Fall on stage in Doncaster one night in 1979, a time when provincial audiences of part-time punks were still baying for three chords and a shower of spit. What they got from The Fall were nine-minute horror narratives sung with the ferocity of a man pushing towards the bar with his money aloft at last orders. There were songs with titles like "Rowche Rumble", "Spectre Vs Rector and "The Impression Of J Temperance', music somewhere between the jagged riffs of Captain Beefheart and early Velvet Underground at their-most vehemently repetitive. Sham 69 this wasn't.
As an introduction to The Fall, Smith's antagonistic outburst (captured for posterity on 1980's Totale's Turns) remains as coherent as any offered in the two decades since. Still going, 23 years after their inception in Manchester in 1977, The Fall, like the British Weather or the Queens Christmas speech, have become an accepted mainstay of English life, surpassing not just explanation but the very need to demand it. Mark E Smith himself continues to be both canonised and caricatured in equal measures. Though he became the first recipient of NMEs "Godlike Genius" Brat award in 1998, journalistic cliché continually portrays him as an alcoholic madman whose wizened, tortoise-like face forever threatens to erupt in a slurred, un-PC diatribe at any moment. He has become the music press' Mr Punch, stubbing fags on journalists, attacking his own band on stage and drinking tinnies in the park like a common tinker. This is the Mark E Smith of press myth - lunatic, bigot, hooligan and drunkard. It makes great copy, sure, but such a grossly exaggerated stereotype ignores the brain behind the big mouth, the fact that Smith is easily one of the finest lyricists the country has ever produced. Really.
Theres something extremely poetic about The Fall, something within Smith's razor-sharp vocabulary, his vivid, pedestrian vision of an England which is far superior to the cricket-green kitsch of Ray Davies or the blunt verse of Philip Larkin. Consider the miserable Scottish hotel in 1988's "Guest Informant" which resembles "a 1973 Genesis LP cover', or the Alcoholic's Anonymous centre on "Winter", where the lawn is "littered with cans of Barbican ". This is poetry, the kind that calls a spade a spade - but poetry nonetheless. Dissect any of The Fall's 20-odd studio albums and you'll find evidence of Smith's savage wit and unique wordplay. But as the archetypal Fall text, 1982's Hex Enduction Hour has to be their magnum opus. Call it The Fall's Sgt Pepper, call it Smith's Whitsun Weddings, it still stands as 60 minutes of lyrical genius, set to some of the most melodically vicious music ever recorded. After 1979's brazen Live At The Witch Trials - over the course of subsequent albums Dragnet and Grotesque, the Slates EP and a succession of quirky indie 45s - The Fall forged their own inimitable sound, which was typified by simple, spiky rifts over thick, repetitive rhythms. Smith, meanwhile, had transformed himself from snotty-nosed punk shouter into cryptic sloganeer and macabre storyteller, his lyrics increasingly didactic, prosaic and more than a little peculiar.
Their fourth full-length studio album, Hex Enduction Hour was part recorded in Iceland, during a year that would see them rapidly expand their international horizons, earlier touring America for the first time, and soon to embark on a trip down-under following the freak success of the single, "Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul", in New Zealand. By this stage, The Fall's ever-changing ranks boasted two drummers, a young Marc Riley (who would leave within the year), and band manager/Smith's current partner, Kay Carroll, on percussion. While many have made a noticeably distinct contribution to the groups sound during their-service, in essence The Fall is Mark E Smith, and inevitably Hex Enduction Hour belongs to him. Thirty seconds into album-opener "The Classical" and he's off on a bombastic assault of offensive expletives -"Where are the obligatory niggers Hey there FUCK-FACE!' (no surprise that Pavement bottled out of singing these lines when they came to cover it).
Smith's verbal spillage literally pours out of the album, its sleeve little more than a graffiti board for his inexplicable gems, devoid of syntax. Muscle hedonist vanity? Saxon Gaelic poor process? Hail Sainsburys? One pictures Smiths brain conjuring them up faster than his hand can scribble them down, drowning in a nonsensical language of his own making. Smith can prick the listener in short verbal stabs, as on "Jawbone And The Air-Rifle", he can draw them into his own bizarre self-contained stories; in this case a supernatural yarn concerning a rabbit hunter who accidentally upsets a sinister grave keeper and is cursed by the jawbone of the title. It sounds absurd, pretentious even, but in practice Smith's use of narrative makes for repeatedly fascinating listening unveiling his mini-horrors with all the gory relish of Poe or, HP Lovecraft.
Elsewhere, the album is a catharsis fop Smith's frustration of the day, both "Deer Park" and "Mere Pseud Mag Ed" sizzling with satirical venom. Only The Fall, however, could dare ask the question, "Who Makes The Nazis?: a hilarious swipe at racist scum from a man whose own political soundbites have often placed him several steps to the right of Genghis Khan. On the contrary, here he wickedly likens the extreme right to cattle - "longhorn breed"- driven home with a plodding backbeat of bovine groans. As a comment on a highly sensitive, serious issue, "Who Makes The Nazis" is ingenious in its approach, pursuing the root of the problem to unearth "intellectual half wits" and "bad, biased telly" as the guilty culprits. If the album represented something of a lyrical peak for Smith, musically Hex Enduction Hour is just as accomplished. They may not have been listening, but literally millions will recognise the sparse beat of "Hip Priest" after it was used for the moth-fluttering climax of Jonathan Demme's 1991 Oscar winner, The Silence Of The Lambs (Buffalo Bill may be a perverted psychopath but, hey, at least he likes The Fall?).
"Iceland" is just as eerie ~ a rarely performed studio piece that reeks of Nico-era Velvets with its hypnotic, minimalist piano motif. It's as subtle in mood and tempo as "And This Day" iscrude; an audio migraine of hammering drums and bitter organ spasms rounding the album off in a 10-minute cacophony. If The Fall's history were a literary saga, Hex Enduction Flour would be the triumphant close of volume one ( The Riley Years). Not until 1985's sublime This Nation's Saving Grace - the peak of the "Brix Era" - would they really come close to perfection again. While there have been similar highlights since - the early-Nineties double delight of Extricate and Shiftwork or even last years remarkable The Marshall Suite -and consider Smith himself has been quoted as naming it his personal favourite, Hex Enduction Hour alone has the decidedly un-Fall privilege of being singled out as the obligatory masterpiece.
They were then and - so long as Mark E Smith continues to draw breath - still are now, the mighty Fall.
Edited highlights of the recent Gavin Rossdale/Mark E Smith get together. Here y'are then:
"Fuckin' ell! It's like the Hammer House of Horror." Mark E. Smith, leader of The Fall, is cackling with glee at the appearance of Wire (the group) on the front of The Wire (the magazine).
Gavin: "The thing that's motivated me to talk about The Fall is people banging on about alternative music coming from America and how important Thurston Moore was. I always thought that was totally askew. The Fall are much more important than they've had credit for. America got The Pixies and Beefheart, we got The Fall. Mark: "Well, Sonic Youth seemed to make a career out of being like us. They did a Peel session of Fall stuff which was atrocious. You see, I don't set out to influence anyone. Someone once said I was responsible for The Smiths (gives look of tremendous disdain). Being told you're responsible for Sonic Youth... you lose sleep over that."
He (Smith) adds, though, that a new album is due soon on a new label, the 19th odd imprint The Fall have seen.
Mark: "The thing about The Fall is, it might be fun to you, but it isn't fun for me. I'm 40 years old, man. I've had times when I wished I'd been a plumber like my dad. I'd have earned a lot more money and been a lot happier. But... there's something about rock music that hasn't been explored yet. When I feel like packing it in, there's so much crap about that you have to carry on. I work all the time. If I'm not working I'm doing clerical work, tax stuff, to keep the operation going. Trying to keep everone happy is 90% of my job. It's not like what Gavin's doing. He's doing well. What I'm trying to do is, like, keep a fucking cultural thing going. What I'm doing, I *know* what I'm doing. There's no easy route you can take. Full stop, man."
Does it never end? A review of Early Years and A Past Gone Mad from Select:
Two compilations from the realm of Mark E. Smith. The first includes the band's first four singles. The second selects from the last decade, courtesy of Stewart Lee.
There are few bands as well served by unnecessary compilations as The Fall. Of their official 54 LPs, a good 15 are cobbled-together live sets or aimless compilations. But if this process is largely undiscriminating, it also means gems like Early Fall sneak through. It's amazing how exhileratingly strange these songs still sound. From the seance-funk 'Psykick Dancehall' to the ghoulish, spidery 'Various Times', this white-trash speed music is full of urban wraths and twisted mirth. Brilliant. All's not quite so well with A Past Gone Mad. Unusual track choices like the foolish 'I'm Going To Spain' and a glut of material off 1999's Marshall Suite album dilute the impact of premier tackle like the beauteous 'Bill Is Dead'. A worthy introduction to music's perennial outsiders, though, even if the real meat remains on the proper LPs.
Early Fall - 4/5
A Past Gone Mad - 3/5
Review by Stuart Muirhead
John Howard/Ryan Matheson:
Subject: <fallnet> Grant Showbiz in Tape Op #16
Tape Op, for those who don't know, is 'The Creative Music Recording Magazine' and anyone interested in low-budget recording could do worse than going to www.tapeop.com and getting a free subscription.
Grant Showbiz. His name pops up on records by the Fall, The Smiths, Billy Bragg, Alternative TV, Mood Swings and more. The name alone conjures up some flamboyant character, which he is! He got his start doing sound with bunch of rootless hippies known as Here and Now, where he danced on the soundboard and pulled off crazy effects and mixes in a live setting. Then the hippies discovered punk, asking the Fall to come play shows with them and eventually Grant produced the Fall.
It was my first professional record. I did Dragnet in '79 and I suppose the last thing I did was this "Chilinist" thing, which I suspect is the basic track they still used on the single, which was used on the single, which must have been '97. The third album with the Fall was Slates. Adrian Sherwood came in and did some time with it. He had the whole kind of snare mic'd up on he stairs and put through the reverb and then fed back in. I thought "okay, I like this. I'm not going to spend as long as Adrian does getting, but if it happens, go with it." You've heard a sound, it's worked really well, and you spend 3 hours setting up your studio and it doesn't work. I've really learned lots of things like pointing the mike down away from the (kick drum) beater, make sure it's right in there. And then one day you don't do that, you mic it from the front. The mic is outside the drum and it sounds great and you're like "Oh my God! Everything I've learned is wrong." But I can look back at The Fall stuff and think "I don't mind." It's looked upon as brilliant stuff. I think the Fall are probably the best band in the world. 20 years of sheer brilliance.
Grant's career with the Fall lasted until leader Mark E. Smith erratic behavior and alcohol problems made things difficult.
What you see is people going over their peak. Certainly with Mark E. Smith I was thinking "Well you're not making any sense anymore." It came to a head for me when we made Chilinist. I was up there working on it and Craig Scanlon, who was one of the great guitarists of the Fall, had gotten an clarinet and we tried really hard to get it to work, to get a good sound. Then Mark heard it and said "What the fuck is there a clarinet on this song for?" He told us to wipe it off the track. We played the mix again and Mark was like "This is shit. Where is the clarinet? That was the best thing on the track." I've seen Mark since then and he's much more stable and I support him dearly - the last record he made was absolutely fantastic - but I just thought it's not for me. You make a decision. You say, "I can't do this anymore!" I am very close to Mark, I'm in contact with him 8 or 9 times a year. The last time I saw him he was very, very sober after a lot of trouble with the band and Steve Hanley finally leaving. So he cleaned up his act. He did say "We should work together," and then I thought "You've got to actually ask me to do this." I can't phone him up. He never did and I thought, "Okay, well, I leave this. I'll just carry on buying their records." As a kid you think you're going to say to a cabbie, "I've worked with The Fall. I've done about half a dozen albums. They're a seminal punk band." and the guy is like "The Fall?"
[The article continues with The Smiths, Billy Bragg, Wilco, Mood Swings...]
and from the Mayo Thompson interview:
"The Fall, I met them in England. We worked with them up in Rochester, in a studio just outside of, a bit north of Manchester, toward where Mark lived, Mark Smith. The had been with IRS before--they'd made 'Dragnet' and some other stuff. I had seen them, and they were riveting, really good. Mark was really good, and really knew what he was all about. I saw them play the Palladium one night and somebody doused him with a bucketful of water and he didn't say anything. He triumphed in this war. He was a fister, and a very smart guy and a hard guy. And then one day Geoff [Travis, head of Rough Trade] said, 'Oh, you're gonna do some stuff for The Fall...'"
Frischmann interviewed on Radio 1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/alt/feature_elastica3.shtml
You worked with Mark E. Smith on the record - do you have any plans to work with him again?
That wasn't actually a pre-arranged thing. Dave Bush bumped into him in a pub and asked him to come down. Working with Mark E. Smith's always going to be a pretty spontaneous thing, to be honest.
Did you enjoy working with him?
Yeah, it was great. He was totally charming, absolutely brilliant, and very inspiring to have around, like a kind of whirlwind of ideas in the studio. I really enjoyed it. It's very hard to meet your heroes, and I'm a huge Fall fan, but he totally lived up to what I'd hoped he'd be like.
Did you find him intimidating?
No, he was very friendly. I was intimidated by his reputation more than anything else.
Did you learn anything from him about writing or recording?
Mark Smith's whole thing is to just get things done quickly, and I think that's something that I kind of knew anyway, but I'd forgotten.
Do you admire the way he's handled his career, and is it something you'd like to apply to Elastica?
Yeah, I love the way that he just carried on doing his thing, whatever the weather, whatever's fashionable or popular, he just carries on doing his thing. I think he's got a lot of musical integrity, and in that sense, that's something I'd like to bring to Elastica.
Subject: <fallnet> [fallnet] MES & Blondie mentioned in the same review shock!
From the Saturday edition of The Telegraph, mentioned in the review of the Elastica album:
"Pick of the bunch is How He Wrote Elastica Man, which may or may not address those whispers that most of the band's early songs were penned by Damon, but which certainly is the closest that guest vocalist Mark E Smith will ever come to appearing on a Blondie record."
["Ravel's Bolero comes under psychiatric investigation"
1 September 1997 - A British study, published in today's Psychiatric Bulletin, suggests that Ravel's Bolero, reputed to be the most often played composition in the repertoire, was the work of a pathological mind. Dr Eva Cybulska, the author of the study, claims that the famous melody repeated 18 times without change during the course of the piece demonstrates that the French composer was possibly succumbing to Alzheimer's disease. The Kent-based psychiatrist claims that perseveration, an obsession with repeating words and gestures, is one of the more notable symptoms of this pathology. In other words, the repetitive nature of the score's principal theme is symptomatic of the degenerative condition which began to trouble the French composer in 1927 at the age of 52. Was it really Alzheimer's disease or the budding tumor which later killed Ravel during brain surgery in 1937? We look forward to Dr Cybulska's diagnosis of the works of minimalist composers Philip Glass, Terry Reilly and Steve Reich.]
How I laughed at my mothers false teeth,
As they foamed in the water beneath,
But now come the reckonin'
It's me they are beckonin'
Oh I wish I'd looked after me teeth
000326 Doncaster, York, Leeds reviews, BravEar
interview (plus others)
000314 various reviews, old Liz Kershaw i/view
000224 Past Gone Mad details
000213 few bits & pieces
000130 tour details, Tommy Blake stuff
000120 TBLY #18 details, Hanley in Mojo
000110 Dragnet doylum, New Year message, etc
Old stuff: Nov 1997 - Dec 1999
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