Fall News - 23 July 2000

The Fall play a festival in Portugal on the 8th August: http://www.festivalvaldevez.com/programa.htm

Out soon:

Psykick Dance Hall is a budget 3CD set of reissued Fall material from 1977-83.
I Am As Pure As Oranj is a live CD of one of the Edinburgh performances in 1988. Review to follow.

We have a competition to win a few copies of I Am As Pure As Oranj, along with a copy of Dragnet and copies of the Sinister Times newspaper. Check here for details. Closing date 31 July.

The excellent Italian Fall article from Blow Up magazine is now up (gawd bless the mag's editor) here.


Excellent article about Triple Gang's TSNG here: http://www.sfweekly.com/issues/2000-07-12/music.html

Paul Hopkins:

Subject: <fallnet> Triple Gang/Kimo's

Very short set from a generic modern punk-type band to kick things off - pretty ordinary. The main attraction came on about 11.

I think the Triple Gang did a good job. No radical reinterpretations, just solid covers of all the TNSG tracks (plus the bonus CD tracks!). They gave it all they had, which is all any band can do.

Four guys, as promised, plus a (VERY cute) woman introduced as Mia on guitar and keyboard. Charismatic singer

A fairly decent venue - a long narrow room above a bar. Probably 400 people packed in tight. The crowd seemed to know their Fall - no classic heckles, but lots of "Hip, Hip, Hip" etc. Plenty of movement, including the obligatory comedy nutcase.

They had a good solution to the Paintwork problem - couple of minutes instrumental, no vocals but some interesting dissonance (deliberate, I think), then a DAT(?) segue into Damo Suzuki.

No encore, but then again no-one shouted for one! But as Will pointed out, they probably exhausted their repertoire anyway.

So worth the 9 hours driving, then.


Will O'Connor:

Well I thought it was a pretty good performance indeed. Not the reincarnation of R. Totale but I think they should be commended for putting this show together. They really captured the strength of TNSG. I think all the tracks/singles from this era fit extremely well together, the mood and atmosphere of these songs are like no other Fall output. If only the Fall could make another album like this ...!!!! I'm glad the band didn't stray from the original songs, they were almost verbatim, and they played tightly. And surprisingly the vocals didn't need the English accent or -uh's and -ah's. I think the singer should be higher up in the mix though, the music washed him out quite a bit. Will try and make the next show as well


John Howard points out a load of Fall reviews at Q online


Ta Michael:

Subject: <fallnet> The Fall in Zigzag, November 1983 (The Fall Guy by Jonh Wilde)

A couple of weeks back now, rush-hour tube hubbub to home, hemmed in tightly by bustle, a heavy sea of commotion and world-weary, worried commuter frowns...'Better Scream' (Wah!), 'Ambition' (Subway Sect) and 'Bingo Masters' (The Fall) trail after each other on my treasured Walkman and The Fall especially seem like the perfect prescription for these sort of times - when disillusion looms large everywhere. All these disenchanted faces staring back appear GROTESQUE like a horror-show idyll and The Fall's frantic tone row beat row gains a sense of justification in its scowling, unsparing subterranean splutter of noise. Real-life stories (the very thing) but it was no 'Boy's Own'...window-shopping amongst the sprawling, yawning mess of long-drawn faces and the stress 'n' strain of regrets. The maverick Fall - their crazy beat flaring up,'Sometimes, for Christ's sake, all we do is die'. Meanwhile, I remember feeling reassured at the thought that, at least, somehow, we can find room for Marvin Gaye, Elvis Costello, Julian Cope, David Byrne and Mark E Smith...somehow.

I meet The Fall leader and his wife (of a few months) in the plush surrounding of the Columbia Hotel in London's Lancaster Gate. The Angry Young Man of 'Witch Trials' has come six years with his band, The Fall and perhaps, these days, a more realistic sense of his own limitations replaces the prickly awkward Smith of old. Overall The Fall's theatre of the absurd has gained astonishing maturity which has little to do with SOPHISTICATION but everything do with a vital grasp of basics. Mark explains how they push, push, push...

MES:- 'Y'see, when we were starting, it like having to prove a point all the time. It serious in one way and fun in another way. As it goes on, I've realised how much I have to get down to it or risk fading away. Sometimes, it's almost like an obligation to carry on in a way. Sometimes, I just need t o look at all the bad music that's around and it spurs me on a little - perhaps, that's the main motivation most of the time. The attitude has changed a lot in six years though, obviously. Everything has always changed a lot in The Fall - the audience doesn't seem to be a set crowd. The records are all realIy different so people like certain things and not others.

It overwhelms me that The Fall's barbed fury has brought us from 'Witch Trials' to 'Room To Live' and still held us fascinated/ bewildered / uneasy. I wondered just how secure it all is. .. just how we accept that they are going to go on being there, twisting and sketching their low-life dramas.

MES: 'Sometimes I feel like getting rid of The Fall, just stopping. It feels like a round-the-clock thing and there's nothing to show for it, except the records. There's a certain ego in my attitude I suppose but I have the sort of ego that doesn't get me to worry about it. I don't have to lie about anything though a lot of people DO. They don't do it out of connivance or evil - just fear. Well, I try not to fall into that. I suppose I've got to watch it 'cus I'm getting old. I'm a lot older than you, I bet, so I won't try to pretend that I know what you're into. Five years has not changed me completely though. I just don't have the ideals that I used to have. All those left-wing ideas that I had early on are gone of course.'

Strange that ageing should be something to concern Mark Smith because they have never grown up like other bands, always managing to retain their own outlaws independence...never stopping to risk being pinned down... avoiding the snare of professionalism and a dampening of spirits by remaining hell-bent on stripping sound down naked.

MES: ' There's definitely no kindred spirit to us but it;s not as though we ever planned to be 'outsiders' or whatever. I used to be really surprised when people used to say that. I just thought we were innovators. I go through these phases of accusing everybody of copying us but really it's only occasionally true'.

Mark's wife explains, 'There was a time when I asked Mark if he'd heard that "Under Pressure" song that Bowie did with Queen and he just said, "Yeah! They ripped that bass-line off 'An Older Lover' on 'Slates'.

The Fall's mythology - breaking down sound / sharp-set / storm-tossed slice-of-life drama. The Mighty Fall. Suggestive rant recitals / dragging chords across poisioned snarled words / lurching at sham wisdom (The God). The Fall unfold. Grotesque caricature / sharp scenarios / random association of thought / irregular motion / scratchy commotion. The Fall make a devil of a row and behind it all, I sometimes suspected a knowing irony or a wilful obscurity.

MES: 'I sometimes dislike the fact that everything I write has to be picked apart though I usually play up to it straight away. Some songs are just poetic exercises or something. But yeah, I always like to tease people. Sometimes it's a bit of a game but it's a FUN game - that;s one of the pleasures I get out of it. I'm often accused of a wilful obscurity but it's not like that. There's too much of this sort of disease - people wanting to tamper with everything to see how it works. It's just that I've never had that particular disease and it's never fascinated me. Things can be tampered with too much, y'know.'

Beyond their thick, dense tangle of primal noise and into their heart of insinuation and cryptic inscriptions... The Fall are open to misunderstanding and open to offers. Smith's harangue, in song and interview has always flirted with ambiguities and has rarely dealt in straightforward opinion. Particularly, in a recent 'Allied Propaganda fanzine interview, his abstruse ramblings trod a very fine line between smashing (liberal) complacency and downright bigotry. Their torrent of words spits and ferments but beneath the cynicism is a straining confusion.

MES: 'I think the ambiguity in the songs can be good - it might mean that they have more relevance, not being understood dead easily. There's also the chance of misunderstanding, I suppose. 'Lie Dream of a Casino Soul' was a good example of that. It was just the story of one person growing out of that thing - some felt that I was slagging that whole attitude which it wasn't at all. It's a great shame that it needs an interview to explain that. People expect you to write a 'Young Soul Rebels' type thing - just the obvious way. I don't mind people treating us with great seriousness - it gives me great pleasure to see that people are taking the time and bother to think about it.'

If 'Hex' saw The Fall diverging into areas where sound was given new emphasis, 'Room to Live' was perhaps their most cluttered and clumsy LP yet. Whereas 'Hex Enduction Hour' proved invigorating as a jagged, jarring mincing of sounds and music (rough layers of noise scraping violently against Smith's typically venomous outpourings), 'Room to Live' lacked an abrasive edge and a baiting tension.

MES: 'Well, there was a lot of disillusion in the band around 'Room to Live' time. Personally, I was quite happy with it although I disliked the way the record company presented it; it wasn't the way I envisaged it turning out. I knew it wasn't going to be the best LP we've done of course. It was just necessary to do it , really. Around that time, people were beginning to lose interest - it was a bad time all round! Whatever, we recovered with 'The Man Whose Head Expanded' which has sold well.'

This year at least, they have left it to live performances to reach a state where they seem in control of distortion / and almost SAVAGE edge / drawing sound back tightly - almost to breaking point. From those scratchy, thinly-produced beginnings, they have steadily perfected this Fall Beat (which recalls those first R'n'R flutters), this primitive knowledge and blatant simplicity (through glazed eyes). Live now, The Fall have a depth of sound on a par with the Hellish fathoms of The Birthday Party at THEIR most infernal . . . Smith's flailing torrent of words grating against the entire corrugated knot of discord. The Fall at The Venue in March of this year was a random order of inimitable might. Scrape, scrape away.

MES:- 'Yeah! We're pretty good live now -better than on record of late. The live sets were getting too long though, about one and three-quarter hours but that's changing now. The songs are getting shorter. We give good y'see. We don't give audiences SHIT. Not that we aim at 'entertainment' in the accepted sense. The whole idea of 'entertainment' just stinks to me. It's a much-abused word. Most people's idea of that is a band playing the songs that people want to hear and have already heard. We can play totally new sets and people seem to like that. The Fall live is a means of showing us out of the studio, it's two different ideas really. Everything gets worse the more technicians go into the studio and the more technique takes over. Anyway, we're more of a band these days in that the others will throw more of their own ideas in. They still have little interest in doing interviews though, it's just the sort of people they are; very private I suppose!'

The latest Fall single, released at the end of September, retains that cramped, tense unrest of the previous releases, restoring the bite and the poisoned sting of provocation that 'Hex' spilled out. Considering the infamous Smith policy of constantly moving forward and away from their own past, it seemed odd that the double-single featured 'Container Drivers' and 'New Puritan' from the 1980 Peel sessions.

MES: 'Yeah, it is a strange idea for The Fall. But it is an interesting one. It's a bit like bringing out a book collection, y'know. It is good to show how 'Container Drivers' differs from the 'Grotesque' version.

Wings on the other single is like a science-fiction story set to music. 'Kicker Conspiracy' is one of those sheer exercises in being provocative that I do from time to time. I do enjoy that 'aggressive' sort of thing. Maybe we have perfected that now.'

The scattering of possibilities. Trailing off the rails. Scrape and scratch away, this abtuse harangue...these loose riddles. Smith obviously relishes the heretical drama of their rock 'n' roll. Yet there are people who cannot see the The Mighty Fall have come SO FAR since 'Witch Trials'. Their myth, stretching through 'Dragnet', 'Grotesque', 'Slates', 'Hex' and 'Room to Live' has seen them force away from the usual straight lines that we expect and get.

The Fall may not have dealt in a staggering range of emotions. Those dreary visionaries see The Fall as plain and ugly. (Oh yes!...dreary Ed.) Their sharp-tongued psychodramas are accused of retreating into their own corners and shouting out at the converted. People have perhaps expected them to cease their tumult. If people have given up on Mark E. Smith, they probably feel that he has now said it all. Perhaps The Fall lack that uplifting power and sometimes appear as one-dimensional in their bizarre non-conformity.

MES: 'There's a lot more beauty on this new LP. Some of the new songs aim straight at the heart. It's still aggressive in a way though. 'Room to Live' was aiming somewhere else. It wasn't about emotion as such, but it was supposed to be looser in form than anything we had done before. 'Perverted by Language' is a lot funnier as well. We craft everything much better these days. Seriousness and humour are blended together more now. It is difficult to say though whether a song is meant one way or another. I think it's best if a writer doesn't think TOO much about what is being written. I don't over-analyse what I write. Some of it might be trivial and some might be obscure but it all goes towards the whole. Then again, I think my most trivial lyrics are ten times better than anything that's taken seriously - say like (yawn) Elvis Costello, boring writer, boring man.'

And there remains for us, new impressions and new ways of describing The Awesome Fall. They tend to inspire extremes of die-hard love or steadfast hate.

MES: 'Often, it is more important for people listening to us or writing about us, We find it impossible to get complacent though. I've been really excited about making all this new material. In the past, we've just gone into the studio, done the record and forgotten about it. There's a limit to how much you can do that without making huge mistakes. More thought goes into it now. But there are very different times. you can't just throw records out like you used to be able to. It's a good thing for us because WE ARE STILL UNIQUE. In fact, we're probably a lot more unique than we were three years ago.'

There lurks a new optimism so how does the near future shape up for Mark Smith?

MES: 'The new LP is very different from what we have done before. We've made more of a go of it this time. 'Room to Live' probably WAS a bit messy, but it's just the natural thing of getting better at what we do. Although we might be more proficient now, WE TAKE MORE CHANCES now than ever.

'With 'Witch Trials' we knew those so well before we recorded them. On 'Hex' there was a lot more experiment. I just have faith now that the band is good enough to carry it off. It's not so much spontaneous as a trust in the lads.'

So? They unwind and wind us right up. They still stand as the round pegs in the square (w)hole, a law unto themselves in the arbitrary scheme, the word-spinning abstraction, the breaking-up and breaking-down of their own mystique. And Smith?

MES: 'Well, we are more of a band these days. I don't have to tell people what to do anymore. In the past, I would be carrying the group through every note. I can just be myself more now. The band are still really young, of course. When we were doing 'Grotesque', they were all about seventeen still. For me, it is more of an enthusiasm now. I've more of an appetite for it. It used to be like self-destructing bursts of creativity. Different things spur me on now. I can look more at what I write - do it the best way I can. I've talked about it being like 'work' in the past. I'm just realistic enough to spend the time behind the scenes sorting everything out. That's where a lot of Fall imitators let themselves down. They think they can just go on stage and take the piss out of people.'

With Marc Riley departed, The Fall back with Rough Trade, 'Perverted by Language' arrives at a time of change and renewed positivism (?).

MES: 'It's more positive than it's been for a couple of years. In 1982, I was just getting sick of 'Hex' and 'Room to Live' throughout the Australian tour. Now, we've been bringing in songs from those LPs so it has changed. All the songs we are doing now came out of that pessimistic period so perhaps every cloud has a silver lining. Ha!'

So where is the value and what is valued? What drives The Fall on and how does Smith push to further the fascination and the thrill, the sudden motion and the madness in this area?

MES: 'As long as there is something I want to write about, then I'll want to keep the band going, that's my vehicle for it. There is always the nagging fear of running out of ideas but it's no problem really. I've got hundreds of songs from years back, stuffed into drawers. It is very much a need to write that draws me on. It is something of a hunger. It's not like a masturbation exercise. I just feel that I'm missing something if I don't write about it. The attitude is definitely stronger at the moment. When we sing 'We are The Fall'; it is all about that...a higher sense of purpose in what we do.'

The 'Perverted by Language' material displays a savage splendour and naked disharmony the like of which r 'n' r has rarely witnessed. Showcased live on recent live dates (with Mark's wife, Brix, contributing occasional vocals and guitar), the new songs drag the Fall Beat into new areas where sound is torn to shreds and crudely fractured...then revitalised and reconstructed with an astonishing raw energy.

At the North London Poly gig in late Sept, they showed that five years of breaking everyone else's rules still leaves them the imagination to break a few of their own. The abrasive urban rockabilly of 'Fiery Jack' reared its unexpected head and perhaps The Fall past is no longer so taboo.

The skin is ripped ragged to show up the unexpected slants and cracked hollows...


Excellent piece here by Peter R:

I played Wonderful & Frightening World at the weekend and DDD seemed like the best song on it. It's slightly too long but it's the only track on the LP where they play as a band. The emotional register of it goes up a level. The Fall always seem to hint that someone is to blame but on Disney's Dream Debased, Smith is on the point of giving up on that.

The other stronger tracks on the LP have got very solid bass and drums with some good guitar but also some aimless guitar work. I name no names but for most of the LP there is one guitarist doing aimless fill-ins. The Fall are unique but that doesn't entitle them to musical redundancy.

On this point the whole repetition idea should be challenged. I still believe that the best Fall song is Kicker Conspiracy because it gets the closest to having no extra notes. Repetitious songs obviously won't ever reach that point. On Athlete Cured or even Wings, the band becomes only a committed rhythmic driving force. Without the interest of the words and their delivery the material would fall as flat as Ark. While Athlete Cured and Wings are great tracks they're not the Fall at their peak.

Most repetitive music is repetitive for hypnotic effect. The Fall's repetition is not particularly hypnotic and it only works as a way of communicating Mark E Smith's bloody-mindedness. The idea of a ten minute Fall track is that it is not going to end until he bloody well says so. Very suitable to represent MES's personality but not so successful if he wasn't holding it together. Hence you end up with a container-load of apparently great songs that are all almost impossible to cover.

The other thing about W&FW is that it is around this time that the Fall decided that they could get away with the sort of mood-scape noodling that makes the repetition look good.


Pete Diaper:

Mark Lynds:
> If I could modify one animal in one way, I'd have to go for
> flying Jack Russels.

Urgh, think of the golden showers! Not to mention the, er, brown hail. Apart from that though, a good idea. You'd have packs of them attacking huge fat flying labradors, which would be the equivalent of yer Lancaster bombers (genetically enhanced with machine-gun turrets, which fire fleas and are operated by mice). Peoples' driveways would have to double as landing strips. Imagine some wounded Great Dane coming in low, arse on fire, undercarriage (legs) still in the up position. You mark my words, that'll be a familiar sight in 5 years time.

Recent news.... logo-a-go-go

000709 few bits
000620 Ashton, Hull, Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Edinburgh reviews, old Volume piece
000530 LA2 reviews
000522 few old LP reviews
000502 bits & pieces
000424 TBLY #19 details, Prop details
000408 more Leeds reviews. WSC interview, other interview snippets
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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