Fall News 1 December 2000

This is the latest news and gossip off FallNet for those with weak stomachs.

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ta to biv for this

Recent news....

001110 Unutterable reviews
001021 Stanza festival, HighSmith Teeth, comedy dogs
001011 RFH reviews, new Cog Sinister releases
000912 DOSE interview, Fall calendar
000822 Portugal, Manchester gigs 
000809 bits & pieces
000723 Psykick Dance Hall, Pure As Oranj details, Triple Gang reviews
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


The Unutterable
The album's out - it's great. Order it from Action Records. Reasonable prices, great service to UK & abroad, and they'll give you 10% off if you say you came thru The Fall's website
actionlogo.gif - 2002 Bytes

Download the interactive promo for the album here (520 K)

15 Nov 2000 - HMV

Ta to Ian Willey for this animated gif: http://www.visi.com/fall/news/hmv.html

Mark O'Connor:
Went to see the Mighty Fall at HMV London last evening (in-store signing, album promo etc).The setting was a bit odd to say the least. FF's in record store isles. Tom Head was not to be found. This could be attributable to the fact that the stage setup was quite small. There was a TV-wall image thing behind the band which had real-time in-store security footage of the stage. Quite grainy/shakey images and a bit offputting when the camera zoomed and moved around the members on stage but the effect was utilising a ceiling camera, so as a backdrop it was ok.

MES turned up to applause, joining Julia, Adam and Nev on stage. Drums and beats were taken care of by a DAT machine atop Julia's keyboard. MES was in fine form, he even smiled at one stage (grrrr).

Crowd 150-250.
Fall played (in no particular order)
- Two Librans
- Dr. Bucks Letter
- Way Round
- Serum
- And Therein...
- I'm going to Spain
- .. and possibly another track

Chris Hopkins:
It was a very strange "gig" in that the stage was set up at the end of the aisles which were still in place, covered in tarpaulin and protected by crowd control barriers. The overall effect was therefore like standing in a queue, with no moshpit in sight. "I'm going to Spain" was the worst I've ever heard...Adam appeared to forget the notes halfway through (or maybe he'd just lost the will to live -it's a possibility that MES includes it in the set purely to piss the musicians off). Excellent! I'd have felt cheated if they'd played the tunes from the album competently and dutifully.

21 Nov 2000 - Nottingham - Rock City

Ian Leaver:
Sometimes it's hard to explain why The Fall will always be the best band in the world but last night summed it up. Shambolic, drunken, bad tempered at times, funny at others but not for one second dull. I can never remember set lists but they started with And Therein, The Joke, lots off Unutterable, Touch Sensitive, F-Olding Money, Antidote. "Who the fuck are you?" to somebody who shouted "Good evening Mark". He doesn't look a well man and was pretty pissed (in the UK rather than USA sense), although I've seen him worse. Made Adam go and stand at the front instead of lurking by the amp, pulled Nev over who landed on top of him and continued to play while lying on the floor. Smith himself got up about three songs later. Seen to be smiling on more than one occasion which is always nice. Finished with a whimper rather than a bang as they finally gave up. Fucking great night though

22 Nov 2000 - London - Dingwalls

Preview from the Guardian:
The Fall - on tour

Mark Smith is governor of a highly independent state with a periodically restles population and a language which only he fully understands. This state is The Fall, and it's a place where he's lived for over 20 years (though as a scourge of nostalgia, this is an issue on which he's prickly), weathering both critical acclaim and popular success with equal and articulate disdain. Recent changes within the group, like the departure of longtime bassist Steve Hanley, might have for a while thrown The Fall's stability into question, but the arrival of a new album - The Unutterable - has gone some way to re-establishing Smith's command on matters. The Fall, basically, are always there. The only thing that changes is the time.

For good but rather tedious reasons (involving disorganisation mostly) we didn't have tickets and hadn't had the chance to sort any out. There was a queue of people picking up tickets they'd booked and security were telling us that returns if available would be there at 9. Weather was cold but dry.
Back there at ten to nine, I had the impression that Dingwalls weren't used to putting on live entertainment, especially live entertainment that people wanted to see. There was a bunch of people waiting to collect tickets they'd already booked, a bunch waiting for returns, and thousands of people on the guest list, who seemed to only be allowed in one at a time. All these people kept being told to form different queues and they all kept getting it wrong. I waited in the returns queue for three quarters of an hour (that's 45 minutes of valuable drinking time) behind a bunch of idiots who had tickets to collect but couldn't be bothered to collect them until 9.30. Just as I found myself standing at the counter by accident being told there still aren't any returns yet, this wanker turns up next to me and says "Am I on the guest list? I'm from MTV." MTV...
You may have seen me. A man in a woollen hat, striding purposefully away from the venue, telling the queue (and his three friends) rather loudly that the place was a fucking shambles. What annoyed me most was that if we'd known earlier that there was no chance of getting in we'd have been off to see Godspeed You Black Emperor at the Scala. And all the media whores waltzing in asking each other who The Fall were - I hate London gigs. And Arsenal lost 4-1.
I did see the back of MES's head at some point, in the doorway, but I'm afraid I couldn't see what he was wearing.

Mark O Connor:
Popped into Dingwalls (2 mins away). As confirmed earlier on FREEDONIA, there was a bit of a crowd outside. Went inside...venue fullish already.
Fall come on at 21:45 (minor miracle)
I found a pen in my bag, got an 'I, Ludicrous' flyer and took down a set-list. See below
I don't think the drummer was Tom, a good giveaway was the fact that he looked noting like Tom. He gave a good workout to all tracks even when having to be reigned in by Nev for beating out wrong drum part. He seemed solid enough as I said and did the job admirably.
Adam was as reliable as ever (even though he'd been in the pub for a couple of hours previously. Nev was brill as usual...I think he went through 3 guitars.
Julia was doing her bit for the cause. Good keyboard work, to pad out some of the effects required on the new album. MES -brill, kept it together all evening, smiled, stood on stage edge, sang and became quite expressive with his hands which was a novelty(not the normal 'looking bored at my fingernails')
Many of the tracks from the new album had a recorded DAT lead-in, then eack track had a punky work over, really refreshing.
Fall played a broad selection of work, even 'Nation's...' stuff. The crown responded and everyone seemed to be having a good time!
...anyhoo 22/11/00 list
They never leave stage without...
05.DR. BUCK'S LETTER (Brilliant version, Mark really tried on this one)
09.BIRTHDAY SONG (lovely rendition, MES was on hunkers toward drum kit, looking introspective for this one)
12. KETAMINE SONS (This gets very PIXIE-like, or is it just me?)
...oh no they've gone
DAS KATERERERERER (ALBUM TRACK ON P.A) ....they come out for more
15.PAINTWORK (I can safely say that in 9 yrs of going to 23+Fall in london appearances, they have never played this one) What a F**king treat.. MES gave it the full 'Maaaak' treatment - an absolute joy
band goes off DEVOLUTE comes on PA, lights don't go up for 10mins.
I can safely say that the Dingwalls do was brilliant, a good 7/10 from me... actually, knotch that up by 1, I forgot to mention the feeling of absolute raw theatre that goes on at any Fall gig and which went on last night!

They were GREAT - 100 times better than the RFH. That said, I'm not entirely convinced that they overly-endeared themselves to the audience. Before they came on, we were subjected to a quite ludicrously excruciating wait - and when they finally did deign to set foot on stage, a bleary-eyed MES struggled with negotiating the curtain, cursorily rejected the mic which was set up and then proceeded to knock over Neville's mic stand - well it didn't look very promising.
But thankfully that proved deceptive - MES was on good form/voice (best adlib: "I'm saving up to buy one of those wheelchairs that go up and down the stairs" in Birthday) and the band sounded hard as nails. This is more like it - stick to crummy dumps in future! The stand-in drummer was top-notch (points will have to be deucted though for his Hawaiian shirt). While Tom's look of furious concentration always conveys the impression that each song is taxing him to the very limit, whoever it was was totally unruffled and bang-on. Although there was much more of The Unutterable on evidence than at RFH, they're *still* flogging And Therein and The Joke to death! Admittedly these versions sounded infinitely better than they have done over the past few years - but even so. If they're going to pull out a few golden oldies, why not surprise us? Just as I was thinking this, the final encore was a GLORIOUS Paintwork (!!!!!) The other major highlight was an MES-less run through of Ketamine Sun which ended the "proper" set - as mesmerising as any 5 minutes of the Hanley era! OH YES!
The ending though was as messy as the beginning. The band trooped off after the 2nd encore, the DAT for Devolute played through, the DAT for Birthday began (again) and was then switched off, and for the next 10 mins the stage lights remained on and the house lights stayed off - but eventually people took the hint and started filing out. So instead of ending on a high after an awesome Paintwork, they managed to leave everybody with a sense of anti-climax. Ho hum.

The Fall - London Camden Dingwalls

two more random thoughts (picked from many) about gig:
*Forgot how good Touch sens is...especially as an opening track...i danced like i just got outta jail. *I recommend attending gigs in a skirt...


back in the real world, there's a live review in the Guardian - in the proper paper, opposite the editorial stuff. It's Jonathan Romney, who in my opinion is a Proper Writer, and, most importantly of all, he's says roughly what I've been thinking the last couple of times I saw The Fall:


The web page doesn't have the big, glorious technicolour photo that features in the paper. It's a photo I haven't seen before, and I mention this because it clearly wasn't taken this week. Behind MES is the slightly blurred but clearly distinguishable figure of Steve Hanley.

I would rate the Dingwalls show one of my most enjoyable of recent years. There are two main reasons for this 1) I forgot to bring the microphone for my MD, so didn't spend the gig clinging to my precious hardware and 2) the drumming ...
The drumming: (with all due respect to Tom, who's a great drummer in his own right ... etc) This guy, Spencer(?), has worked with Julia previously, so she knew how good he was, but he hadn't rehearsed with the band until the Nottingham soundcheck the previous evening. This, coupled with his style - whereas Tom plays subservient to the backing track, Spencer bashes, disrespectfully, all over the top of it - created that wonderful garageband sense of tension and frailty. It could have all fallen apart at any moment .. but didn't. That is how I like my Fall live and probably why my interest waned slightly in the early 90's with all those slick, predictably polished performances.
This appraoch would seem to find favour with the band, too - Adam had said that the Nottingham gig had been his favourite yet with the band. Paintwork was a nice surprise and I was pleased to see the back of Spain (MES: 'Nev's favourite'!!). Otherwise, the blend of Unpronouncable and MS material was just fine. I'm now pig-sick that I can't make any other dates this week, bah!

alan mcbride:
dingwalls again, deja vue, and the usual london fuckwit contingent, present company excepted.
position stage right, behind the mixing desk, from here you see the audience as the band do, and it's not pretty. sound is good, but vox not quite so. and the whole set seems heavily reliant on pre-programming, nowt wrong with that I guess.
dr buck a highlight. gold amex card - books - j d salinger - catcher in the rye. and the bald giant getting over-excited at the front, mark wisely keeping his distance, even with the stage they seem almost eye-to-eye. and christ but hasn't mark got about the skinniest arse on the planet.
paintwork strangely saddenning, dredging up an odd nostalgia, and the london fuckless fuckwit wittless twats who think it clever to fiddle with the mixing desk settings every time the mixer moves away, the the oft-sneered at rolling rocks tasting like nectar when you know you have to stop after three, and a very nice camden town jamaican veggie pattie to pad the gut for the drive to my hotel in st. albans.

So farewell then, Tom Head... All-round nice bloke etc... But life goes on indeed, even more so in The FALL. New boy Spencer (formerly of Intastella, and who'd once worked with Julia donkey's years ago) is quite possibly the best thing that's happened to the band in ages. Incredibly (by other bands' standards, that is), he hadn't rehearsed with the band yet - and this was the second night of the tour!
A truly packed Dingwalls: always nice to see The FALL playing to a capacity crowd. From the opening "Touch Sensitive", it was obvious Spencer was the part. And for the first time in a long, long, while at a Fall gig, NOTHING to moan about ("Ketamine Sons" sounded just great as an instrumental). A true monster of a gig, thankfully focusing on the new album, even managing to make its songs sound more in-yer-face than they were first time around. "Dr Buck's Letter" was revamped inna-northern-funk-stylee, the beat not unlike a very slow "Psykick Dancehall". Some songs has to be cut short - understandably so, given the lack of rehearsals - but they still came out mighty raw, and gloriously tight.
"I'm Going To Spain" is now best remembered as a lame joke (hurrah), and "And Therein" sounds beautiful again, mainly thanks to Spencer's drumming. The FALL group has never been about musos, and but this Dingwalls gig was one of those moments when you find yourself thinking, " THIS IS IT, they've got it absolutely right tonight". All those nostalgia merchants who still mourn ye olde P Hanley + K Burns + S Hanley days, will be astonished by this tour and the next release (surely the new e.p./album MUST be recorded ASAP).
"Way Round" and "Two Librans" are unquestionably classics in their own right, and with the combined live drums/sequencers they simply blow you away. And oh yes, the final encore. Everybody was taken by surprise, this being "Paintwork"'s first airing in yonks. Extremely competent version too, Nev clearly enjoying the big riffs and MES being, erm, economical with the lyrics - but did we care? Did we bollocks! This was simply The Fall's best gig in three years, hands down (Billy). And according to Adam, the night before in Nottingham was even better...
All the "familiar faces in the crowd" usually discuss their favourite songs after the gig, which bits they preferred etc. Well, after Dingwalls, a familiar face turned to me and summed up the mood with laser-like precision: "What a band...". Sir, carry on Sir!

24 Nov 2000 - Liverpool - Lomax

pretty similar set to london
new drummer is good ... hope he stays ...
not too much madness from mark
touch sensitive
the joke
way round
dr. bucks' letter
hands up billy
f-oldin' money
two librans
sons of temperance
birthday song
hot runes
cyber insekt
ketamine sun
(das katerer)
encore 1:
hey student
and therein
encore 2:
ten houses of eve
encore 3:

much as i hate to say it (and believe me i do) julia really made a difference to this gig - some of those songs would have really fallen flat with only guitar/drums/bass ... true to form, though, her guitar was completely out of tune all the way through
did the drummer play the other gigs so far? whoever he was, he had a better grasp of some of the songs than tom did after 2 years ...

alan mcbride:
Liverpool Lomax, about two-thirds full, nice enough atmosphere, lots of enthusiasm up front - people who've been into t' fall for decades but never yet seen them mixed with some regulars.. I arrive very tired after the drive from London, and distressingly sober, but find a nook on the extreme right of the stage where I can prop myself up against the iron barrier.
Band take the stage on time and very sober and relaxed in demeanour, rested I guess after a day's break after Dingwalls. I hadn't heard about Head not making the tour so I was confused when the chap I thought was a stage hand settled in behind drums. But yeah - as others have noted, he's very excellent indeed, at least in terms of what's required of a drummer in the fall.
Opener was Touch Sensitive, with Nev characteristically enthused doing the 'I know...I know...hey hey hey hey...' bit. Mark came on promptly enough, also seemingly sober and relaxed, his washed out and stretched jumper down below his arse, and the requisite authoratative declamation of 'good evening we are the fall'.
Followed by The Joke, which I never really liked live, but which they're getting better at playing I guess. Then Way Round, heavily reliant on the DAT but sounding great. Corny lyrics though - not a fave of mine.
Mark was uncharacteristically relaxed and friendly through all this, even asking Nev before taking his mic stand away, smiling reassuringly at Adam before fucking with his settings and strumming his strings, patting Nev on the back, even a half embrace, and when he does deign to smile there's a real comedy in his aspect that's quite endearing.
In case we missed it first time, 'Good evening we are the fall...but you knew that anyway', and then Antidote, a bit lazy on the vocal efforts here, and also some corny new lyric about 'the driver of the train, goes round and round again', for christs sake.
And tonight's Dr Buck's letter was another stormer. 'I never go out without my gold amex card....people don't believe that I have one...it took me some months to figure it out...and books...j d salinger...catcher in the rye...and music...cds...cassettes and cds....'.
The drumming really was strong throughout, and Mark did his usual trick of dropping the mic into the bass drum, to excellent effect.
Then Hands Up Billy, with more vox contributions from Mark than of late, in fact it was more like Mark taking the lead really with Nev backing.
Things fell apart in F-olding Money, as indeed they have every time I've seen this track played, really. Surely it can't be that difficult to play? And then things got worse in Two Librans when Nev shredded his strings. Julia sauntered over with her guitar but he perservered. The song still came off ok really - in fact, I suspect some of the guitars are on the DAT for that track maybe.
They tried to push on with Sons of Temperence but it was clearly lost by then so Mark took them off stage. He did it gently though - no venom evident. But Nev didn't look happy on returning so maybe the coaching wasn't quite so gentle.
And into another strong rendition of Birthday, followed by Cyber, where unfortunately Julia's head mic was either not functioning or just totally buried in the mix, but the track sounded great even without the backing chorus.
Ketamine was next, and was quite a high point really. After hearing it sans vox at Dingwalls it was good to hear Mark's Arab Strap impression and he threw in a segment, read from a notebook, at the end - basically some stuff from 'CD in your hand' from Post Nearly Man, and some 'Modernity...Moderninity...' bits too. Excellent stuff.
Then the first proper exit - with Das Katerer instrumental as Interlude. Back on stage for what you could call the first encore I guess, even though no audience calls could be heard above the interlude track. And this part of the gig was up there with the best fall moments for me across all fifty of the gigs I've seen - they played Hey Student followed by And Therein. What was great about it was that it was pretty flawless firstly, and that there was a great contrast between the energetic vocals of Student (lots of gesturing and agression from Mark in this one) and the very soft, confident, vocally rich and crystal clear delivery of And Therein. And to top all that, the band kept the jam going with a build in tension and volume, and Mark did another reading, this time a piece I've not heard before, couldn't make out the words much but what mattered was the vocal texturing which was stunning over the extended krautrock workout of Therein. Mark had been singing the track very softly, but he bridged between the track proper and the reading bit with a truly unearthly snarl which mutated into a howl much like at the start of Code:Selfish, and he practically had the mic in his mouth to achieve this. And at the end, whether intentional or not, it was almost jazz-like in the way each band member struggled on top of the mix (maybe the mixer's doing?), firstly the drums swelled above the guitars, then the bass sound mounted and distorted to get on top, and then Julia's keyboard synth wash soared up, and then back to the guitar riff again. This whole track really was chilling stuff, pure aural theater, at least from where I was standing.
And another exit. This time lots of audience demands and a proper encore. We get Devolute as an interlude track and it sounds great at full volume, reminding me of how good the early Nagle stuff sounded when the pre-natal forms of Pep, Powderkeg and the like were used as intro material.
The band return and settle into WB. Nev looks pissed off and fucks Mark's mic stand into the drum kit for some reason, but Mark doesn't see this, but spots it when he takes the stage. The song sounds really good, the vocals very strong and clear too, but inexplicably Mark's mood seems to darken in a split second, and he just stops abruptly and storms off shouting stuff to himself. The band press on. Julia follows Mark. It all looks decidedly over, but Nev sparks up Ten Houses, and Mark returns part way through, which is quite a surprise. So they trundle through a passable delivery to finish off their second encore, and then they're gone again.
At this point I really don't expect a return, and the audience are only making a token effort at calling them back, so I split, but just as I reach the door I hear them start Paintwork! And it's a long working of the track too, and sounds better than at Dingwalls.
Track list again -
Touch Sensitive,
The Joke,
Way Round,
Dr Bucks Letter,
Hands Up Billy,
F-oldin' Money,
Two Librans,
Sons of Temperance,
Cyber Insekt,
Ketamine Sons (with CD In Your Hand added in),
Das Katerer (Instrumental),
Hey Student,
And Therein (with spoken word bit added in),
Devolute (Instrumental),
Ten Houses,
I suspect Serum and Hot Runes were also in there but I don't recall where - damn.

alan also picked up the following:

The man who made his Mark with The Fall - Paddy Shennan - The Echo.

A wise man once warned: Never meet or interview your heroes - you'll only be dissappointed.

But after several near misses, there was now no escape...the time had finally come to speak to the upredicatable Mark e. Smith, leader of The Fall for the last 23 years. And, according to some, not the easiest of interviewees.

Smith, to my ears, is responsible for some of the greatest records ever made (most of them many years ago).

But, to my and many other Fall fans' ears, there have been several dodgy spells - although the band's new album, The Unutterable, is widely viewed as a return to form.

There have also been spells of disharmony. The Fall have released about 35 albums - and Smith has used a similar amount of musicians One of many incarnations disintegrated on a New York stage in 1998, when ex-drummer Karl Burns vaulted his drum kit and pinned the tired and emotional-looking Smith against a wall.

All, you could tell, was not well. End result: drummer, guitarist and bass guitraist (long time servant Steve Hanley) left the band. And Smith? He just dusted himself down and carried on with keyboard player/partner Julia Nagle and another set of hired hands.

The Fall's delightfully-named producer Grant Showbiz says of the singer, 'Always being slightly crazy is one of the brilliant things about him: he's from Planet Mark. But what doesn't come over is that he's a lovable, wonderful guy, not a curmudgeonly old git who sits in the pub and rambles on about how much he hates everything."

Smith spoke to me, for about eight minutes, from the restaurant of a London hotel. He wasn't curmudgeonly, but he certainly came across as slightly crazy. And, erm, merry.

Producer Showbiz says the new album is your best for at least a decade. Smith: "He's the producer, he would say that! Ha, ha!"

But isn't he implying that previous releases haven't ben up to scratch?

Smith: "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha ha ha!'

Right, so how do you rate The Unutterable?

Smith: "I like this one...I like the middle bit best. Does that make sense?"

The singer then launches into a rambling explanation about hwo the band no longer uses Pete Waterman's Manchester studios - and that part of the album was instead recorded in a "cubicle".

By The Fall's standards, this latest line-up has been together some time. Have you managed to mould them yet?

Smith: Yes, but it's taken me two years. They're about 10 years younger than me; they're brats...I always recruit people who haven't been in groups before."

So you don't want anyone with baggage?

(As if I'd just uttered the word that had been on the tip of his tongue for the last 12 years); "Baggage! Yes! That's right! That's right!"

We talk about tonight's gig at the Lomax and he says; "Liverpool was the first town to recognise us. We played lots of gigs at Erics in the late 70s. Sorry, they're all giggling here..."

Finally (although it wasn't intended to be my final question), I asked whether he feels vindicated as none of the many musicians who have left The Fall have gone on to greater things - with the possible exception of Marc Riley, though it could be argued that has merely been as a sidekick to Radio 1's Mark Radcliffe, rather than as a musician.

Smith: "Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"

So, do you feel vindicated?

Smith: "Yes, Paddy. It's good to talk to you, Paddy. It's nice to hear a Scouse accent (Paddy: I haven't got one)...I'm down in London. I've got to go now"


(The Fall play The Lomax, Hotham Street, tonight. Expect the unexpected)

25 Nov 2000 - Edinburgh - The Liquid Room

I. Askew:
If there's one thing about early starts, it forces MES & crew on stage reasonably promptly and we don't have to wait hours for them to show. Pity they don't leave themselves enough time to deliver a full set before chucking out time...
For their second visit to Edinburgh in 5 months, the venue is the same but the set is given a bit of an overhaul. Back in the eighties, you could never predict a Fall setlist as they always played songs well in advance of album release. Nowadays, you expect to know all the tunes and this being the promo tour for "Unutterable", threw up no major surprises.
9.00pm on the dot, out troop the footsoldiers and launch into "WB". A decent opener. MES appears a few minutes later and its game on. He seems up for it. A cursory "good evening we are the Fall" is thrown our way, which always pleases. He lurches around the stage resplendant in shiny shirt and catalogue trousers, glaring into the mic as if its the only thing present. There's no sign of his knob twiddling/ drum battering menace tonight. Its strictly proffessional, but its amusing to see Helal and Wilding standing cramped together, one behind the other far left of stage while MES and Nagle take centre! Thankfully no annoying rotating white lights shining in our eyes this time... "The Joke" does no harm in upping the pace, followed by "Way Round". Things calm down a bit for the plodding "Antidotes", but amends are made with a solid rendition of "Dr. Bucks Letter" - surely destined to be a classic.
Smith's only wayward stroke is when he gets pissed off playing second fiddle to Wilding's vocals on "Hands up Billy" (which sounds like early days Stranglers to me by the way...) and forces the band into "F'oldin Money" - after only a minute of 'Billy'. F'oldin is a fine tune in my book, but tonight's version is pretty limp. He mutters something about the curfew and the set is ended with "Hot Runes" followed quickly by an (as yet) unidentified instrumental. 35 minutes and they're off. Not unlike June's show at the Liquid Rooms - the same 10.00pm curfew is imposed and another short set served up as a consequence.
They return for a fine "Birthday Song", an un-inspired run through "And therein" - the 'surprise oldie' (although it was no surprise since they'd played it here in June too), then made amends with a blistering "Sons of Temperance" to round things off. 9.50pm, the band were off and the house lights were on.
I wouldn't say it was a classic, but it was pretty damn good. And I suppose I've finally stopped wondering how the new songs would sound with Hanley and co. on board. If they'd played another 3 or 4 songs, it could have been a great show. As it stands, it was let down slightly by the mix of songs for the length of set . Surprise of the night was the omission of "Cyber Insekt" and although mooted twice, "Two Librans" never appeared. "WB", "The Joke","Dr Bucks" and "Sons of Temperance" were standouts for me.
At a tenner entry, you can't really complain - but you still go away feeling you've been short changed. Ho hum.
1. WB
2. Touch Sensitive
3. The Joke
4. Way Round
5. Jung Nevs Antidotes
6. Dr Bucks Letter
7. Hands up Billy (cut short)
8. F'oldin Money
9. Hot Runes
10. ?
11. Birthday Song
12. And Therein
13. Sons of Temperance

The Fall rock. Last night's gig in Edinburgh was sadly cut short because of the venue - shame because they were firing on more cylinders than one can imagine. Tonight's gig in Glasgow was as good and more since they managed to play the entire set.

No fucking about, no bullying of the band, no cliches from the last few years worth of reviews. A band that has become a 'Fall' band. A frontman that's doing exactly that. Some staged peering at nails, some wanderig about, no visible onstage tensions, no ridiculous drunkeness. One biased reviewer (me).

Julia's critics can [inset fav sweary word here] right off. She's the lynchpin of this live lineup - be it keyboard lines, guitar playing, tapes.

I think I said the last time they played that the band were a competent garage/rockabilly backing band and that I hoped that there could be enough studio trickery to produce another album. The album is way more than this, the curent live band are better too. In the last two years they have matured into a proper 'Fall' band.

A real sense of urgency pervaded the Fall's gig at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh tonight. We'd rushed across Edinburgh to get there by nine, hoping we were on the guestlist. Fortunately when we arrived there were tickets left as the usual guestlist farce ensued. Doormen are the worst people to have in charge of bits of paper with names on, no matter how many times you explain why you think you're down or spell your name, they can't link that to the paper in their hand. Anyhow... As we're paying in a couple are being turned away and told to come back about ten - Cream is on after the Fall. The ticket bloke looks at us like we've just landed and wonders if we still want to go in, even though it's just before nine and tickets are 12 quid. Course we do, it's the Fall. What fucking planet is he from?

Inside and unfortunately I can't find Toby, the venue is absolutely packed. Just enough time to get a pint, not enough time to finish a piss though and the band are onstage (the last two times I've seen the band in Edinburgh I've missed the very start by thinking that any announcement that the band are due in 2 mins means at least 15 by MES's watch). Everyone bar the bold boy come on and launch into an instrumental WB followed swiftly by Touch Sensitive. MES greats us with the traditional "Good evening we are the Fall" a custom he just had to revive. He then finishes the sentence with "...and we've got about 30mins before you are chucked out". Ominous. It's immediately obvious that MES is on top form tonight - his delivery of Touch Sensitive and then The Joke are spot on. I reckon the delivery of "five years in a PC camp" says all you'll need to know about how a Fall gig will go. And tonight it's urgent. And I've just got to point out that his rather saucy ending of TS made me snigger "Touch Sensitive....To the hilt!".

Nev breaks some strings during TS and spends the rest of the song fixing it, eventually heading backstage to get another guitar - he doesn't return until late into Way Round. However Julia's got the riff down, and her unaccompanied strum sounds much better than the two guitar version that'll happen tomorrow in Glasgow. MES also does his patented percussion technique, picking up Nev's mike and banging it against his own. Round about this time he also does his backing up to the bass drum and sticking his mike inside routine. Julia's DATs and keyboards are a welcome addition, adding another dimension to Way Round although they could've been louder.

For me, there are three tracks that work best live for this lineup - Way Round, Antidotes and Dr Bucks Letter - all three of which work because they've got depth. The return of keyboards and an extra guitar fill out the sound and also let Nev and Adam concentrate more on their individual roles. Both guys I'm much more impressed with since seeing them last. Towards the end of Antidotes, an empty tumbler hits MES on the arm as he prowls the stage. He pretends to ignore it, and shortly returns it to the thrower, laughing, shaking his hand and telling him "fill it up next time". Bet that doesn't make it into the reviews.

Dr Buck's Letter is introduced with a brief "Moderninity, what does it mean to you and me?". Just how good is this song? I've been wandering around all week humming the bassline and guitar riff. You can see how much the band enjoy playing it - both nights Nev has a large grin on his face, shakes his head and affects an arrogant swagger as he plays the opening riff. MES has fun with the lyrics changing them a fair bit and playing with the list - "sunglasses always an essential item. In a British Railway magazine", "jd salinger cathcher in the rye". Since the recording, the song seems to have evolved slightly - there's more about Dr Buck's Letter causing depression in the live version and how this leads to the radio and magazine. But the recorded version, and the two live versions I've heard show the whole story in fractured pieces. This intrigues me very much as it links back lyrically to the break in Ten Houses of Eve, MES's tape splicing techniques and the current live performance. Live just now there are a lot of times when MES leaves the lyrics out completely, relying on singing the rhythm (uh-uh uh-uh uh) or doing the wahwah thing from Code Selfish or the banging the mike thing. It's all playing with the performance and sound, kind of doing a producers job live. I think it's most like watching a live dub dj. Anyway, on these performances I don't think he does it from a lazy, drunk or obnoxious viewpoint. I'm sure he's letting the noise speak for itself - although he's still quick to pick up the band when they make a mistake.

Steering back on course....one particular new lyric in Dr Buck's Letter that stands out is "[the letter says] you are depressed, you are suffering from rhinocerosis, you need special treatment, shout and scream at all your co-colleagues" this is followed by a shriek of "it was dr buck's letter". It's amusing and serious at the same time.

Hands Up Billy follows but is quickly aborted as time is running short. We're coming down to the wire, the pace is picking up and MES is playing the hurry up game. I'm still trying to work out what MES sings early in HUB - later on it's just rhythmic. The band are told by MES "we can do one more then come back for and encore. folding, do folding". We actually get three more - F'oldin Money, Hot Runes and an instrumental Ol' Gang which was introduced with "Curfew Time!".

When they come back for the encore we get Birthday Song which is the only change of pace in the set, a clipped And Therein (eek! out of tune guitars) and Sons of Temperance. MES did tell them to play Two Librans, which I was dying to hear but I guess the DATs or keyboards weren't set up in time and Temperance had to do.

MES signs of with what signs like "ok we're going to get off now...kicked off...kicked off..don't complain to me...night night" which came across as quite touching. I think you'd have to hear the tape to understand what I mean. Not the words of a monster or alcohol fuelled tyrant.

As the band leave the stage, Nev and Adam fiddle with their guitars and bring a nice howl of feedback which matches the scowl on Nev's face. I wouldn't be best pleased either if a venue mark up your tickets by two quid on the night and then chuck you offstage just after 9.45. The crowd give the stagehands a good howl as they come to turn off the amps.

All in, I guess the Fall were onstage for about 40 mins. It seemed a lot shorter. The band performed brilliantly under pressure, the best I've seen this lineup. As MES says "it always comes in threes and fours" I hope three and four come in the remaining gigs and the rain keeps off.

That setlist in full :-

WB (instrumental) / Touch Sensitive / The Joke / Way Round / Antidotes / Dr Buck's Letter / Hands Up Billy (aborted) / F-Oldin' Money / Hot Runes / Ol' Gang (instrumental) / Birthday Song / Sons of Temperance

26 Nov 2000 - Glasgow - The Garage

Rob McIntosh:
Fall: The Garage, Glasgow, 26/11/00: Strolled into the Garage at 9. Sudden awful panic as we hear Way Round in full flight upstairs. Charge up stairs to find that things have been happening without us. The hall is really rocking. The sound is awesome and MES looks to be in very fine and direct form (one advantage of an early show). How many have we missed? Someone says one song, others say four or five. I believe the guy who says three cos he can name two of them (Touch Sensitive, The Joke). Had been hoping they would open with WB ­ am now hoping they didn’t. No matter, we get Antidotes followed by a hilarious, almost perky rendition of Dr. Buck’s letter. MES conversationally paraphrasing the Essence of Tong and drawling bits of Dropout Boogie whilst doing that new tic he has developed, scrutinising the back of his left hand so you would thing his lyrics are on it. Some pissed idiot woman has spotted my tape machine and decides it is amusing to keep screeching “Are you recoooording this? Reaaaallly?” into it. As I move around to avoid her, I realise that it is not Tommy at the drums but some American stand up look-alike instead. He keeps a very tight beat and so what if he keeps it right through the dropout sections on Cyber and 10 Houses, it really puts momentum into the band’s playing. All seem to be enjoying themselves. Adam has developed a workmanlike style that befits his post. Nevile is still a cocky bastard and my mate still thinks he is a sex God. Julia tinkers unobtrusively and Mark is very well behaved indeed. Big fat riffs and smiles all round. My brother, for some reason he can’t express, keeps saying that the new album reminds him of Extricate. I am just beginning to see what he means - there is something in the freshness and uncluttered solidity of the sound that recalls that era. The high points are many but especially concentrated in the two lots of encores. For the first, MES comes out alone having donned his leather jacket for a bit of muttered crooning and skulking. He performs Birthday Song to a backing tape and it’s lovely. A nice reversal of the usual pattern as the band follow him out to their own rounds of applause. 10 Houses next ­ still the speed-fuelled version it became on the last tour. And then… bloody hell! Paintwork!!! It’s a wonderful meandering version that seems so definitive I can’t imagine they will be back. After a further 10 mins, though, they are, finishing with a full on punk rock Hey! Student. The energy is amazing and elicits some dangerously violent action from the blokes down the front. The Fall are great. They excited me as much as I can remember them ever doing. So elevated was my mood that I even found and apologised to the drunk woman for having earlier told her to fuck off! She said she had not seen The Fall for nine years and was “disappointed”. I laughed in her face!

Touch Sensitive/Joke/Another?… Way Round/Antidotes/Doctor Buck/Hands Up Billy/Foldin Money/Two Librans/Sons of Temperance/And Therein/Hot Runes/Cyber Insekt… Birthday Song/10 Houses/Paintwork… Hey! Student.

(no particular order - very drunk!)
Touch Sensitive
The Joke
Dr Bucks Letter
Way Round
Hands Up Billy - Mark scoured his notes as Nev did vocals (looking uncomfortable) and then aborts it by saying 'FHoldin Money' and then takes Nev's mic away.
FHoldin' Money
Sons of Temperance
And therein

Much better gig than Edinburgh. Nice venue, atmosphere, crowd.
Support band Groop (that dancer!), had to be a piss take.
Great entrance by mark clad in black leather jacket etc.
(Again no particular order)
Didn't recognise opening instrumental (good though!)
The Joke
Dr Bucks Letter
Two Librans (what a great track this is)
Way Round
Hands Up Billy
Ten Houses Of Eve
That CD You Hold In Your Hand (4 seconds of)
And therein
Birthday (Mark on stage on his own, made reference to 'cobblestones', touches of Edinburgh man)
Cyber Insekt
Hey Student
Shame they stopped serving at 10pm and just cleared everybody out No Tom on drums for both gigs.

27 Nov 2000 - Sheffield - Sheffield University

29 Nov 2000 - Manchester - Jilly's Rock World

absolutely fanfuckingtastic! I have NEVER seen them better! hurt anyone that gets in your way!

wow. last night i saw something frighteningly close to being the best band in the world (ever). unfortunately i had to get the pissing fucking cunting deathtrap train and so had to leave just after 11pm (seven songs in(!)).
the sound was fantastic; really, really loud with a sort of weird grating metallic edge. one mate said it made him feel "like a tuning fork", which i'm certain can only be a good thing.
is this sort of form par for the course at the moment? fucking railways. all the bloody 2nd rate fall gigs i've stood thru over the last couple of years and i have to miss 2/3 of an absolute stormer.

30 Nov 2000 - Leeds - Irish Centre

Ian W:
The last time I saw The Fall was 2 years ago at this same venue - a good performance but the tension within the band was obvious, and I left feeling that it really was the last time I would see The Fall........
.....Two albums later, what a transformation. A confident, relaxed performance, mainly consisting of Unutterable material (I think it's significant that the best received songs on the night are from the new album). The audience was relatively quiet, but appreciative. The sound was excellent, two encores - a professional job all round.
I went with my girlfriend - not a Fall fan, she's heard a few odd tracks and not really liked them - She was totally amazed at how good the sound/music was - shame about the singer though, but the guitarist is cute.
Sorry I can't give you a setlist, but I was too busy enjoying myself - they played pretty much what has been listed before. Onstage about 45 mins, not including the encores.

A top gig, the Fall were note for note perfect except for Paintwork at the end, which was sloppy but magic.

with new zealand native impressions from Nev (who got some banter from Smith during Birthday) (encore #1 I think) about *his* (Nev's) birthday.
Highlights for me :
Doctor Bucks Letter - excellent live and many lyric tweaks to the recorded version.
Knowledge that D Gedge colours his hair.
the support band Groop were very very good.
chat to mes' sister who was selling very good new black fall tshirts and large black badges. photo (and set list) of one to follow shortly.
Fall drummer. Roll on roll on!
the crowd was a lot less then on previous meetings at the same venue.


Touch Sensitive
The Joke
Two Librans
Ketamine Sun
And therin...
F'oldin Money
Cyber Insekt
Sons of Temperance
Way Round
Hands up Billy
Birthday Song (NW B/day the night before)
Hey! Student
Paintwork (6 mins plus)

On form. A very quiet Irish Centre at Leeds witnessed a knockout Fall perfomance. Very well played indeed.
A very interesting support group, Groop, led by a very scary looking french girl on flute and synth, and a sazzy female greek spiritual leader who mainly pranced around the stage looking stoned (a v. good Nico impression) with a tamborine. Spititualized meets Velvets meets Pink Floyd meets Can. The most interesting support group i've seen in a long time.
Back to the Fall then. The last time they played at Leeds was an indication that they were up to summat, and now we know what. The new album and this gig: The Fall haven't produce such quality since at least the early '90's. It also sorrta gives a bit of emphases on the recent stuff too, that the MS wasn't actually that bad at all. Infact I've heard it said that Levitate/MS/Unutterable all compliment each other like Grotesque/RTL/HEH or TWAFWF/TNSG/Bend Sinister. Tis true.
Haven't heard any reports of the other gigs, but a six minute version of Paintwork as an encore really put the cherry on a very big cream cake.

1 Dec 2000 - Whitley Bay - The Dome

Previews ta to Trifon:
This is what they say about The Fall...
Mark E Smith's Fall are now into their twenty fourth year on the circuit with countless albums down the line. They still consistently deliver and their live shows are no less than exhilarating ! You never forget a Fall gig, you never forget the first time you hear a Fall song. They're rich, full of natural badness and contain plenty of artificial ingredients. The Fall have never used false histrionics, dry ice or lasers to grab the crowd. Making a sound like they do, with a vocalist who sings like he does, they've never needed to.

and a review: Fucking WOW!!!
This was excellent stuff. Mark really means it again. It's amazing the difference when he's not pissed out of his head. And the band, possibly because they are doing mostly their own stuff, are supremely confident. It all seems to feed off itself. Songs like Serum, which are quite intricate and would have been potential disasters a few months ago are performed in even greater detail than on The Unutterable. I took a set list but it is different to what actually happened - MES seemed to be altering it on an ad-hoc basis. I can't remember the exact set but there wasn't anything that hasn't already been played this tour. I love the new version of Paintwork though for a time it seemed to shamble along until it focused. An hour and 45 minutes including two encores, which concluded with a mammoth Ol' Gang - the new keyboard sounds in this remind me of something I can't quite place yet?
Some good humour too when Mark ad libbed "We thought we were in Whitby, we thought we were in the wrong town."
Any chance of keeping Spencer on drums? Tom has his strong points (brute force) but seems one paced and unadaptable compared to Spencer.

2 Dec 2000 - Leicester - Princess Charlotte

Paul Hopkins:
If Wednesday night at Jilly's represented the quintessential display of The Fall in ultra-tight, disciplined mode - and I think it did - then tonight was party time. Both gigs were absolute classics, but I think Leicester was ultimately more memorable because you don't often get to see the group so playful and cheerful (which isn't to say that the music wasn't transcendent at times).
The venue was small and cosy. 300 or so there, I'd say, with the usual oldie contingent but quite a few young 'uns too and some pretty spirited movement. I don't think the audience knew their Fall as well as some - the singalonga-F'oldin Money didn't come off as well as it sometimes does - but they liked what they heard.
The support band canceled. The Fall came on at about 10.15, and went off at 12ish, which by my reckoning makes it a marathon performance. This set list is from memory and provisional - I think all the tracks are covered here, but I probably haven't got the order exactly right:
Serum (instrumental)
Touch Sensitive
The Joke
And Therein
Dr. Buck's Letter
Hands Up Billy
F-oldin Money
- Intermission -
Sons of Temperance
1st encore:
Hey Student
Cyber Insekt
Way Round
(Birthday Song)
2nd encore:
3rd encore:
A Fall ensemble dance performance
Champagne was present on stage to mark the last night of the tour, and throughout the performance MES was charmingly good-natured. Examples:
- He did the intro to Hands Up Billy, then put the mic stand in front of Nev for him to take up the vocal. The mic fell to the floor - MES solicitously reattached it for Nev with a smile
- Dr. Buck's Letter petered out rather unexpectedly just as they got to the Amex part (presumably because the DAT didn't go on quite as long as it should have). Rather than react angrily, as you might expect, MES continued acapella for a few lines and then broke into laughter
- Can you imagine him saying this to an audience: "We're just going to have a 10 minute break. Do you mind?". Well, he did.
In fact, Mark was positively voluble tonight, in contrast to his usual total lack of in-between-song patter. He said something about leaving his bag of lyrics in the dressing room (again with a laugh, not a scowl), and later we got "And they say the IRISH can't dance.." (though I thought there were some pretty good dancers in the audience).
He knob-fiddled and guitar-fucked a LOT. During Antidotes, he got Nev's guitar out of tune so Nev just took it off and stood there, hands in pockets, grinning tolerantly, while the others finished it off. I think that's why they went off stage for a bit. There was no direct entrance to the stage - the band had to just walk through the crowd and climb up, and to start with there was no-one up there to re-adjust things. When they came back, they had a couple of people with them to attend to that, including Eddie, the singer from their support band at Jilly's, Trigger Happy, who turned out to be their tour manager too.
So things were kind of scrappy here and there. But as has been mentioned a lot over the last couple of weeks, this band is in top form, without a weak link. The new drummer is very good - maybe they could go back to the two drummer lineup, eh? I think Adam's bass style is getting more distinctive now, thundering rather than guitarry-sounding if that makes any sense. Nev and Julia have got a real synergy going, and in fact the whole band sounds much more than the sum of their parts to a noticeably greater degree than at the RFH show a couple of months ago. Mark's voice is strong, with really expressive intonation and spot-on timing. He sounds revitalised. I want some of what he's having.
Oh, and that ensemble dance performance - the music sounded familiar, and I could almost swear it was a reworking of Extricate. Nev, Adam and Spencer (is that the drummer's name?) came on and boogied a little, then Julia, MES and a couple of others I don't know joined them, then some of the audience including me for a few seconds. It was brilliant. Then there was a little mic-passing - including a challenge by Rob to fight one of Trigger Happy, which the guy looked alarmingly eager to accept - and we were done. There were magic moments from start to finish, many of which I'm sure I've forgotten to include here. A top night.

Ian Leaver:

Well I suppose I've seen them thirty odd times since 1980 and last night was one of the very best. Absolutely fucking brilliant, with the extended encore of Paintwork (which they didn't do a fortnight ago at Rock City) a particular gem. Mark was on top form; I haven't seen him looking so fit and well for a long time. Thoroughly enjoying himself and bouncing about like a youngster. Before Paintwork the entire band returned to the stage and danced about encouraging us to shout louder for the encore. Even MES! Quite superb.

Chris Kemp:
A very good gig...but then from someone who sees them once a year anything is a treat.
A few points...
1. And Therin wears a little thin..
2. Encores are great especially Hey! Student
3. C. Insekt, Sons, etc all work well
4. Two sort of fights add to the interest
5. Paintwork is storming...and long.
6. Splashed by the beer tin that Nev threw in the audience.
7. Started at 10.30 finished 12.00... well worth £8.

*- Can you imagine him saying this to an audience: "We're just going to have
*a 10 minute break. Do you mind?". Well, he did.

Not out of concern for the audience, mind... it was a tongue-in-cheek comment on the 'staged encore' cliche, archly announced as the band were taking their instruments off to 'rush back' into the dressing room for the first time. Top comic moment of the gig along with the 'fall take a bow' trademark waggle-dance. All very theatrical.
Definitely the finest Fall gig I have been to since the early nineties. Cyber Insekt was particularly good, excellent distorted-and-then-not- distorted bass sound, quite different from the LP versh. Hands Up Billy seemed to have achieved live classic status, and Sons Of Temperance worked completely and beautifully live.

Media Unutterable reviews:

The Unutterable

Well one thing's for sure: with the opening 'Cyber Insekt', 'The Unutterable' contains the best Fall song about an insect since 'Ladybird (Green Grass)' from 1993's benchmark in excellence, 'The Infotainment Scan'.
On these peculiar details all Fall albums tend to be judged, largely because they're comparable to little else. Mark E Smith's zeitgeist-monitoring radar picks up many things, and though a notable affection for the styles of trance and UK garage is not in evidence (he does, however, admit to being "in the realm of the essence of Tong" on 'Dr Bucks' Letter'), this is as vital and relevant as The Fall have sounded for a considerable length of time.
Meaning Smith has finally settled on a backing unit he can trust (he even allows guitarist Neville Wilding to write and sing swamp-thrash number 'Hands Up Billy'); a band who bestow the subsequent relentless grainy chug with an urgency and imagination and lighten the load by sprinkling sparky synth washes over the brilliant 'Cyber Insekt' and 'Everything Hurtz'-affiliate, 'Das Katerer'.
He might currently be rocking the foppish retired Naval Officer look in promotional photos, but Smith remains dependably bilious and enjoyable. Wrapped in barbed logic and off-kilter techno production, his scattershot observations take in Oprah Winfrey, Peace Studies and Chechnya on 'Two Librans', his hatred of roundabouts ('Way Round'), a list of his five essential items (sunglasses, CDs, Palm Pilot, mobile phone, Amex card - priceless info for all ageing Fall fans) and a foray into polite dinner jazz in which he celebrates his favourite meal, 'Pumpkin Soup And Mashed Potatoes'.
"What would life be like without music and comedy?" he asks on 'Devolute'. Like life without a regular Fall album: pretty dull.
Piers Martin

from music365.com
Reviews THE FALL: The Unutterable (Eagle)
Professional curmudgeon Mark E Smith makes another claim for Grade Two listing

New material from The Fall arrives with the predictable regularity of the Queen's Christmas speech. And just like Her Maj, Mark E Smith has little to say or offer by way of new ideas.
So welcome what feels like The Fall's 737th album 'The Unutterable'. Over the decades, they've produced some wonderfully acerbic and singular albums that have set them aside as a unique national treasure. And yet somewhere along the way, The Fall have become a grotesque parody of their former selves.
'The Unutterable' is however not without its saving graces. The rockabilly drums and sweeping keyboards of 'Cyber Insekt', the scything guitars of 'Two Librans' and the tech-paranoid urgency of 'Way Round' stand up proudly against anything from The Fall's vast back catalogue. But things begin to come apart with the second rate sludge of 'Octo Realm/Ketamine Sun' or the cod-lounge plod of 'Pumpkin Soup and Mashed Potatoes', a track that's Harry Connick Jr after a cut price credibility transplant.
Much like its chief architect, 'The Unutterable' is an album that switches itself onto auto pilot too easily, cruising aimlessly along. And given Mark E Smith's pedigree, that's just not good enough. 5/10
Julian Marszalek

Mark Prindle:

a BBC article on The Fall


From The Times, Friday (ta to Paul Hopkins):


POP: Mark E. Smith, leader of the Fall, is captain of the awkward squad. That didn't deter Tom Cox

My last encounter with the Fall's Mark E, Smith was during his band's set at the 1999 Reading Festival, where, nose streaming with blood (he'd just had a customary punch-up with a fellow band member), he chased me and some friends from the rear of the stage with a fusillade of beer cans, and, cornering us, shook my female companion savagely by her lapels. Does he know this? Doubtful, but I don't intend to jog his memory - or not just yet.

For 23 years, Smith has revelled in his reputation as the most difficult man in British pop. The line-up of the Fall changes as often as musical fashions, but the Smith sound - obstuse, industrial, surreal, uniquely English - doesn't. "The Fall - always different but always the same," his biggest fan, the DJ John Peel, has said. With a series of onstage brawls and sackings, Smith has spent the last five years consolidating his stubborn, autocratic mystique.

He suggests we find a pub. He seems wired, hyper. "You'll have to forgive me: I'm a bit geed up for the gig. Know what I mean?" he explains.

When we arrive at the pub, he's alternately charming, defensive and incomprehensible, becoming less of the former as the beer flows. I ask him where in Manchester he lives. He says Salford, "a bit of a put-off to people", then gripes, "Is this really necessary? It's a bit like New Journalism, this, isn't it? 'And then I was drug addict'..."

An acquaintance of mine claims to have taught him art at the University of East Anglia. Smith is outraged. "I didn't go to college! I left school at 16 and worked as a clerk and a docker. Too many rumours flyin' round."

He honestly seems to believe that people are constantly talking about him behind his back. And, in a way, he's right. Smith has bever been anything more than indie famous, never had a proper hit, yet meet any British rock musician from the past two decades and the chances are he will have a Smith anecdote.

"I don't read my own press, 'cause when you do, you start trying to live up to your image," he explains. It's the sort of thing you expect Steven Tyler or Jon Bon Jovi to say, not a bloke who probably wouldn't be recognosed in his local Asda. In fact, Smith doesn't read the music press.

But you still write songs about contemporary bands, don't you? Didn't you write [the 1993 single] Glam Racket about Suede? "No. With me, what I write, a lot of people think it's about them, which reveals a lot more about them than it does about me."

Smith considers himself a writer, first and foremost (he's just returned from reading his poetry to students at St. Andrew's University). Where does he get his inspiration? "History. Clerical stuff." He picks up and reads the menu from our table. "It's things like this that interest me: 'a cosy atmosphere at the centre of the village'. What does that mean? I mean, where's the village and what's so f****** cosy about it? You can't hear yourself speak because of the jukebox!"

You can already hear him turning it over in his mind, adding the traditional echo with which he punctuates nearly every word that he grunt-sings. "A cosy-ah atmosphere-ah at the centre-ah of the village-ah." A potential lyric for the next Fall album.

There's little to be said about the new Fall album, The Unutterable, that hasn't been said about the 25 before it. It is a little more abrasive than its predecessor. It features lyrics such as "Cyber insekt-ah! In its-ah escarpment-ah!" which seem to mean nothing and everything. Ageing journalists and balding eternal students will revere it for a fortnight, then probably never listen to it again.

"Somebody said to me recently that there doesn't seem to be a lot of humour in my lyrics any more, and I think that's what I'm trying to reflect about society. You can't tell a joke nowadays." But surely if music was a direct reflection of society it wouldn't be much fun? "No, but that's what I'm trying to do. There's an English society that needs bringing out. We don't analyse things; we reflect things. That's why we're called the Fall."

It sudenly becomes clear to me: perhaps "being a good band" isn''t part of Smith's agenda, and never has been. Perhaps he doesn't see the Fall as a band at all, but as a big, grumbling machine, sucking up and regurgitating society's verbal detritus. A duty rather than a mission.

At one point, apropos of nothing, he leans over towards me, and whispers, "I'll tell you one thing about me. I don't give away my secrets." Then he does this stare, somewhere between an apoplectic Steptoe Sr. and Jack Nicholson just after he puts the axe through the door in The Shining. From here on, things get difficult. He keeps leaning across the table, asking me frantically if I know what he means and mimicking my questions. Every so often, he becomes completely charming again but I get the general impression that I'm going to have trouble easing him through the remainder of the interview. When I laugh at his story about problems filing a column for an internet magazine - "took me 14 days to e-mail it; would have been quicker to just go to the post office at the end of the road" - he seems to think I'm laughing at him, not with him. When I enquire, innocently, if his current girlfriend is in the band (a lot of them have been), he snaps, "No, does your girlfriend work for the f****** Times?" And in retrospect, perhaps I made a mistake by shouting "Bollocks!" when he told me he didn't have a CD or record player at home.

It's clearly time to wind things up, but there's just one thing I have to ask before I go. "Mark, do you remember your show at Reading last year?" "You talk to me like I'm an old man. Course I remember." "Do you remember some people standing on the stage during your set?" "Yeah, they were getting in the way and I f****** threw beer cans at them." "Do you remember who they were?" He pauses. "I remember everything. I've got a memory like a computer, me," he says, then gives me that stare again, but I don't stick around long enough to find out exactly what it means.

and michael's review of Fall reviews:

Jonathan Romney - The Guardian (4/5)

On what must now be about his 250th review of The Fall, Jonathan Romney does what we know he does best: he writes about The Fall, filtered through his own fandom. Shows every sign of having listened both to the new album and many of the previous ones, knows the names of members of the group other than Mark E Smith, and finds so much to say that he doesn't even have room to mention threats of violence. Despite his obvious affection for their work, is not afraid to honestly compare what he sees with the group's usual high standards. Chris Horrie - BBC Online (3/5)

A refreshingly snide account in a month of generally excellent reviews, Chris Horrie's semi-autobiographical account of a night out at Dingwalls manages to be funny - but we're laughing at you, Chris, not with you... The code of silence generally observed by ex-members of The Fall, if indeed he ever was a member of The Fall, is broken and as usual in this situation, we wonder why he bothered. Managed to coax a smile out of MES, for which any journalist should get an extra point. We await the book.

Tom Cox - The Times (1/5)

A disappointing effort from the trailblazer for many a white male bald 30-something broadsheet reader. Despite his clear-sighted approval of most Fall records, Cox's speciality is in writing about music that no-one else likes until the following week, not in describing the work of groups that have been around for 23 years. As a result, this review falls back on too many of the old staples - including the obtuse belief that Glam Racket is about Suede. Gets a point for the 'cosy atmosphere' line. Seems unaccountably astonished that he can't just wander onto a stage during a group's set without getting stick for it.

Sharon O'Connell - Time Out (3/5)

O'Connell scores points for using words like "skronky", "sonic roughage", and "twig dry". Loses points however for reducing The Fall's world view to "curmudgeonly".

here is the rundown on Unutterable from the Other Music email newsletter. Some obligatory fall review comments present, others strangely absent..

An incredibly strong sequel to the brilliant "The Marshall Suite" (Top 5 on my 1999 hit parade). Now I've been hearing the phrase "Oh, another Fall album..." from my colleagues for years and years and years. Inevitably, the tone is rather dismissive and accompanied by an exasperated roll of the eyes, followed by maybe "I can't believe they're still around..." or even "I thought Mark E. Smith was in prison or dead or something." Perhaps Picasso endured such indignities midway through his own career. And rather like Picasso's work, all the elements that make up "The Unutterable" are by now quite familiar, if not very nearly cliché. Post-punk fuzz-guitars, furious polyrhythmic vamps, rockabilly twangs, Smith's inimitable snarl-sing-speak stream-of-consciousness, etc. are here somehow deconstructed and reassembled factory-fresh. Mark E. Smith declared recently: "If it's just me and your grandmother on the bongos, it's still The Fall!" After 24 years and forty-something albums of dizzyingly high quality, and while he might in fact more resemble your grandmother these days than Picasso, his work will stand. Mark, my word-uh! [JG]

And a (cliche free) review from Get Rhythm's web page of The Unutterable;

Mark E. Smith once sung the line "life should be full of strangeness, like a rich painting." The Unutterable certainly abides by this principle. The Fall sound constantly mutates within eternal parameters - a thunderous rhythm section (usually with the trademark aural assault bass) and/or bizarre electronic experimentation, repetition and shifting dynamics, keyboard discord and either droning or strangulated metal-hell guitar.
Last year’s album ‘The Marshall Suite’ saw the debut of new, much younger and untried musicians and blooded them in. This has been consolidated and Smith, as he promised, has brainwashed the fledglings into the ways of The Fall. This process is reflected in the initial impact The Unutterable leaves on the listener - raw, punky and fervent. But The Unutterable has other barbs and angles too. The meaty rock-rockabilly riffs such as the stunning ‘Two Librans’ and ‘Hands Up Billy’ gradually give way to the nirdling, explorational electronica via hybrids like Serum. Both styles act as appropriate backdrops (or veils) to Mark E’s themed ‘cut and paste’ lyric collection accumulated in a carrier bag since the last LP for confetti scattering over his latest racket. It needs saying that The Unutterable sees Smith at his wordiest for a long time though the usual subjects are referenced - celebrities (this time Oprah, Pete Tong, Alan Brazil amongst others), drugs (in the extraordinarily powerful ‘Ketamine Sons’), politics (‘Devolute’) and, a particularly frightening subject for him, an alcohol-free police state (‘Sons of Temperance’). Surprises on the LP are a Fall jazz song (probably the LP’s only downer) and the guest vocals of Kazuko Hohki of the Frank Chickens on ‘Cyber Insekt’.
On average, Mark E. Smith has written a new song every month since he left school and the best on his new LP is as good as any. Such a fertile mind is an unexampled though undervalued national asset. Through it, ‘The Unutterable’ builds anew in The Fall’s unparalleled universe.

Ta to Arjan, from MOJO:

THE FALL - The Unutterable

yet another label for yet another Fall LP...

It hasn't been a great few years for Mark E. Smith. Having lost essential Fall guys like bassist Steve Hanley, Smith's undisguised contempt for anyone shooting a stage with him has meant that the music often sounded like a shoddy after-thought to his increasingly bizarre rhetoric. But The Unutterable is The Fall's most musically exciting LP since 1990's Extricate. The twisted Way Back explicitly harks back to that fantastic album, an unseemly collision of Link Wray and Pet Shop Boys. Even better is the fearsome Two Librans, based around the best Fall riff since Wings. There are even welcome flashes of Smith's black-as-far humour: on the sunny Octo Realm/ Ketamine, the band introduce themselves with "I'm smartarse". An unutterable pleasure. (John Mullen)


The Wisdom Of Harry session broadcast on Peel last night included their rendition of Rebellious Jukebox
....and no-one mentioned Low breaking into a cover of My New House when they were on last week.

Chris H.... put Doctor Buck into Google and it gave me:


There are plenty of Dr Bucks; this one is probably more fun than the would-be Drain Commissioner's website:


Subject: from Usenet
are there any 'puter whiz kids out there that could make some mods to "the sims" , whereupon u could play "Sim Fall" trawling a bleak mancunian landscape for submissive band members, soon to be sacked for slight misdemeanors such as growing moustaches or being present when mes is in a nark,,,, slowly watching the master evolve into something akin to dustin hoffman in little big man,,, any ideas? also:
(some junk mail I received)

Fall entry from 'Christgau's Consumer Guide: Albums of the '90s'
the skinny on 1990s Fall according to the "Dean."


Continuing the adventures of Thomas Beale, ship's surgeon and all-round cephalopod molester...

(When last we met, Beale had encountered an octopus trying to make its way back to the sea after the tide had retreated).

"I however endeavored to prevent its career, by pressing on one of its legs with my foot, but although I made use of considerable force for that purpose, its strength was so great that it several times quickly liberated its member, in spite of all the efforts I could employ in this way on the wet and slippery rocks. I now laid hold of one of the tentacles with my hand, and held it firmly, so that the limb appeared as if it would be torn asunder by our united strength. I soon gave it a powerful jerk, wishing to disengage it from the rocks to which it clung so forcibly by its suckers, which it effectually resisted; but the moment after, the apparently engaged animal lifted its head with its large eyes projecting from the middle of its body, and letting go of its hold on the rocks, suddenly sprang upon my arm, which I had previously bared to the shoulder, for the purpose of thrusting it into holes in the rocks to discover shells, and clung with its suckers to it with great power, endeavoring to get its beak, which I could now see, between the roots of its arms, in a position to bite!"

More soon...