50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats
From the May 26, 2004 NME, thanks to Graeme:
The Independent Sunday (London, England) ,
May 30, 2004 p24
The Fall 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong SANCTUARY. (Features) Simon Price.
Everyone's favourite Fall album is the first one they happen to hear. The problem for the novice is knowing where to start. The band's extensive back catalogue has been re-released at such a relentless rate over the past couple of years that it's bewildering even for a fan. At last, Sanctuary have tackled the contractual headache of The Fall's many-labelled career, and provided a solution with this double CD retrospective of Mark E Smith's best-known moments, from the yelping anger of "Prole Art Threat" to the dancefloor Dadaism of "Telephone Thing". SP
The Mirror (London, England) , May 28, 2004 p8
CD REVIEWS AND MUSIC: NEW ALBUMS. (Features)
Byline: GAVIN MARTIN
50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong
Mad Manc Mark E Smith may have lost as many teeth as band members, but he deserves a special place in the Britrock hall of fame. These 39 tracks are an excellent introduction to Smith's worldview. Ferocious wit, unforgettable riffs and surly brilliance ensure The Fall remain in season.
June 5, 2004 - Sunday Times (Culture magazine) - Stewart Lee (thanks to Mick):
All Music Guide, by David Jeffries
There's never been a decent bluffer's guide to the Fall, until now. With all the cash-in and crap compilations the Fall have been subjected to, newcomers have a one in two chance of buying a loser, maybe worse. Leader Mark E. Smith, and whoever he decided was the Fall at the moment, have been on more labels than almost anybody. Over 24 years they've changed from loud and ramshackle to slick and pop and then back to loud and ramshackle again, with a bunch of stylistic changes in between. Add to it the fact that Smith is the textbook definition of difficult and you can see why compiling the Fall is near impossible. 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong is as good as it gets and with only two CDs, probably as good as you can get. You can't really blame the compilers for taking the easy way out and ordering the tracks chronologically, since it would have been difficult to decide which early punker sounds good next to the baggy-pants dance number "Telephone Thing." The only other, very minor, complaint about the collection is that you don't get any of the cerebral, wandering Fall. It's a huge part of their career but any longtime fan can tell you the murky classics take a while to get into. 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong goes for the big, "listenable" numbers. You get the sad tale of a comic book writer's final days ("How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'"), the hypnotic rocker about an unclean house ("No Bulbs"), and the group's big flirtation with the mainstream courtesy of a Kinks' cover ("Victoria"). The compilation does a good job of picking from the less impressive years, and an excellent job of summing up the band post-2000 for everyone who hasn't kept up (and there's plenty). The Fall have been red-hot, for the most part, since the millennium switched and this collection couldn't have been better timed. Complain about how you're favorite isn't here and then grab two blank CD-Rs, 40 or so Fall records, and see if you can do any better.
Daily Telegraph (London, England) , June 5, 2004 (thanks to Jon)
Staying in; CDs. (Arts) Richard Preston.
50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong
Sanctuary, pounds 13.99
It must be difficult for a band to exist for more than 25 years without turning into a self-parodying vaudeville act, but thanks entirely to the utterly unsentimental, manic force that is Mark E Smith, the Fall have managed it. Since 1977, there have been some 48 members of the Manchester post-punk outfit, the only constant - apart from the devotion of John Peel - being Smith himself, barking out his scabrous, literate, funny, often impenetrable take on English life.
The comparison that this collection's title invites with Elvis Presley (50 Million Elvis Fans...) is not entirely fanciful: a show only begins once he has ambled on stage, adjusted the guitarist's amp knobs, and set about ignoring the crowd. No matter how tight the rhythm section, without him, there would be nothing.
This is the first compilation to have access to the entire back catalogue and its 39 numbers make a fine introduction to a man whose song titles alone - No Xmas for John Quays, Eat Y'Self Fitter, British People in Hot Weather - can burrow their way into your brain.
June 13, 2004 - Belfast Telegraph - Sunday Life
review by Neil McKay
THE FALL - 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong (Sanctuary): Amazingly, this is the first proper career encompassing 'best of' from the perennial John Peel favourites, who have been doggedly doing their thing since 1978.
The '39 Golden Greats' spread across two CDs blaze a trail from the most ramshackle and lowest of lo-fi beginnings, through the almost poppy, chart bothering of the mid to late 80s, and all the way back again.
Much of it is great, some is awful, but they are never ordinary, with a gloriously sullen belligerence permeating everything they do. And, Industrial Estate is 1 min 41 secs of pure genius.
Review by Dominic J. DeVito
At this stage in the game, there's not a whole lot to be said about The Fall that hasn't been said already. The productivity of Mark E. Smith and his ever-changing band of not-so-merry mates is legend; in the 25 years since the first full-length, LIVE AT THE WITCH TRIALS, the band has released about as many albums, singles, shoddy-sounding live recordings, and hastily-assembled compilations as Elvis and The Beatles combined. There are few artists who have produced caliber recordings on a yearly basis in such a fruitful and worthwhile manner as Mark E. Smith has, and with this compilation, he finally gets his fair due with an indispensable introduction for any serious lover of music.
Bruce McCulloch once said, "Greatest hits albums are for housewives and little girls," but since The Fall have never had any hits in the traditional sense of the word, this compilation (which is one of many that have been released in the past few years!) will do just fine in lieu of diving headfirst into The Fall's vast back catalog. For starters, it SOUNDS freakin' great - a lot of Fall albums have not been justly served by the CD remastering process, but every track here rings with degrees of clarity probably not even imagined by Smith when he penned "Repetition" way back in 1977. Secondly, it covers every phase of The Fall's career, from their pre-punk beginnings to the madcap early 1980's and beyond, through the brushes with the mainstream to winding up to powerhouse American indie label Matador, and the fairly difficult years following, all the way up to the present- "Green Eyed Loco Man" is from a Fall album that isn't even out in the U.S. just yet. Finally, the wonderful cross-selection of tracks, sequenced chronologically, gives the listener a satisfying glimpse into the warped yet utterly brilliant mind of Mark E. Smith, a man who is often portrayed as a one-dimensional caricature, but without whose music the world would be a much poorer place. Just ask Stephen Malkmus.
50,000 FALL FANS CAN'T BE WRONG is a perfect title on so many levels - the band inspires levels of devotion that leave "cult" in the dust, and while many Fall fans will concede not every record lives up to the universal brilliance of THIS NATION'S SAVING GRACE or GROTESQUE (AFTER THE GRAMME), there's more than enough room for argument about what was left off, and that is always a good thing (I personally mourn for the exclusion of "Vixen," but oh well). From venom-filled "Industrial Estate" to the pounding and controversial "The Classical" all the way to 1999's rousing "Touch Sensitive" (not too many folks working in music today who can come up with something so simply powerful 22 years into the game), this collection marks a new level of generosity towards this band. And The Fall certainly deserve a wider audience not just here in the U.S. but in any location starving for the sort of uniquely influential voice of a man who's been keenly aware of the world around him and pissed enough to make songs about it a constant part of his life for so many years. With thoughtful, literate liner notes and a pretty great price to boot, this is one collection not to be overlooked.
COMPILED with the blessing of Mark E Smith, tank topped and resplendent on the cover, this is the closest The Fall are ever going to get to a Silver Jubilee.
The 39 tracks over two CDs follow a timeline from 1978’s rattling classic ‘Repetition’ to last year’s ‘Green Eyed Loco Man’.
The basic difference between then and now being that then the band sounded like a monkey with its nuts trapped in a wind tunnel, whereas now they sound like the same monkey in a better studio.
Perfect both as an introduction to one of Manchester’s best ever (and most prolific) bands, and equally for obsessives too arthritic to dig through all that heavy vinyl these days.
Here’s to a gig at the Palace in 2039.
Whisperin and Hollerin
review by Mike Campbell
9 stars out of 10
Our paths have crossed on many an occasion. I have seen his disgruntled and belligerent face staring out at me from magazines. I have read stories of his prolific work rate, the onstage punch ups, the false teeth, singing ‘ah’ at the end of every line and the myriad band sackings. Then there’s the late night record playing sessions, glowing from cheap lager and cheap drugs, half forgotten snippets of manc ranting and raw bass lines. I’ve made promises to myself that I was going to finally dive into that intimidating back catalogue and unearth the gems. At one point I even had a C90 tape of a friends review of their back catalogue with no track listing and volume levels that veered from barely audible to ear splittingly loud. It got lost somewhere along the way and I never found the opportunity to replace it, there was always something else to buy, the latest band or another classic now collecting dust on my shelves.
Up until now. Sure, there have been compilations before but bearing in mind the amount of record labels The Fall had released music through there was no definitive collection. As for the back catalogue, even the summarised discography included with this CD lists nearly 80 albums (including live recordings and compilations), where do you start? Problem solved, you start right here. A mammoth 39 track, double CD containing the pick of the entire Fall back catalogue regardless of record label. And it’s endorsed by Mark E Smith himself, so if it’s good enough for the cantankerous old git, it’s good enough for you.
Running in near chronological order starting with first single ‘Repitition’ and spanning their whole career up to last year's ‘Green Eyed Loco Man’ it’s an incredible record of a 25 year journey that see’s a band (or maybe that should read one man plus other notable guest appearances) constantly move forward almost regardless of the whims and judgements of fashion. For sheer bloody mindedness there is no one to match Mark E Smith.
The earlier material still sounds raw and uncompromising. In 1978 it must have sounded revolutionary. Punk was about to burn out and those that survived the fall out were either welcomed into the mainstream in a diluted form or were beginning to look to other musical forms to vent their anger. Post punk was around the corner with it’s art college stylings and move towards the dance floor. Songs such as ‘Repetition’, ‘Rowche Rumble’, ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’, 'Totally Wired’ and ‘New Face in Hell’ are stripped down, gritty snippets of life from the dole culture, ranted over by a man straight from the docks. Stick your middle class slumming up your arse, this is the sound of those that were living it because they had no choices. It is difficult now to remember how different the world was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s at the dawn of Thatcherism. The world was about to change, the world needed to change but as we now know the cost to the working classes in Britain was huge. This is the sound of anger.
Having said that it hasn’t all stood the test of time. Yes it’s fascinating, a snap shot of a different time and decidedly lo-fi in execution. That does not always mean the records themselves sound relevant today. ‘Rouche Rumble’ for example is all tinny drums and creaking organ and sounds like it was recorded in a bucket. ‘New Face in Hell’ seems to have kazoo solo for fuck's sake. But there is some great stuff in there. ‘How I wrote Elastic Man’ lays down the blue print for much of what follows with it’s stomp along rhythm section, jangly guitar lines and acerbic ranting. ‘Fiery Jack’ draws heavily on rockabilly and sounds fantastic to this day.
The compilation really takes off however when you reach track 12 of the first CD, ‘The Man whose Head Expanded’. Elastica have heard this track that’s for sure, listen to the tinkling keyboards and the bass right up in the mix and in your face. Or ‘C.R.E.E.P.’ which has a way with a tune without losing it’s edge, all harmonised vocals counterpointing a more restrained vocal from Smith, it is reminiscent of the Stranglers at their best.
It is the second CD though that is welded to my CD player. Kicking off with ‘US 80’s – 90’s’ a new electronic element is brought to the fore and the band seem to find a new lease of life. The records on the second CD could have been made yesterday and would still sound cutting edge. Two cover versions sum up this new found confidence. ‘Mr Pharmacist’ from 1986 is a cover of Texan garage heroes' The Other Half's song that kicks down the door, ransacks your house and pisses off with all your cash, all in under two minutes. Then there’s their sublime cover of The Kinks’s ‘Victoria’ which is arguably better than the original.
It is almost impossible to pick highlights from the rest as it is consistently brilliant throughout. ‘Living too Late’, ‘Hey Luciani’, ‘Hit the North’, ‘Telephone Thing’, the list goes on and on. 21 tracks and not a duff song on there. The move towards the dance floor caught me by surprise but the electronic beats just add a new dimension to The Fall and it is a very welcome addition. ‘M5’ for example is the best song the Happy Mondays never made. ‘Touch Senstive’ you will recognise from a car advert (how times change eh?). Leaving ‘Green Eyed Loco Man’ from 2003 to bring us up to date, which it does with style whilst hinting that this story isn’t finished yet.
Incredible and incendiary stuff. Mark E Smith won’t thank me for this but the Fall are one of Britains great institutions and should be held up as such. This compilation is essential for anyone who has ever been curious about the Fall and for long term fans alike. Having finally caught up with them I have a deep sense of having missed out for years, the work behind the headlines, the records that justify Mark E Smith's right to be a miserable old sod are glorious songs that deserve to be heard. Long live The Fall(ah).
Thanks to Jon: Record Collector, July 2004, p. 107: