Fall News - 14 April 1998


Still no news on the Swindon venue. Otherwise we still have Dingwalls on the 27th and 28th April, and Reading Alleycat on the 30th.

From Stefan:
And now we have this:


another package tour featuring Buzzcocks, Pere Ubu, The Fall, Stranglers, and another band TBA set for the US in Sept./Oct. put together by people of my age who ought to know better.


Still no sign of the Peel Sessions release.

Live to Air in Melbourne 82 due on the 23rd April; Smith on Smith spoken word CD due 27th April


Levitate review, from The Wire, sometime last year

To skim across the surface for the moment of this latest, riveting, quixotic chapter of the dog-eared Chronicles of the House of Eldrich Smith. Levitate contains at least one solid gold entry in The Fall's Greatest Song Titles of All Time list. Wait for a reading on the content, because in this most pointed of music charts, "the quartet of doc SHANLEY" as it is printed on the sleeve) is right up there with DIY Meat, Bonkers in Phoenix, Mollusc in Tyrol, The Aphid, The League of Bald Headed Men, Lucifer over Lancashire, British People in Hot Weather and Gut of the Quantifier.

As Mark Sinker suggested in his review of last year's Light User Syndrome in The Wire 150, it takes time for Fall songs to reveal themselves to the object. Listening recently to the relatively plain-speaking, 20 years old Bingo Masters Breakout, the full hilarious import of one particular couplet leaped out and hit me for the first time. The keywords in Quartet of doc SHanley appear to be 'pranny' and 'recipe', but as these are traded back and forth between three overlapping narrators, who are in turn largely buried by a heaving juggernaut of a soundtrack, who knows what else will emerge from the mix over the next two decades?

Mark E Smith has always kept The Fall's complexity (and wit) covert, shielded it behind a pock-marked mask of Lancashire pragmatism and a seemingly shambolic approach to presentation. The latter 'obfuscating' characteristic has often been interpreted as amateurish ineptitude, as if The Fall was a half-hearted project, a casual undertaking to be judged alongside the part-time idiot-brained antics of Fall plagiarists from the Nightingales to Pavement. In fact, to get clinical for a moment, the sound of The Fall could be defined as both an extension of Smith's anti-bourgeois maverick politics, and a desire to birth in this world noises which have been revealed to him down the years in shattering awake dreams and via unknowable psychic conduits.

More so than any other group, The Fall occupy the recording space in order to manifest visions of existential revelation. As a result, Smith's abilities as an arranger of wayward sonic material have usually been overlooked in favour of close analyses of his refracted lyric-texts (see Michael Bracewell's England is Mine). In Fall songs, and that includes the 19 that are included on the two CDs of Levitate, all instruments sound (de)tuned to hermetic scales and modes. Driven by the urge to distort, the song's rudimentary frameworks are rethought ad reborn by the use of unusual rhythmic accents, the scalene placement of the instruments in the mix, the instinctive accumulation of multiple layers of sonic debris, extraneous noise bursts, and the constant manipulation of all sound levels. Texts become metatexts, fragmenting as they go, folding in on themselves, sinking deeper into the recesses carved by the group's trawl through a uniquely organic soundworld.

On Levitate, Smith and this latest version of The Fall continue to capsize traditional rock'n'roll dynamics and songform, partly by tapping into the motorik (im)pulse that connects The Johnny Burnette Trio's Train kept a-Rollin' with Neu's Hallogallo, a link made explicit by what on first appearing appears to be a filler, a throwaway version of Hank Mizzell's Jungle Rock. Accepting the fact that it is a cover version, this could almost be the defining Fall track: a mercurial motorik pulse, the clash of overdriven frequencies, instruments dropped in and out of the mix in accordance with an oblique, intuitive logic, an out-of-tempo guitar part set to one side of the soundfield that nags at the brain until it becomes the song's focus pull, Smith's vocal line delivered as a dirty smear across the surface of the music.

Compared to Light User Syndrome, which turned out to be The Fall's most concentrated and centred work since 1982's Hex Enduction Hour. Levitate at first feels too diffuse (like all Fall records in fact). The ferocious sonic and textu(r)al vortices described by Hurricane Edward, 4 1/2 Inch and Ol' Gang seem to overshadow the opening breakbeat-driven montage Ten Houses of Eve, the hurting Everybody but Myself (and its brilliant audio verite tape intro) and an elegaic piano miniature, Jap Kid (which later turns up as the music track to I Come And Stand At Your Door, credited to keyboard player Julia Nagle and 'anon'). But over numerous hearings the tracks coalesce, their angular textures held in riveting tension by the idiosyncratic studio mixdown, and of course, ME Smith's slurring delivery of texts which continue to map and illuminate our collective topographies and interiors like no other.

"I wish there was someone out there who wasn't afraid of me" he sings on a searing version of I'm A Mummy (writing credit: 'unknown'). No chance: The Fall's intelligence addresses, scours and liberates us all.

Tony Herrington


Recent news....

980410 More Philly reviews, Black Cat DC, NY Brownies reviews. Loads of stuff on the Thule group. Select Jan98 interview
980405 CIH, Loop Lounge, Middle East Boston, Plilly Troc reviews. Various press reports.
980331 Details of Live in Melbourne 82 CD, Smith on Smith spoken word CD, Nine Unknown Men, initial Coney Island High reports
980329 bollocks Smile comp details
980322 Vox interview, other stuff
980315 TBLY/Info service details
Peel session details; US tour dates
980227 a few bits & pieces, RTL, PoSR out
980222 NME interview
Destroy punk covers exhibition, Masquerade single details
980207 Brats award transcript
980130 Bits on NME Award, POSR/RTL reissue details
980125 Shanley i/view
980118 Time Out interview w/pics, Melody Maker review, Oh Brother press release, Oxford review
980111 Dutch Opscene interview
980104 Melody Maker interview
971221 Not much
971211 Portsmouth, London, Cambridge, Norwich, Bristol reviews
971203 Oxford, Stoke, Leeds, Liverpool reviews; Esquire interview
971125 Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stoke reviews
971116 Manchester reviews, Loaded interview
971112 Band back together, teletext interview
971110 NME report, various Dublin/Belfast disaster reports
971109 First Dublin/Belfast reviews

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