Fall News - 10 Jan 1999

The Fall's Peel Sessions album will be released on the 25 January on the Strange Fruit label.logo-a-go-go

Inch, recorded with Manchester producers DOSE and Spectre, will be released on February 15 on the Regal label. The track will be backed with three remixes. Hear the intro here.

The new Fall album's got a release date (almost): 25 Feb or 1 Mar. The single might be delayed til after the album's out, at the record company's behest.

Recent additions to Fall line-ups are confirmed as Nev Wilding (gtr) and Adam Bromley (bass)

And the next TBLY is out this week.


Mark E Smith appeared on Jerry Sadowitz's show Friday night.


Not desperately entertaining from a Fall point of view - MES just standing there looking either faintly amused or very bored.

30 seconds of the band playing Touch Sensitive at the end (Mark, Julia, Karen, Tom) - let down by a very clean studio-ey sound.


You forgot to mention the fact that the fall buggered off during 'the interval'. The bouncers normally do what MES *did* on the 1st person, i.e. say, 'fuck off' like MES did and ring the bell. Bouncers normally stick around for both halfs of the show and then get undressed and do a dance with thier penis. Funny thing was a woman said ' i want to say what a good film Silence Of The Lambs was' - MES says, (after me) " I was in that film"

Did you notice the bassist do a Spencer riff as a 'drum roll' to a bad joke. MES took the bouncer roll too literally and decided to guide the people off the stage...


Incidentally MES was cool on the Jerry Sadowitz show last night. Stood around in the background dressed as a bouncer, not pissed as reported in press, mumbling away as ever, trying unsucessfully not to laugh or smile, and then reappeared at the end with band to launch into a song (???) which the Channel 5 editors annoyingly decided to cut off after about sixty seconds and run the programme credits instead. Bizarre performance it was though.


From NME:

By Gavin Martin

The Fall
London LA2

"Back at Ground Zero, having sacked/been deserted by the foot soldiers of his old Rythm Revue, riffmeister General M Smith returns to the London stage. And Mark E's got a brand new bag. Of songs 'n' slogans. Of musical friends and theatrical tricks. Of withering invective and cranky eccentricity. And a few jokes.

Hark! Because it is the beautiful noise of a whippet-training bingo barker shouting the odds over electro-popping garage-punk and synthesised distortion. In other words - the jukebox rebellion continues unabated.

In two decades of Fall War, Smith's scorched-earth policy can seldom have been so vigorously applied. Do these new songs have titles or are they merely improvised works in progress? Who cares when the blend of the weird and the familiar augurs a vintage era? Yet the joyful grime and voluble quakes stirred up by his new hands couldn't come from any old outfit. It's all firmly rooted in the frontman's alchemical/shamanic role.

Oh sure, Mark E is a figure of fun with his crow's feet mush, his OAP stoop and schizoid conflagrations. He starts out yelping like a Teletubby, proceeds to drawl and slur like the lazybones he evidently is not and ends up in cat-screeching hysteria - "Get the fuckers out of your house/Get them out of your house".

Certainly he's a direct link to howling-at-the-moon rockabilly nutters and psychadelic derelicts of old. At one point the electronic workshop bubbling beneath the surface breaks through and he goes into a lovely lysergic interlude. But there's so much more. With his love of letting the band find their true level, rejoicing in the textures and abrasions others bleach out, he's like the James Brown or Miles Davis of a post-Krautrock Euro-underground.

Imagine a performer who can afford to jettison enough classic songs to sink a continent and still come up sounding fresher than The Next Big Thing. That's Mark E Smith - a great national resource and an exemplar of creativity in abundance. Ignore at your peril."



In the article in this week's NME on Pete Waterman, they list five fantastic Pete Waterman moments. Top of the list is You Spin Me Right Round, and Kylie features in there as well of course. Then by number five, they give up trying to find good records that he actually worked on, and go for Plug Myself In.


Some more Ritz reviews off usenet:

sorry but that is it that is the last time i pay my hard earned cash to wait for the fall to come on and then see mark stagger around the stage absolutely off his face, fight with his band - place all the mics in the kick drum and then fuck off after 20 minutes after a substantial wait (15 minutes ?)they returned for about 5 minutes before mark got in another fight and fell into the guitarists amp. He then left stage and his band (band? possibly made up of his bastard offspring - they were about the right age) valiantly tried to save the day by playing a recognisable song - ie Mr Pharmacist - not the best intrumental track. And that was it..... No comprehensible lyrics - no dry wit - just - thanks for your cash - fuck you. What happened? - at the 2 gigs i had been to previously the fall were fantastic - I dragged along a friend this time - he hadnt seen the fall before, but has a few records - both of us could say without a doubt it was the worst gig either of us had ever seen. Avoid at all costs.. stick to listening to the records.



I agree that last night was the worst Fall gig that I had ever been to. But I still loved it for the sheer humour of the occasion. I have never laughed so much at a gig before. Especially when MES tried to pick a fight with the guitarist, fell into the drum kit and then walked about with a wet patch on his cream-coloured jeans. Absolutely hilarious!

You have better hearing than me to have been able to decipher that they were playing an instrumental of Mr Pharmacist and I was stone cold sober. The whole night started far too late for the working classes. I had to drive back to Bradford and didn't get home to 3am and then have to go to work this morning.

Heist, were impressive but the first support act was like a six-former's poetry corner. The line "I live in the city with the highest proportion of homeless people. It's really sad you know" cracked me up, especially when her solution was to sing a shite song about it.

As for the rest of the Fall- who were they? I didn't recognise anyone except MES. I don't read the music press anymore so i'm out of touch, but the line up normally changes a little each year but not totally.

This was the worst fall gig I'd ever seen but Simon they're worth another chance . It can't be any worse next time.

Mr Pharmacist

You should all have gone and seen New Order at the Arena instead! Alan Wise did actually make a dedication to MES before NO's gig but I can't for the life of me remember what he said.. . . .

I actually took my girlfriend to Dingwalls in April(?) after telling her how brilliant a band The Fall were and promising her she would genuinely enjoy herself. They were awful, to say the least. "Mark E Smith on karaoke" was how a mate described the gig, in reference to MES's newly "streamlined" backing band.. . We even left before the end; something I could never see myself doing previously.. . .

It's a shame but MES really does need to buck his ideas up..



i'm afraid I was beer free last night as I was driving home - i have to admit I only realised it was Mr Pharmacist because the guitar player told the rest of the band to play it as MES staggered off for the second time.

Incidently - I quite enjoyed the first support act - anyone catch her name?



Well this was the twenty eighth time that I've seen them since 1980 and it ranked as one of the tops imo. The new guitarist was an inspiration. Fantastic. -- Ian


"Unfortunately that wasn't to be the start of great things for Shaky. Unlike the world of fairy tales, instant success doesn't happen very often. And so it was back to the grind of gigs and recording sessions for him and his group. During those years there were several records from Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets, but none managed that all-important chart breakthrough in this country. Their discs tended to achieve more success in Holland than in Britain. A solo Shaky single, 'Lonesome Town', was a chart hit in the Netherlands. Nowadays however, original pressings of those recordings - such as the album 'A Legend' or the single 'Jungle Rock' - which was a chart hit for Hank Mizzell while Shaky's version got nowhere - are valuable collectors' items." (http://www.shaky.net/story_2.html)


Bruce Tiffee:

From the new issue of Tim Ellison's excellent San Diego journal, Modern Rock Magazine (formerly Rock Mag!) - I think Tim is also using this article for a music sociology course, which explains the academic slant.

The influence of The Velvet Underground takes different trajectories through rock music's history. While one of these is the more often-cited "rock"-based lineage that was to carry on through The Stooges, The Modern Lovers, Television, and on from there to a number of post-punk bands, another type of especially interesting lineage can also be traced. The Velvet Underground's influence on the German group Can was of a specific type that would progress in a direct aesthetic lineage later through the extremely innovative British group The Fall (as well as through the New York groups Mars and The Red Transistor, though briefly, at roughly the same time), a lineage which has since, incidentally, yet to progress further (though does have a deconstruction in the contemporary New Zealand group The Dead C). It is in this lineage that the most advanced elements of The Velvet Underground, its minimalist rawness and its experimental lyrics, live on.

In liner notes to Can's 1971 Tago Mago album, the statement is made that, "if The Velvet Underground play in a junkyard, Can are somewhere more sinister still"--an interesting and accurate analogy. The implication of this statement refers to the particular power of Can's raw rock and roll, a music delivered by the group in long repetitive slabs and characterized by several things: the use of extremely raw, electric guitar timbres, a minimalist tension created by the musicians subtracting notes or restricting themselves to only a few notes, and lyrics delivered first by an experimental poet and secondly by a young Japanese man singing half-improvised poems written in English, a language he did not know.

The Fall took this musical lineage from Can (an at least somewhat well-endowed group, who were able to use fairly state-of-the-art equipment) back to the junkyard. As a band, The Fall used particularly less expensive equipment (notable especially in the cases of long-time bassist Stephen Hanley and guitarist Craig Scanlon), and produced records in an ever-shifting financial context that would never utilize the highest fidelity recording equipment of their time. This "junkyard" metaphor points to what was for The Fall the ultimately successful utilization of egalitarian possibilities available for groups not lucky enough to have secured big money recording contracts. 'The junkyard" also refers to the . sinister" quality of the music: something The Fall upped the ante on quite a bit over the earlier music of The Velvet Underground and Can (The Fall being perhaps the only band, ironically, that has accomplished this in eras nevertheless defined by "Gothic," 'Industrial," and later "Noise" music).

It is in the music The Fall made between the years 1980-1983 (though notably not apparent in all the songs they recorded during this time) that they were able to go somewhere beyond Can's earlier bizarre, innovative creations of songs molded out of organic rock-music-based improvisations. There are a few early Can songs that can be pointed to (out of all the songs on their first few albums) which set a precedent for what would be The Fall's most advanced and interesting music during this period. Interestingly, as with The Fall's songs that would later be crafted in this style, these Can songs aren't often identified as their most significant.

"Man Named Joe," from Can's Delay 1968 album, is a cacophonous rove-up over an upbeat swing rhythm , predating the particular approach to dance music elements The Fall were incorporating into their music of the period in question (1980-1983). Can singer Malcolm Mooney's vocal on this track resembles what Mark E. Smith would do later in The Fall in a couple of ways. Off-kilter verses punctuate a one-chord groove throughout most of the song. A final segment of the song consists of a single break in the rhythm filled in with "freaky" vocalizing by Mooney that border on a sort of avant-garde comedy, this followed finally by (merely) a brief coda. Much of this is pretty similar to some of The Fall's best work during 1980-1983.

"Father Cannot Yell," from Monster Movie, is based on a freakishly fast rhythm (often typical later of The Fall) that begins with single-chord strumming from guitarist Michael Karoli which turns into a I-IV progression lying in counterpoint to the bass guitar continuing to play off the root note. The lack of resolution in their creation of a repetitive groove out of this counterpoint is similar to the types of consonant, though unresolved, types of counterpoint The Fall would later use quite often. The brief appearances of Irmin Schmidt's organ (a powerful tone cluster near the beginning of the song, and single-note lines later) are typical of The Fall's later use of keyboards as temporary sources of mere electronic noise in segments of their songs. Malcolm Mooney's vocals are again off-kilter with standard metric aspects of rock and roll songs, yet the phrasing of his lyrics does fit the four-four rhythm of the song, and the lines are punctuated strongly with much energy. He also makes noises with his voice (again alluding to this sort of avant-garde humor) during a lengthy middle section of the song. All of this is quite typical of Mark E. Smith and The Fall.

"The Empress And The Ukraine King," from Unlimited Edition is again in an upbeat swing, dance rhythm, filled out with thin chordal riffing and strumming from one rhythm guitar, an insistently repeating riff in another, and economical, melodic bass. The absolute furiousness of the tempo is typical of The Fall's later exercises in deliriousness. Malcolm Mooney's rhythmically powerful delivery of a considerable amount of text in a series of verses in this vocal is a precedent to Mark E. Smith's later major innovations in lyric writing, and is consistent with what would later be his style of delivery. Again, the keyboards (and marimba at the beginning) appear only briefly to deliver what are essentially noise aberrations: repeating short lines of very few notes, very simplistic melodies, something again later to be typical of The Fall.

"Mother Upduff," (also from the Unlimited Edition LP) consists of a black-humororiented story read on top of an avant-garde music that is nevertheless simplistic and beatoriented (maintaining, as do all these songs, four-four rhythm throughout). One notable thing included in singer Malcolm Mooney's story here is a bizarre aside. The story is of an eighty-year-old woman killed by an octopus in a seafood market (typical of The Fall's "sinister" subject matter), and in the song's text, just before the fatal event occurs, Mooney narrates, "Finally ... or is it the beginning? ... a gigantic octopus leaped out of the pool ... etc." Mark E. Smith's later lyrics for The Fall would often consist of stories filled with similar types of personal asides or asides made by the characters in the songs. The music's lack of definition with regard to standard song structure--it basically consists of a single pulse, with various minimalist-oriented developments in intensity occurring throughout--is something The Fall would also explore during the early eighties. A shouted, repetitious refrain appears near the end (similar to the haphazard, random background voices that would appear in later Fall songs), and once again a break occurs at the very end of the song which includes a tinkling, simplistic keyboard line.

In retrospect, it is--and strangely so--only these four obscure album tracks that seemingly set the only precedents for The Fall's greatest avant-garde music, created as I have said in the years 1980-1983. It is essentially the second era of The Fall, with a lineup that included Marc Riley and Craig Scanlon on guitars, Stephen Hanley on bass, and Paul Hanley (and later also Karl Burns) on drums, that was responsible for this stylistic breakthrough. Indeed, seemingly the first recordings from the group with Riley on guitar and Stephen Hanley on bass showed signs of what was to come.

"Rowche Rumble," released as a 45 by The Fall in July, 1979, creates an insistent tension with a just-slightly out-of-control tempo, a chromatic, two-chord pattern in the rhythm guitar, and silly repeating melody in the lead and bass guitars drilling away at the listener endlessly. Its tinkling, directionless melody in the keyboard is somewhat evocative of Can, though still more in the league of the rock music parodies of an earlier version of The Fall. Further developments and subtleties would later take The Fall's music further along these lines than this early indicator does.

More subtle is "Psychic Dancehall," from the subsequent Dragnet LP (October 1979). Though perhaps ironically intended as merely a humorous musical setting for the subject matter of the song, "Psychic Danceholl" nevertheless set a precedent for a use of dance rhythms in The Fall's music. The counterpoint between the two guitars and the bass in this is the first of their innovations in this area. Spindly-sounding riffs (again repeating insistently and slightly deliriously) from the lead guitar in the verses go against a mildly dissonant chord progression (A, B, and C major) and a contrapuntal bass fine. A strangely brief (economical) buildup involving an odd, brief modulation down a half-step (the type of musical innovation The Fall are never credited for, as we'll see more of later) is very effective coming in after the verses and leading to the refrain. Consisting of merely these few elements, the cyclical structure of the song is peculiar--inspiringly simple, yet lacking something. Much like Can, The Fall compensate by creating a coda. Rather than have an instrumental solo, they merely place another ridiculously simplistic, random (yet consonant and appealing) melody (riff) briefly near the end (similar to the effect of the appearance of the brief keyboard lines in the above-mentioned songs by Can). The entire contents of this song are delivered in timbres from the guitars (and bass) that are raw and biting sounding, yet not clouded in fuzz or overdrive distortion, seemingly such that they were not unpleasantly loud in performance: also an important (and again, appealing) distinction to be made in comparison with much Rock music.

"How I Wrote 'Elastic Man,"' their fourth single from July, 1980, while not quite as subtle and fantastic as some later pieces, has some interesting elements. A mere onechord rockabilly groove carries the verses, though it contains ridiculous organ notes on the triad going back and forth constantly, creating a sort of Minimalist texture. The chorus, however, musically erupts out of nowhere with a simplistic garage band dissonance. As with the dissonant major chord progression in "Psychic Dancehall," guitarist Craig Scanlon again here unleashes a very mildly dissonant progression of all major chords, moving from the key center of F# to a chorus progression of D# to B, D# to C#, and then A# to F#, A# to G# (again, all major chords), the G# leading back down into the F# key of the riff and verse. The "background vocals" that occur in a sort of introductory segment to the third verse seem to serve no purpose other than creating a simple added noise to the song, this addition of a single avant-garde element (mere noise) being quite appealingly simple (and again, similar to the use of keyboards as briefly-appearing, simple noises, or to the appearance of the new riff at the end of "Psychic Dancehall," etc.).

Their next single, "Totally Wired" (September 1980), contained a B-side entitled "Putta Block," their strangest composition yet. As with all these songs, structural innovation is attained in "Putta Block" through very simplistic means. The song is quite brief, beginning with an aggressive chordal riff leading into a propulsive contrapuntal (over one chord) foundation for the verses. The verses are interspersed by a "chorus" that could only really be considered a chorus due to the (three note) refrain in the vocal; the musical structure of the chorus actually bears more resemblance to a separate type of verse. It seem "separate" from the verses because an odd modulation occurs (down a whole step from D to C) from the verse to the chorus: an utterly simple (and ultimately unusual) innovation to occur in a Rock song. The tempo also slows down from verse to chorus (and back up again into the verse): also quite unusual. The guitar riff that begins and ends the song is almost impossible to decipher (rhythm guitarist Craig Scanlon's guitar sound is brittle and brash enough, and he's low enough in the mix, to make it hard to hear what all is going on in between the two guitars), but bears no relation to the key center of the song (D). It seems to be some sort of chordal riff centering around B, again creating a very mildly dissonant relationship (i.e. not blatantly dissonant) to the ensuing key center of D major (with the implied minor-third blues inflection). The riff seems like sloppy expressionism, though, centered around B major (with that blues inflection), and in fact ends on a chord that includes the fourth of the scale (E)--though it couldn't really be considered a suspended chord--more like a consonant tone cluster. Again, a very unusual thing, and subtle in the context of the song's incredibly simplistic structure.

"Pay Your Rates",- the first song on their subsequent Grotesque (After The Gramme) LP (November 1980), replicates five of these prior innovations: 1) The slightly dissonant allmajor chord progression. 2) The separate tempos for separate sections. 3) The "chorus" that is more like a separate type of verse (or, in this case, a rest stop in between the quick-tempoed verses). 4) The switch in between sections to nearby key centers. And 5) The almost-consonant tone cluster ringing out at the end. What a strange formula!

This time they go even further toward dissonance. The chord progression in the slow bridge section seems to move from the key center of G in the verses to a chord progression of F major (the new root chord of sorts, meaning again a major second modulation) to B major to A major (similar to the initial jump up followed by descending major seconds in the chorus of "How I Wrote 'Elastic Man,'"). Any of these chords, though, are likely to be dissonantly altered (particularly into an augmented chord) or played against another of the chords by the other guitar player. This can also seemingly happen at much of any time during the progression. The F chord seems as though it is occasionally some type of E chord, also (which makes for a standard 14V-V relationship between E, A, and B, but again, one that is turned dissonant by the counterpoint between the instruments playing different things and the slightly-dissonant augmentations of the chords). In a later version released on the Seminal Live album from 1989, it is worth noting that a different lineup of the band changes the chord progression in the slow section entirely into the descending chromatic progression F# major, F major, E major--a very odd change-overl The original version of "Pay Your Rates," though, is a more subtly complex cacophony (played with amazingly klunky, brash sounding guitars) that fits into The Fall's uniquely simplistic song mold nicely.

While other interesting things occur throughout the Grotesque album (the harmonic structures of "English Scheme" and "C 'N C/Stop Mithering," the simplistic modalcounterpoint in long droning contexts in "Impression of J. Temperance" and "Gramme Friday"), The Fall never really put together an album full of their most musically innovative songs. (in fact, it's interesting that "Pay Your Rates" is the only cut from the Grotesque album included on the excellent compilation album released to document part of this period, Palace Of Swords Reversed.) Their singles from this period, however, were full of such songs, as was their next release, a ten-inch EP entitled Slates (April 1981).

Immediately, on the first cut from this EP, "Middle Mass," The Fall are once again up to their trick of unrelated major-chord progressions. This time it's G# to E, againreflecting the major seconds added together (into a major third) aspect to the very similarly slightly-dissonant chord progressions in 'How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'" and "Pay Your Rates." An upbeat bass line moves toward the E chord with a chromatic line of G#, A, A#, almost anticipating the third, fourth, and fifth notes of the scale to the subsequent resolution chord of E major, but replacing the fifth, B, with an A# (or Bb). a note more consonant with the still-underlying G# major chord. The notes in the bass which then lead to the G# chord do the same thing transposed: C, C#, D. This time the D replaces the D# (in what would have been a bass line of the third, fourth, and fifth notes of the impending G# major chord), with D being a minor seventh to the still-underlying E major chord, a blues inflection and a more consonant interval than it would have been had they used a sore thumb (extremely dissonant) major seventh. This is a totally separate purpose than the flatting of the fifth (A#) provided for the underlying G# chord, which was an interval of a major second chosen over the undesirable blues inflection of the minor third had bassist Stephen Hanley played B instead of A#. Two totally separate purposes for the note choice, yet both are chosen for the sake of strange consonances, and both together create an amazing symmetry in this bass line.

The song drones on for most of its duration over this progression and bass line with a two-note organ riff (B to F#) sounding in the typical minor-dissonance fashion over both the E and G# major chords. Near the end, the rhythm shifts and a new musical section appears with a chord progression of C major to D major. When the shift back to the original section occurs to center the song back in G# major, it is the typical stacking of major seconds as roots to all major chords (G# being a major third, or two major seconds, below the C chord in the preceding section) they continue to use. The stacking of major seconds is extensive enough in this song to account for an entire whole-tone scale, a certainly unique (and subtle) musical feat of the sort not normally associated with The Fall.

"An Older Lover, Etc." may be (perhaps along with a later tune entitled "Iceland") one of The Fall's most improvised pieces of music, and as such bears some resemblances to Can. Structurally, the song consists of a simple bass line outlining a I-V chord progression.

The guitars join the bass in fairly quiet playing, and also on the ridiculously insistent (once again slightly delirious) rhythm, contributing a three-note riff repeating endlessly. Between the guitars' three-note riff and the bass' four-note riff (and the mere two-chord structure), a very blank canvas is thus provided for the verses of the song. This blankness is quite appealing in its effective simplicity, yet odd musical uniqueness (created by the extremely banal counterpoint between the instruments).

In fact, the appeal of this type of blankness is something that can be said for the entire structure of the song, which merely intersperses these contrapuntal sections with a bridge section that occurs three times during the song, and consists of a diminished fifth riff (on the some root note of B as the prior section, which implied B major: a parallel shift).

The slightly delirious rhythm never ends throughout the entire piece; the two chord progression merely has one break: at one point, the guitars continue their noodling riffs, but the bass modulates up with an insistent C# (and the vocals move up with it), only to move back down into the old four-note riff seconds later, introducing a new verse. Quite odd.

The ending of the song is where the improvisation really moves, although the guitars do improvise slightly on their three-note riff throughout. It is at the end, though, that the riffs keep less and less shape, almost as though the players are weary of the rhythms kept up throughout. The song eventually peters out and is faded out in the mix, although, despite its energy deterioration, it has certainly not overstayed its welcome before the fade occurs, nor have the players not accounted for a logical ending, with these seemingly-tired deteriorations of their riffs ending up providing an instant coda for the song. Added noises from a piano, prepared tapes, and hand claps begin in the second verse, but only pop up for single notes or single noises, and low in the mix such that their total effect creates a barely noticed ambiance throughout the song. Nevertheless, these noises set the pace for later, when a real eruption of the prepared tapes occurs after one of the verses. This event is yet another example of an eruption of mere noise within a song, a singular (avant-garde) thing added to a very sparse structure. Notice, however, that minor things such as these eruptions ultimately push these songs into the range where about four or five significant events (verse, bridge, noise eruption, second bridge created by the exceedingly simple, brief modulation, coda, etc.) occur over the course of the song. This is a similar number of significant events as occurs in most simple rock and roll or pop music songs. Much could, no doubt, be said about the relationship of such a number of significant events happening within the two, three, or four minute time frame of the song, and its innate appeal as regards human perception of music.

"Prole Art Threat," which follows, condenses the structure of 'An Older Lover, Etc." into a short, extremely brash song. A one chord foundation and a ridiculously quick, galloping rhythm is outlined by the bass riff (which features the dissonant jump from the major third to the blues-inflected minor-seventh, a similar minor dissonance to the diminished fifth riff in the preceding 'An Older Lover, Etc."). The guitars (seemingly) merely grind out an insistent A major chord. This riff (along with the single chord) once again provides a very vacant foundation for the verses, only broken up this time by a sort of revelry-call guitar chord that also begins and ends the song. This 'chord" consists only of the notes G and C, echoing both the added fourth element (in the note 'C' over the seeming root note of G) to the chords in "Putta Block" (the chord which ended the song, as this chord does here) and "Pay Your Rates," as well as the major second key movement or chord movement (A to G this time) we've seen so often in these songs. This makes for (as always) a simplistic (yet blank, as it provides no tonal function) musical utterance. Once again, noise also provides a simple added musical event to the song, this time with mumbling backing vocals occurring only sporadically. A simple musical event (identical in effect to the momentary modulation in the bass in the middle of "An Older Lover, Etc.") happens here, too, when drummer Paul Hanley randomly shifts from the ridiculous snare drum pattern to a standard rock beat in the "third verse," only to (merely) return to the prior pattern almost immediately (just as the bass hod done in the prior song). Once again, about four events become the focal points of the song, all of which are of an incredibly blank or simplistic variety. These four events make for a balanced and appealing structure once again, this time four being the magic number for such a short song.

"Fit And Working Again," offering the simplistic textural variety in the context of this EP of an acoustic rhythm guitar, continues these formulae once again on the next track. Again led by a repetitive bass riff over single chords, the song contains two alternating musical sections which (yet again!) modulate the distance of a major second (A to B). Syncopations in the single-note guitar riff in the A-section and in the bass line in the Bsection create a very simple emphasis for the (again slightly delirious, similar to Can's "The Empress And The Ukraine King") dance rhythm of the song. Once again, this song manages to fill out its magic number of focal points with even more incredibly simplistic means: one chord grooves with simplistic (three and four note) bass lines in the two sections, a one-note downward glissando repeating in the lead guitar in the A-section and switching to a two-note riff in the B-section, the change to acoustic guitar for the rhythm guitar, and, again, mere noises as sporadic extra things added to fill out a rich, yet simple picture (ridiculous upper register piano notes banged out, yet low in the mix again, and haphazard, absurd background vocals occurring only here and there). The acoustic rhythm guitar plays around with (consonant, though bordering on the dissonant for one section with a contrasting blues-inflected minor third) alterations of its one chord for each segment, incredibly once again ending the song with a ringing extended chord (this time a sort of randomly-uttered added-ninth chord), as had happened in "Putta Block" and "Prole Art Threat." Ending the songs on these unresolved chord alterations adds to an overall openended feel that is suggested, also, by the truly strong stylistic variety The Fall manage to achieve between these songs. This element, coupled with the incredibly simplistic nature of the musical structures, is a wonderfully inspiring thing, suggesting as it does such a generative way of working (using such simple methods), and one so successfully consonant (yet free) and so fitting (in a new way) as to the two-to-four minute rock song formula.

While there were musically-interesting elements in the group's next single (released October 1981), it also set a tone for the less-interesting aspects of their next record, the lengthy Hex Enduction Hour LP (March 1982). While interesting chord relationships occur on both "Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul" and its flipside "Fantastic Life" (and "Fantastic Life" creates an interesting contrapuntal tension in the long repetition of a suspended chord during the verses), both songs revert to a more straightforward riff orientation or common chord progression during the songs' individual segments. Half of the songs on the subsequent Hex Enduction Hour album ("The Classical," "Jawbone And The Air Rifle," "Just Step S'Ways," and even the atonality of "Mere Psued Mag Ed") utilize similar constructions: interesting harmonic relationships between the sections and some tense, unresolved counterpoint happening here and there. None of these songs, though, manage to equate to the landmark constructions of the songs being outlined in this article.

Mostly, the other half of Hex Enduction Hour consists of the group's more drone-oriented songs. While these also contain interesting contrapuntal tensions (especially the guitar lines in "Hip Priest" and the bitonality--F# minor and B minor simultaneously--in "And This Day"), their structural simplicity also lacks the appeal of some of the more subtly complex songs. Only the aforementioned "Iceland" truly stands out on the album as structurally unique. A solid ' basis of a two-note, lower register piano motif, and an upper register, syncopated bass guitar continually improvising in a very scattershot, minimal way off of one note, form the basis for the rhythm of the piece (along with a drum part consisting of only hi-hat and bass drum). Subtly energetic drum rolls add random, scattershot emphasis here and there throughout the piece, along with marimba, percussion, and occasional simplistic upper register piano melodies of a particularly melancholy nature (somewhat like early Pink Floyd or Can). Two electric guitars appear halfway through the piece in opposite stereo channels, haphazardly beating around on mildly-dissonant alterations of the root chord held throughout the entire piece, and yet again (1) ringing out an extended guitar chord as the unaccompanied final sound of the song. The overall effect of the tune in similar to the singularly expository nature of the Can songs "Mother Upduff" and "Bring Me Coffee Or Tea."

Room To Live, a short LP, would be released in October, 1982. While it (along with its preceding 45, "Look, Know," backed with "I'm Into C.B.") primarily consists of song forms similar to those from the Hex Enduction Hour LP (containing interesting harmonic and contrapuntal elements in more traditional song forms, long droning song forms, or some combination of the two), it is, on the whole, a better production job and a good example of the interesting appeal this era of the group maintained almost completely even outside of their biggest innovations. The record also ends with "Papal Visit," an improvisationoriented piece utilizing abrasive, ineptly-played violin, percussion, and an acoustic guitar that appears, strangely, only briefly in the middle of the piece. This piece can be seen as similar to the more extreme avant-garde pieces from Sides Three and Four of Can's Tago Mago album. "Marquis Cha-Cha," however, is the one true standout from this record that is crafted in the style established by the group on the Slates EP and earlier. It was to be the last song created in this mold by the period of the group that included Marc Riley on guitar.

It's difficult to figure out exactly what The Fall were up to when they recorded this one. Strangely, for one thing, the song features only one guitar. The collective changes the group make between the sections seem to happen at a more-or-less agreed time, but at three points during the song, bassist Stephen Hanley switches to a separate atonal riff (two, three, and four note riffs, respectively), none of which have anything to do with the harmonic orientation of the song. This happens while the only guitar sits out, only to return when the bass returns to the main riff (which doesn't even happen at the end, his final movement up to the lost atonal riff causing a rise in song tension similar to his basic, though extremely odd, seconds-long modulation up from B to C# in "An Older Lover, Etc.").

Structurally, the song consists of two sections, the "Latin"-oriented rhythm of the main section being preceded by a short, cacophonous introduction that repeats once in the middle of the song (the single chord in this section being similar to the declarative effect of the chord that opens the song, and repeats between verses, in "Prole Art Threat"). The intro section features a two-note riff of F# and D in the bass against a two-note chord of B and D in the guitar, vaguely suggesting B minor, though unresolved in the bass. The main section of the song, with an abrupt shift, settles into the relative major key of D, grounded by an outlining bass riff. The guitar, however, alternates between a ridiculously simplistic D major riff and (primarily) a two-string riff of parallel thirds that only "resolves" on the same two-note chord (B and D) played during the intro section, thus resolving on what is essentially an added-sixth chord (the note B being the sixth of D major). The four focal points that make up this song could be said to be these two sections, the atonal, unaccompanied bass riffs that occur three times, and, as usual, the ambiance of the extra added noises to the song, emphasizing particularly in this song the extra percussion of the group's two drum kit lineup at this time, but also including background vocals and nonsequitur whistling during the repeat of the intro section.

Though The Fall's next album (Perverted By Language, December 1983) primarily emphasized the droning compositional aspect the group utilized often, and though the album would be followed later by a gradual, major switch in musical direction, two releases of 45 RPM records that preceded the album continued the group's efforts in creating these more extraordinary song forms.

The first of these singles featured one of the most extremely avant-garde rock A-sides of all time, "The Man Whose Head Expanded" (June 1983). That The Fall were creating catchy songs with such blank musical canvasses as used when guitarist Marc Riley was in the group was (and remains) quite incomparable. That they did so over these couple of 45 releases with only the even more raunchy and dissonant Craig Scanlon on guitar is even more extreme. In this song, a foundation is established by a two-note bass riff (on the root and fifth of the key of F#), though bassist Stephen Hanley randomly improvises around the F# minor pentatonic scale on occasion, creating sporadic emphasis in random places throughout the song (similar to the effect of the randomness of the drum fills in "Iceland," for example). Several types of simplistic keyboard sounds appear, one of which is set on a programmed, repeating octave riff on the note A (creating a slight dissonance against the bass riff in F# minor). The other keyboard sound is most prominent in providing a downward melody in F# minor of the notes F#, E, and D--consonant, though consisting of a mere, laconic, three notes ending on the unresolved sixth of the scale. A slow middle section provides the only contrast structurally in the song, and features the first entrance of the guitar, playing ragged chords which emphasize the key of F# minor, though in a random pattern that only resolves with a lost minute switch to the parallel F major as the main section of the song reappears. (These guitar chords in the slow section also lie in counterpoint to a boss line that switches to outlining a new chord progression of D major, E major, and F# minor, though this chord progression has nothing to do with what the guitarist is playing in this section.) The song continues in its repeating primary section until the end, when the guitar re-enters with, once again, its parallel F# major chord, thus ending the song yet again on a strange guitar chord.

The group's next release was a double single from October of 1983 (interestingly, predating Perverted By Language by only two months) which was to contain the final two songs from this fruitful period that were created in this mode. The first of these, "Kicker Conspiracy," echoes elements of many of these songs. Once again, the song structure is made up of two alternating segments separated by different rhythms and different key signatures. The initial segment outlines the chords B, A, and E (all major), moving to a riff over a single chord once again in the main sections: a D major chord (with a blues inflection), this D chord thus establishing, yet again, a major second distance from the at least implied tonal center of E in the other segment (though the key center of B--with a blues inflection accounting for the A chord--is more the implication of this introductory segment). The bass guitar riff in the verse sections utilizes a chromatic run down to the dominant tone, the chromaticism setting the precedent for an added closing section to the third verse, wherein the bass riff changes from outlining the pentatonic blues scale in D to more chromaticism in a riff consisting of the notes D, A, Ab, and Eb. This is quite similar to the odd chromatic riffs, that occur in the bass in "Marquis Cha-Cho." In that song, a different riff of a chromatic nature occurred at three points in the song, while in "Kicker Conspiracy," the riff lasts longer and only reappears for a second time to create a brooding coda to the song. The guitar, with a few alterations occurring randomly, maintains a jangling rockabilly style D chord throughout the verses, though at the end of the long third verse does some fast picking on a very peculiar, dissonant (in an expressionist way) lowerregister F# note. The recurring bass riff which started the song lingers longer than normal

in its final appearance near the end, yet halfway through it (at the normal moment to do so established by the other repetitions of this segment during the song), guitarist Craig Scanlon switches back anyway to his D chord, creating once again a strange, minor dissonance against the blues-pentatonic outlining of a B chord in the bass (and by doing the simplest thing possible, playing exactly what is played in the other sections of the song). This momentary minor dissonance also helps create another, very subtle, focal point for this song: another example of the strange, random things utilized by the group as mere (avant-garde) additions to the songs (as with, also, the harmonica blowing of only a few random notes that occurs twice: the strange overclub of mere noise they utilize for this one).

While the album entitled The Wonderful And Friahtening World Of The Fall (released subsequent to Perverted By Language in October 1984) would again, however briefly, utilize elements of this compositional style (particularly in the sparse structural quality and simplistic-yet-strange harmonic relationships in "Lay Of The Land," "2 by 4," "Bug Day," "Stephen Song," and "Craigness"--the latter song even containing an unusual collection of all major chords), it would mostly occur within a less "sinister" sounding production quality and even compositional basis. The last song created in the style in question during the period of the group that lasted from 1980 to 1983 would be "Wings," the flipside of "Kicker Conspiracy."

Again within a two part alternating structure, the main riff in "Wings" is this time in the guitar, with the bass grinding out (over a relentless march rhythm) a repetitive threenote riff outlining a i-V progression in B minor. The secondary section in this song allows the tension of the march rhythm to temporarily subside, though the tempo of the song is maintained in this section through a truly strange harmonic counterpoint between the bass and the guitar. The bass seemingly switches over to the iv chord, though the bass line in this section actually spans the harmonically peculiar major ninth of E, up to B, and up to F#. Over a repeating line on these notes, the guitar alternates two very strangely-chosen chords: an inverted Eb minor (1) up to an inverted F# minor. Both of these are played with a single-finger fingering on the guitar fretboard, accounting quite a bit, no doubt, for their choice (being a simple maneuver on the guitar, much as the simplicity of the close proximity of frets accounted for other odd harmonic events in some of these other songs: key modulations of a whole step, chromatic embellishments in the bass, random utterances of extended chords, strange major chord relationships allowing the guitarist to not have to bother switching fingerings, etc.). The inverted Eb minor chord played in this section actually manages to ring out over the bass line without registering as an extreme dissonance, something attributable both to a willfully expressionist atonality being utilized, and to the consonance of the bottom note of this inverted chord being Gb (the enharmonic equivalent of F#, this chord thus acting as a vague anticipation of the more consonant, subsequent inverted F# minor chord). As ever, overdubs of mere noises provide an extra, subtle focal point in this song: indecipherable sounds almost like defects in the recording occurring over the guitar's introductory playing of the main riff.

That this set of songs constitutes The Fall's most advanced and fantastic work, and not only of the time period in question, but of, ultimately, their whole career, is perhaps not something that would sit well with some of their general audience or fan base (this set of songs consisting of a real select, and somewhat obscure, few out of their quite large body of work). Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly so that these songs' particular subtle complexity represent some of the greatest contributions to rock music's most extreme aesthetic developments historically. Time and again in these songs, The Fall used an incredibly small amount of materials to create songs whose structural appeal is quite considerable in its continued utilization of utterly simple methods, the materials themselves consisting of very interesting, simple musical concepts: the usage of very few notes, the odd (yet simple) harmonic relationships, and the incorporation of off-handed avant-garde elements or techniques. Within The Fall's larger body of work, these songs themselves constitute a very significant body of work in the history of important aesthetic lineages throughout rock music history.


Peter Reavy:


I've only skimmed this, but it's an in depth article on Lovecraft by Joyce  Carol Oates. Lots of Fall-like undercurrents in it - puritanism, paranoia, Nietzsche, witch trials all touched on. She even uses the now familiar quote:

"The most merciful thing in the world...is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."


It looks like the URL redirect service (ml.org) we're using for the Fall page is going under, so we've signed up with another one. You can now access the website via these addresses:




http://fall.cjb.net still works, but won't for long.

Recent news....
990103 Manchester Ritz reviews
981220 Bristol F&F and London LA2 reviews, cut-out-and-keep guide to recent reissues
981214 NME & MM short pieces
981206 Dazed and Confused interview
981130 Nottingham 92 sleevenotes
981123 NME and MM news items
nothing special
981109 Peel session reactions
981102 Melody Maker singles review, Action Records details
981026 St Bernadette's Hall reviews, Astoria ticket details, Nottingham 92 album
981019 various
981009 NME interview, TBLY #13
981005 F-olding Money lyrics, couple of PNM reviews, Simon Rodgers' career
980927 Live Various Years details/review, 1994 interview
980920 more snippets
980914 bits & pieces
980907 NME interview, Post Nearly Man reviews, Mojo's How to Buy The Fall, Something Beginning With O
980831 Inertia tour details
980825 various snippets
980817 Observer interview, Manchester and LA2 gig reports
980811 Melody Maker interview, Live Various Years details, previews. Rick.
980802 Spoken word LP press release, Northern Attitude key & sleevenotes, Edwyn Collins, TBLY #12 details

Old stuff: Nov 1997 - July 1998

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