Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Day 112: You never told me Simon...

Welcome back to my blog, I could actually rename this blog as Ersatz Blog, its that occasional now. I keep meaning to update more often, honest.

Song: Taking Off
Album: Ersatz GB

Year: 2011

Still listening to Ersatz GB nearly every day, it's still amazing, I really don't get the negative reviews, The Fall constantly changes, if they made Hex Enduction Hour a million times, people would be bored beyond belief. Mark sounds ever more incomprehensible, but he has sounded this weird before and brought a more coherent style back (see most of his vocals circa Levitate for example, a drunken slur) this is no different from YFOC, except his vocals sound more clipped, distant and occasional.

The band are probably the best he's had in I'd say ten years, this song has a slurred, minimal beginning before roaring to life with that drum crack at the start. MES sounds focused and determined on this one, delivering the lines people are picking up on in reviews like 'Silent 6pm/Bonjela complexion' now I have no idea what that would consist of, but the juxtaposition of those two words have surely never been sung together before, it just sounds so brilliant. Equally, when he follows it up with a half thought-out 'Bonjela... Completion' it sounds profound. I suppose you could say MES has a bonjela complexion these days, his constant gurning and tongue wagging/mouth exploration gives him the look of someone preoccupied with a coldsore/gumboil, so maybe it's another autobiographical line.

No matter how many times I try to replicate it, I cannot match the way he delivers the line 'Buy Skips' (the weird melting crisps or the big metal bins?). He seems to make a one syllable word into two and a half, 'Buy Ski-P-sss' it must be something you can only do with the aid of dentures.

The line about presumably Simon Cowell 'You never told me Simon/About the forty carrot's scum/At weekends' now whether this is a bite at the X-Factor I don't know, but he mentions the teen drama Gossip Girl and attacks Snow Patrol elsewhere on the album, so maybe. Bit of a soft target, but it has maybe grown to such levels it is affecting our very own hip priest that he needs to moan about it. The title of the song, combined with the repetition of the word 'Ersatz' makes me think it is a slurred comment on how that show simply recycles old pop and tries not to be original. The word 'ersatz' was used by the British in POW camps in WW2 for the dubious coffee and food they were given that was of a low quality. Maybe the album is about how we may have lost our way, consumer culture and all that sixth form politics jazz.

I have to say there is hardly any repetition musically on this album, the songs feel more rounded and structured than ever, this one moves through several stages, Eleni's keyboards back up the music made by the tight garage style band he has in place, rather than stabbing notes here and there, it feels more organic, but still rough as hell.

This song also ends with some looped music that sounds arabian, but is apparently the band Dead Can Dance, who I know The Fall used to play with a bit back in the 80s. If anyone can tell me what song it is taken from I'd love to know, also any reccomendations of where to start with them would be good, as the stuff on youtube is fascinating.

I'll probably be doing some more off Ersatz soon, for those who haven't picked it up yet, do it, there's moments of pure Fall on there that need to be heard. The closing track is fast becoming one of my favourites.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Day 111: The incredible sulk.

So I'm still buzzing from the release of Ersatz GB, only had two days with it but it is already becoming ingrained, great stuff. Not as complex as YFOC but equally inventive. There's some development on there from the 'gruppe' as people seem to be calling them, you can tell its the same lot from last time, some of the guitar tones sound the same and one song starts off a little like Blindness which is nice. One song also sounds like Electric Wizard, but I'll do that tomorrow. Here's one people are talking about most I guess!?

Song: Greenway
Album: Ersatz GB
Year: 2011

So Mark sounds like the Incredible Hulk on this one, never heard him sound like this before, at first I hated it, but I think it almost is an impression of the hulk from the lyrics. He seems to be annoyed about a video he sees while channel-hopping on 'Danish rock TV' and the gruppe don't want to answer him, piling up chairs on the other side of the hotel room. this bizzare turn of events leads to the line that people are debating and finding fascinating at the moment and seems to have been mentioned in every review I've read too: 'I had to wank off the cat to feed the fucking dog' someone just mentioned it may well be 'wake up' rather than 'wank off' but I'm pretty sure its the weird one.

I hope when i'm 50-odd I'm still talking reams of shit to anyone who will listen, this is excellent. The hulk vocals could be his second attempt at Beefhearting it up of course, but whatever he is doing, he sounds incredible, like he is gargling phlegm or has just eaten a big cream cake before delivering the lines. I can imagine him clutching a bottle of whisky, careering around a hotel corridoor screaming 'Greenway' on every night of their recent tour. From the state of him in Leeds, no doubt his torso travelling faster than his feet. thankfully the tour got better, but as I've said previously, the bad Fall shows are still much more fun than any other gig you will see this year.

The promise of heavy metal is delivered via this song and maybe Mask Search on Ersatz GB, this one in particular sounds like a hardcore band chopping away before a beatdown at times, but still sounds Fall-like.

To anyone wandering here from the VISI forum, hello, please stay a while.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Day 110: Bill Is Dead, but this blog is not.

I'm still doing this blog, albeit very very occasionally these days, 2 house moves in 6 months has left me with very little time for anything recently but here we are. I'm finding I've got more time now, so on with The Fall-uh!

In the time away, I've managed to see the Fall live for the first time, I was at Stylus in Leeds, absolutely brilliant, despite Mark spending only about half the time on stage, the band were incredible. I've read some reviews on the VISI forum, but honestly, for a first gig, I was entranced. When Mark was on it, he was incredible, Strychnine was a great moment, with him abbing his finger at the topless pillheads at the front and his antics were more intriuging than annoying. Myself and my friend there agreed we couldn't wait to see them again, the new stuff also sounded bang on, even a little more complex. I can see the heavy metal comments Mark made ages ago coming through, Taking Off I think will be a future favourite for everyone.

Anyway, bloggling along...

Song: Bill Is Dead
Album: Extricate
Year: 1990

So this was a weird one, but remains one of the most lucid moments MES has laid down, he sounds oddly contented, as I've said before, on this album I think people had written him off previously, Brix had left and he had nothing to prove. Apparently this was supposed to originally be a piss-take of The Smiths, surely too easy? (and I say that as a fan) but ended up being a weirdly personal song, with Mark intoning 'These are the greatest times, of my life' over and over. Now this could be a reference to anything, love, the band itself, life in general. What I'd like to think is it pre-empts what occured on last year's Your Future's Weather Report 2, where he states 'You gave me the best years of my life' I always this this should be called Bill Is Dead 2, he sings in such a similar way and reflects in such a strange, detatched way. You can easily compare lines like 'Last week, after Dynasty/I had crows feet under my eyes' from BID to 'I watched Murder She Wrote/At least five times/the cast deserved to die' the in-a-bubble way it is delivered and observed is so similar its uncanny.

Where the two songs differ is that Weather Report 2 has so much static and breakdowns it lacks the lacksadasical hippy whisfulness of BID. Apparently Smith thought Bramah's music for this song needed lyrics fitting to it and there are points where Smith is almost saccharine (this is rare, very, very rare) lines like 'Lately, I rise AM/Off pink sheets' its almost as if he has spent time in a rock star wilderness, not as bad as Kate Bush (writing her album Aerial about washing machines and toddlers after about 2 decades away from songwriting) but certainly in a artistic, reflective way and its probably why it made it to number one of Peely's festive fifty that year (by the way, for Peel nerds, check this out, a site where you can listen to every single entry into the fifties over the years, with options to exlcude certain artists too, amazing, I just turned it on, got a Hefner track, sweet).

I'll stop here as this song is just one to enjoy, good to be back peeps.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Day 108: You can never go home!

This is an interesting one, how many bands can you name influenced by this one?

Song: Marquis Cha-Cha
Album: Room To Live!
Year: 1982

The music for this one is just fabulous, considering this was a rush-job release, there's enough ideas on it, let alone this track standing on its own to provide most bands with two LPs-worth of stuff. This particular slice of Fall has elements in it most bands influenced by the band would kill for, especially in 1982 (!!!) Witness the lilting guitar lines that reek of modern bands doing it for money these days such as Friendly Fires even down to the unusual percussion and high-pitched vocal style.

I suppose the tribal drum style could also be compared to stuff that the Stone Roses curled out in 89 and could even stretch to The Happy Mondays if you ignore Shaun Ryder (a similar style of 'singing' to Mark E, but with none of the class). I imagine Marquis Cha-Cha was amazing to hear live, if they got the percussion and the dreamy singing parts right AND the grinding halts correct, the version on ...In A Hole is a more frenetic, chaotic and harmonica-ridden mess, but still translates well.

The lyrical intricacies of this one remain a mystery to me, it seems to be spoken from the perspective of a deposed dictator or a politcal exile, talk of radios being jammed and a native country not being any good to the narrator. The various voices MES employs through the song mean it is a dizzying, uneven beast, but makes up for this in invention in spades. Just listening to the live version, it sounds like several tracks bound together with some sort of loose narrative thread, as if several characters are having their say.

The old idea that the title easily translates as 'Mark E Cha-Cha' is something I endorse, it's never pronounced 'Mar-kwiss' is it? I'd like to think this is MES's own creation of a dance step, but of course, MES does not dance...

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Day 107: In Burmese...

Here's another one from The Marshall Suite, can't wait to pick up the new reissue when I get paid, presume the live stuff tacked on is amazing, anyone got it?

Song: Inevitable
Album: The Marshall Suite
Year: 1999

So this one has muchos trance about it, lots of tripped-out beats and some keyboard that just cuts through it like butter. Considering what a cocktail this album is, it is among the best produced of that era for my money, this sounds like it could have been released yesterday, the trance elements less so, but it still sounds very modern, not 11/12 years old. The keys on here sound like a cor anglais or something similar, maybe a rudimentary midi stab at a clarinet, whatever it is, it gives a postmodern edge to the dance-heavy track.

As with a lot of this album, MES sounds a bit inebriated, but that never stops it being anything less than inspirational of course. Some of these lyrics sound like he is reading them out for the first time ever, which might even be the case. I'd love to see some MES lyric sheets. What ends up in Fall tunes is demented at times, so what does he self-edit out? Lines here seem disconnected and improvised, creating some unruly genius along the way: 'I love to dance/And it's Saturday again/Very logical' this strikes a chord with me, the way that somehow, Saturday night seems to be the night most 'normal' people go out and have a good time and the telly follows suit, dancing on this, strictly sib story etc. I'm one of those losers that bemoans other people having a good time when I can't, yah boo etc.

The references to the radio ally with the way Mark's vocals croak out over this tune, he could be a DJ spinning obscure white labels and telling people to 'roll another fat one' a la Radio 1 circa 8-11pm on a weekend. The way his vocals sound always affects my listening to a Fall tune, if there is delay or echo, or any sort of manipulation, I always imagine he has recorded through a megaphone or from down a corridoor in another room.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Day 106: Forty-year olds in colourful shirts...

Song: High Tension Line
Album: Single in 1990/Compilation 'High Tension Line' 2002.
Year: 1990

There was a time, around the release of this single (as far as I can work out, it was just a single in 1990 and appeared later on a compilation it lent its name to in 2002) when you turned on the telly and all you saw was bright pastel colours on people. This was the era of bumbags, flourescent shirts and cycling shorts and the brief popularity of The Sweater Shop. There's pictures of my dad in a horrific shirt around then which looks like Picasso has been sick on it, all maroons and swirls of red and orange, but that's just what was in at the time.

I refer to this as the excellent song I'm blogging today has an amazing line in the shape of: 'And see forty-year olds in multicoloured shirts/It never used to concern me/But now it's making me say...' this is an other of those songs in which the subject of growing old before your time/acting young for your age comes in. With his grasp on the working class of the UK, Mark is in an enviable position of being working class, but actually observing it from outside the usual confines, being an artist/musician means he lies on the periphery most of the time, so this is a look at those around him with wit and observation not many people get to have.

The song itself is great, that insistent drumbeat and the singalong chorus mean its a nice slice of pop, with added vitriol lining its pockets. I have absolutely no idea who the two women mentioned in the first verse are, searches for Jeanette Fletcher and Michelle Spencer throw up LinkedIn profiles and family tree bumf from google, so can anyone enlighten me? I like it when people, living or dead are referenced in Fall tunes, so would love to know. Friends, aquaintances? Let me know in the comments...

The final verse seems to me to be a self-referential one, with talk of life being like a 'facial tissue in a brass bin' and then words to the effect of 'These words are amblings' perhaps this is as close to referring to writers block as we are ever likely to get, thinking out loud etc. The High Tension Line of the title seems to be a threshold of tolerance, or a comment on society being always on the edge of chaos. It could also be someone's breaking point, the shirts of those forty year olds making something snap inside and seeing red.

Monday, 19 September 2011

105: the fashion exhibition...

Here's a crazy one, sounds like a warped tape.

Song: The Crying Marshall
Album: The Marshall Suite
Year: 1999

This is a pretty unique one, which is actually a remix of this song, which MES recorded with the Filthy Three:

I prefer the updated and remixed version, the other one sounds like a Fall track made into a 90s stomper, but the remix takes on a warped, twisted face. What comes to mind is a melting version of the Frightening World... front cover, just the horror of the grotesque in musical form.

This album was just after the infamous Browns incident in which Smith had a punch up and nearly lost everything. This was made with Nagle and Smith and some new people, a little thrown together, its a real mixed bag but is actually amazing. A concept album of sorts about the titular 'Marshall' who leaves town 16 times in this song. I like the line about the fashion exhibition, sounds like such a throwaway line until you realise he left town either for one, or to avoid one through the song.

The guitars are warped beyond recognition here, sounding more like buzzing synths and the mashed up drum and bass and dub beats make it sound confusing and a bit of a collage. The guitar that is left in reminds me of computer game soundtracks of the time Wipeout 2097 for example. There was a time when everything had this compressed, static-like sound in games, I kind of miss that, its all strings and drones now.

This album has just been re-released as its been hard to find for a long time, it comes bundled with a load of live stuff I think, so well worth a purchase. I'll be picking it up in a few weeks, awesome.

By the way, regarding this track, did MES pre-empt the current trend for voice manipulation by a good ten years? Listen up Jason Derulo et al, this is how you use editing techniques.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Day 104: Sorry it's been so long.

Hello everyone, I'm back with a vengeance now, is anyone still there?

I'm going to give it my best shot to do a song a day, but with the busy life I find myself living now (I was jobless from Jan-May hence the time to spend ruminating on music) that's the best I'm going to be able to offer.

In other news I'm hoping to be able to attend the gig in York in October, can't wait to be honest.

Anyway, I've had Code:Selfish on in my car for months now, so here is one of my faves off that...

Song: Everything Hurtz
Album: Code:Selfish
Year: 1992

This album is growing on me by the listen, it has this cool, almost surf rock undulation to it, don't know if that's just the repetition of the songs talking to me, but there's this cool 60s pop vibe to everything. This not only sounds desperate, but just cool too.

This is the sound of someone going on stage because they have to and giving it everything, at least that's how I'm reading it, the repetition of the title makes it seem like a slog, again with a 'z' (MES loves his spelling changes, pre-empting text speak by decades he was). The whole track moves with a muscled, intense walk, the cyberific keyboard sounds that offer little staccato rumbles and blips and the crack of the drums mean it is loaded with substance.

The lyrics are delivered almost line by line, rarely overlapping and its along the lines of feeling rotten: 'I've been pursuing the fuel too long/Got a big fat pain in my chestbone'. MES would never admit he felt awful, I don't imagine he gets manflu very often, he probably drinks enough that any illness just feels like a particularly bad hangover and he drinks on through. This is as close as I imagine MES gets to complaining about himself.

The lyrics are very existentialist too, not to harp on about it, but it all sounds futile, as if he knows it is as well, the idea of 'I feel awful, but this is just how it is' is the feeling I get. The same goes for the idea of being responsible for one's actions. This, placed alongside last year's Weather Report could be seen as some rare self-analysis from Smith, its obtuse, its open to interpretation, but that's what it really could be. He doesn't sound as sorry for himself as he does on that, but then he never has, I genuinely feared it may have been the final Fall album, but sounds like the new one will be amazing, it's called Ersatz GB and is out in November, such a long time to wait!

Nice to be back, please comment if anyone still exists...

Monday, 15 August 2011

Suspended service-uh.

Had a bit of bad news, so won't be blogging til next week, in the meantime, have a picture of Mark looking far too cheery.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Day 103: Sitting in my easy chair...

Contentious cover time!

Some people love this, others can't stand it I've found, I quite like it in a weird way, like a lot of their covers, I think its just a bit of homage, not a statement of intent.

Song: There's A Ghost In My House
Album: Single (But is on The Frenz Experiment reissue)
Year: 1987

As ever, this is a tad obscure for a cover, the original is a northern soul song by R Dean Taylor in 1965, which sounds much the same as this one. The only difference being it has been 'Fallified' with Mark's vocals being as unique as they are. They do however add a little verve to the song, making it sound a little more mysterious, the 'ghost' of the title is an ex-lover, the lines like 'sitting in my easy chair/I feel your fingers running through my hair' and 'looking in my coffee cup/I see your face looking up' confirm this, the ghost of a relationship haunting a man's mind. R Dean Taylor has done a very MES-style trick here, hiding quite dark lyrics under a pop sheen, obviously way ahead of the pack there.

The video for the song is pretty good, MES with what looks like eyeliner on, wanders round what I've since learned to be the Woodthorpe Hotel on Old Bury Road, which links Cheetham Hill, Crumpsall and Prestwich together. No idea if it is still there, I'm sure someone reading this could tell me. Brix plays the ghost here, looking demented under a bleach-blonde perm, the ghost seems a bit manic, smiling one minute, throwing cups at Mark the next. It then fades to some live footage which looks to be of the same era.

I've included the R Dean Taylor vid below, but I honestly prefer the Fall version.

Day 102: Debtors escape estates.

Been away a few days, here's the catch up.

A great one here from Grotesque.

Song: Pay Your Rates
Album: Grotesque (Against The Gramme)
Year: 1980

This album is so full of invention, its odd that it starts with a snotty little ditty like this, but it's still good. Sounding like a hopped-up Ramones, the riff is very 70s punk, but that is firmly blown out of the water with weird keys and some inventive headstock strumming, we need more of this in music, the headstock of a guitar is a very underutilised part of the instrument, manages to sound both un-musical and musical at the same time, very much like when you strum an egg-slicer.

The vocals here waver between angry snotty punk Mark and the breaking-voice antics that appear on a lot of early stuff, think he's cough up his oesophagus these days if he tried it, but it would probably still sound good. Lyrics are repetitive (shock! horror!) but do the job as ever, the frivolity and general mediocrity of paying a bill, transformed into a catchy lyric, excellent work.

I like the reference to Warren Mitchell, for those too young, myself included, he was TV's Alf Garnett, who on the program Til Death Us Do Part in which he sent up the working class stereotype as a thoroughly unpleasant, racist and sexist character. Here, Mark calls him a 'working class traitor' something which is a common criticism levelled at the show, as it was almost seen as cruel class tourism. The idea of shining a light on a lower class for profit is something people are still doing now, see Channel 4 docs, Jeremy Kyle etc for proof.

I do like the laughter in MES's voice on this one, he sounds like he is laughing at the absurdity of his own lyrics, cracking up whilst crooning 'Debtors escape estates' over and over, glad to see he finds it as funny as we all do.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Day 101: Hit the north!

Bit of a curveball for today, don't think this appears on any album but it's great.

Song: Hit The North
Year: 1987
Album: Not aware, but it was a 12" single in 87 I think.

This one is just great, a proper fun pop single, complete with funny video. No great lines can be caught initially, but the refrain of group shouts of the title make this a real singalong one. Also features MES attempting a little dance, incredible. Brix looks posessed here, especially when she's using the sewing machine.

Look further, as ever, and you will find hidden gems buried in this case under some amazing saxaphone. The line buried under the first few refrains is actually 'My cat says ee-yack!' so take from that what you will. Mine kinda just grumbles.

Later on, if you read the lyrics out of context, they seem like a half-formed poem, lines include: 'Computers infest the hotels/Cops can't catch criminals' these sound like lines snatched from working men's clubs. The way he manages to pronounce the two lines so they just don't rhyme is incredible, another entry for the MES book of pronunciation surely.

Weirdly, youtube has placed an ad for 5-star hotels over this video, nice try youtube, but that's irony if ever I saw it.

This song spawned one of the best covers of a Fall song ever, by the inimitable Frank Sidebottom (to whom I am equally enamoured) RIP, he manages to confuse David Soul from Starsky and Hutch to the point of annoyance, amazing. Also manages to add a line to the title as well "Hit the north.... and hit the arcades!" amazing.

I miss Frank.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Post 100: It's taken me too long.

Hello all, this is number 100, seems stupid doing it this long after posts 1-99, but here we are, actually going to keep it up now, apologies for being totally shit.

So this is, ahem...


So here's my idea, there seem to be too many people who haven't heard The Fall, or who have just heard the odd song and not thought of investigating further, these people need help, there's a whole wonderful and frightening world of music out there and Mark E Smith wrote most of it. I'd include garish sparkles if I could, but I'm no good at html.

Post 101 tomorrow will return to the format of a song a day, can't wait to get back into it!

So here are 10 songs you should play AT people in the hope they somehow get the bug:

1. Couldn't Get Ahead.

This has it all, fast, repetitive, but with enough unhinged ideas in there to make people sit up and take notice, the harmonica flapping away in the background, the lyrics about buses, cabbage patches and ET. it's all wrapped up in an amazing 3-minute microcosm. Also, a song about drinking, always a hit, just ask Chumbawumba.

2. Eat Y'Self Fitter.

This is one of the songs where The Fall clicked for me, the endless riff, the bass sound, the insane lyrics, the complete uniqueness of MES and his northern-tinged vocal delivery. This one could be one that breaks people, it's almost like giving someone a big slice of chocolate fudge cake and a dollop of cream when they've been surviving on beans and water. Almost like a litmus test for music fans really, love it or hate it, it's a song you need to hear before you write off MES and his witterings.

3. Hey Student!

Even when I was a student, I hated students and I think all students see themselves as second class citezens at the time as well. This is the equivalent of a Fall anthem, I think I would as Mark puts it 'flip my lid' if I heard them play it live these days. Anyone who likes indie music or has any inkling of an alternative music taste must surely rate this.

4. Hip Priest

This may already be in people's heads already through osmosis, I've not picked this one to be obvious, rather to illustrate a point, this song is one of the most enduring of The Fall canon. From the lone drumbeat that opens it to the mad crescendo, its iconic and is completly different from any other Fall song, perhaps also the most dynamically structured too. If people can't stick the repetition of other MES classics, then this is surely one to challenge their notion of the band with.

5. M5

One of the best songs to showcase MES at his lyrical best, he sounds forthright, defiant and overall coherent. This is as close to britpop I think The Fall ever strayed, but its still skewed and joyously surreal. The lines about tramps roaming the city in particular. It also has what could be termed as a 'chorus' something lacking in other Fall tunes.

6. British People In Hot Weather.

I know its an unusual one to pick, but this one sums up the balance between the pop and humourous side the Fall have in droves. This one is still making me laugh, I don't think I've heard it since starting this blog and its still a great example of The Fall taking their foot off the gas. Could well be a contentious one for some as its 'silly Fall'.

7. Mexico Wax Solvent

Here's one that will test the mettle of anyone new to The Fall, I'm still working out the lyrics, completly surreal after constant listens. Included are references to ex-pats, chocolate, cooking chicken and rice with tools, tramadol, barbiturates, discount prices and clicky shoulders. The music also shifts like a bad dream, lurching from one layer of paranoia to another, still think a good year on that this is perhaps one of the best songs the band have recorded.

8. Free Range

The clash of dance music (that now sounds like a Mega Drive soundtrack) and The Fall's unique stylings still sounds great now. The keyboards sound very much of their time, but I know some people who rate this as their favourite tune. This would also introduce new fans to the harsh reality of The Fall's sound and creativity in full flow.

9. US 80s-90s

This is an excellent one to start with, brutalist and unrelenting but still just there musically, Mark is on excellent form here. The timing of the 'chorus' (another one) is fantastic and I never tire of the riff, it has one of the most subtle changes throughout that makes this a deceptively complex song. Sounds both cool and distant at the same time, and isn't that The Fall through and through?

10. Blindness

Surely needs no explanation.

It does? The bassline then, simple.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Day 99: Back-uh!

Hello all, it's been too bloody long hasn't it?

I'm back with a vengeance, moved in and hooked up rurally to the interwebs, MES will really hate me now, I've moved to the countryside (contraflow?) and they don't even have fibre-optics here yet.

Easy choice for the first song back really, I've actually bought the CD version of the album since being cut off for a while, so here we go...

Song: My New House
Album: This Nation's Saving Grace
Year: 1985

This one manages what I'd term a three-pronged attack from The Fall, not only is it hilarious and foreboding at the same time, but it's also a real heads-down stomper too. It sounds dangerous through its intense repetition which seems to increase with every minute until it is a maelstrom of riff. I think there's even some downbeat sax in there somewhere. As well as that it sounds like blues gone wrong at times, off-kilter and slightly out of tune, just how it should be.

I've probably said it before, but I'm still amazed how This Nation's Saving Grace sounds like an album in the old fashioned sense, sure it has the singles that do stand out, but it moves through a cohesive whole, its like they had a vision of how it should be before they laid it down, ordered planning within chaotic boundaries.

The lyrics are just great, intended I presume as a piss-take of people who bore you with their endless witterings about their boring lives, in this case a new house (which I'm no doubt doing to people now). I particularly like the line: 'It's got window sills/With lead centred in the middle of them' just brilliant, taking the absurdity of the concept to the maximum.

Again, what appears to be a jaunty, fun affair is slathering sugar over a dark underbelly, the lyrics are delivered as ever in a smooth but sarcastic way, but contain such dark gems as: 'Creosote tar fence surrounds it/Those razor blades eject when I press eject/My new house/Could easily crack a mortal' this alludes to sinister goings-on, the fact this character 'bought it off the baptists' makes it even more disconcerting.

That's also something worth mentioning, MES is perhaps the best short story writer ever, who else can paint such a convincing cast of characters within 3-5 minutes? This shares paralells with other songs, a dubious look at religion (Papal Visit) but creates a credible backstory that is begun, expanded on and concluded within five minutes, other songs that do the same are countless. The midnight shooting of Jawbone And The Air-Rifle, the forthright night out of Eat Y'Self Fitter or the horrific realisation of Blindness, they all start and wrap up wholly convincing stories in double-quick time, and you remember them.

The lyrics end with what sounds like a justification of a shit-hole, which I've also done (once lived in a grimy flat with two bathrooms and one working toilet and still thought it was good). The dark ending lyrics again are hidden under the guise of quirky delivery: 'The spare room is fine/Though a little haunted/By Mr Reagan who had hung himself at number 13/ Mr Reagan hung himself at number 13/It'll be great when it's decorated/My new house'.

This is just great, almost like the British reaction to horrific events, chin up and that!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Day 99 and onwards to follow...

I'm moving house this Friday and simply don't have time to blog with the packing and horrible logistics, suffice to say that when I am online, I will have all the time in the world again to deconstruct your favourite Fall songs.

For post 100, I want to do a special post, suggestions please for 'The best Fall songs to encourage new fans of said band' and a few reasons why, either leave a reply or email me and I'll collate a top five or ten and do an extensive blog on the results. Doesn't matter if I've blogged it already.

See you on the other side of the move. Mike.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Day 98: Ted Rogers' brains burn in hell.

Ted Rogers, if I presume he's talking about this guy, was a TV presenter on a pretty tacky game show in the UK called 3,2,1 and his mascot was a robotic bin, or trash can for the 'mericans. Why he is mentioned in this song I have no idea, but I like it. Just look at him, white trousers with a blue blazer,you can almost smell the roast dinner (I remember this being on Sunday teatimes for some reason, may have been repeats).

I like how Dusty Bin's nose is held on by string, almost like they gave him a nose as an afterthought.

Anyway, this has nothing to do with The Fall, reads more like a mental breakdown at the moment.

Here's the actual song, it's a beauty!

Song: Joker Hysterical Face
Album: Room To Live
Year: 1982

You could actually base the first few lines of this song in today's reality 'The sweetest sound she had ever heard/Was the whingeing and crying due to the recession' quite apt. Don't know about in the US and wherever else people are reading this from, but the UK is a grim place to be these days, people losing their jobs, suffering cutbacks and for some reason today, the government (tory as is was back then) has decided women need to work for longer, that seems unfair, as some labour back-bencher said today, those women can just throw their future plans in the bin, cheers Dave. My parents both recently retired, I'm betting they are glad they did.

This song is actually brilliant, it has some amazing riffs in there, all swaying and upbeat, it's very Half Man Half Biscuit, who although an amazing band, never moved on from their initial style (another band I could easily blog about like this forever). If you are a Fall fan and wrote HMHB off years ago due to the name, go and grab a copy of their latest album and laugh yourself silly, it's the same sense of humour MES has, without the malice.

The lyrics in this one are great, stuff about throwing 45s at people and the echoing lines of 'There's no cure/So find a place for it' is referring to I think, the job/social situation at the time, this was the 80s in the UK, deprived, especially in the north and bloody depressing, watch this for proof.

If you do watch that play (and you should) there's a great monologue in part 4 (I think) that's simply a woman telling the camera how terrible her life is, she is exactly who I thought of when I read the lyrics to this one.

What other band can make you piss yourself ('Ted Rogers' brains burn in hell') to the depths of social realism this fast?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Day 97: You think you're a giant...

One of my favourites this.

Song: Ride Away
Album: Fall Heads Roll
Year: 2005

This one is just amazing, what an opener, those drums just pound away, the guitar comes in with that reggae lick and MES just sounds lackadaisical while still focused.

The lyrics are great, the simple act of bringing someone down a few rungs, what more needs to be said?

I think this is one of the most stark Fall songs of recent years, almost no instrumentation, so when they do add the odd element, a simple cymbal crash can sound massive. Despite the lack of music as it were, there's a hell of a lot to shout about with this, the hilarious lines 'You think you're a giant, you know you're a nothing, hey' and the strange imagery that hangs on lines like 'As you travel through hill and valley' make this entirely unique, it actually serves as one of the most effective 'intro songs' I can think of, seguing into the excellent Pacifying Joint, in which the whole band are almost allowed to burst forward into, smart use of dynamics there.

Fall Heads Roll is full of clever little twists like this, if you haven't dug it out for a while, treat yourself this week.

Day 96: Relaxing with sugar and tobacco?

Back to basics I'd say, but none the worse for wear.

Song: Latchkey Kid
Album: Imperial Wax Solvent
Year: 2008

This one is a mess, but in a good way, that old MES habit, where he seems to have messed with the very makeup of the song is evident here. Noises invade what appears to be a straight-up Fall barn-burner which is repetitive and bluesy. When the noises, mainly electronic and what I can only guess are vocal tracks degraded and destroyed take over, it takes on a sound collage-esque manner. It's what I imagine a sound installation by Mr Smith would be like, jarring and caustic noise, with no reference points and seemingly no purpose.

I always think that some of the Fall's songs are simply ideas put down on tape with no editing or afterthought, what I'd term 'honest music' as I read in an interview recently, he says people are 'ironing the air', meaning, slaving over every note, every flinch, every perfectly-struck snare. What I think The Fall have done since that technology has become the norm is let the producer have their strict fun with the songs, but then almost de-construct that. On the most recent albums, an air of digital sputum is slowly dribbling down over the perfectly-recorded music, the swathes of fuzz and crackles and the incidental sounds left in are testament to the group's independence, even when dealing with big record labels. This is a great example, a kind of jigaw track, not fully-formed and certainly not commercially viable, it's the way Fall fans like it.

I'd love to see some of the engineers I know trying to explain the latest innovations in music tech to MES, I think he'd listen, but with that knowing smile on his face, occasionally gurning, before walking off without a word.

Day 95: They were a bunch of twats...

Rochdale by LA? Yep, it really happened.

Song: Insult Song
Album: Reformation Post-TLC
Year: 2007

This sounds like an elaborate injoke and also sounds like a biblical tale, truly strange. MES is putting on what I presume is an American accent, but soon drops it as he collapses in laughter at some of his own lines, he also drops it just before the story turns to Rochdale (where the album was recorded) from an LA location.

The Beefheart influence here is so obvious I feel stupid mentioning it, he is doing a Beefheart impression and the music sounds a bit scattershot in that same style, it moves to an even more fevered pitch later on. I wouldn't mind seeing this live, but I doubt it would ever happen, seems like an album folly to me.

The way the lines are read out is so prose, it's almost a Jackanory sort of vibe, sadly, the majority is nonsense, but I love the way he cracks up during the lines: 'We thought they wore masks/Until we asked them to take them off/They took the trout replica a bit too far' and laughs in a childish way about the town names of Nobend and Ramsbottom.

Some of it sounds a bit evangelist, he shouts the end of some lines in the way enthusiastic preachers do, the lines like: 'Following their leader blindlessly and obeying in all goodness/The long trail to the Lancashire hilltops/Happy in their fulfilment' actually sound like they have come from scripture, the overly formal and strange syntax gives it that mystical edge.

I presume Elena didn't mind being called a hydra and the Americans didn't mind joining in the joke, it's good MES has a sense of humour, elsewhere on this album he is quite serious and acerbic.

The bassline that wanders over this track sounds to me like The Breeders song Cannonball, anyone else get that? One thing MES has always managed to get, a decent bass sound, something which a hell of a lot of bands neglect these days.

Day 94: I couldn't live in those peephole places...

This one's a pocket full of lyrics, let's go.

Song: Frightened
Album: Live At The Witch Trials
Year: 1979

This one is one of the only songs on LATWT that takes its foot off the gas for the pace of things, and as a result, there's oodles of room for some lyrics to take centre stage. It's also the first song, which sets up the dark atmosphere well, almost sounding more urgent in line with its rushed recording process.

The music plods along nicely, some great squally guitar lines in the background, but it's all about the freeform drums and keyboards, insistent and present in the mix. Mark almost has to force some more effort from his lungs to be heard and it just sounds way ahead of its time, still does really.

Lyrics pour out in waves for the whole song, quite unusual because I feel around that time, his lyrics were only just taking form, but this is accomplished and full of intrigue. It seems to be about paranoia, something MES returns to again and again. It also hints at his dislike of people knowing his business 'I couldn't live in those peephole places' could mean a small village in the countryside (see his hate flow for these places in Hard Life In Country or Contraflow) or it could mean just people/peephole in general. Of course the paranoia is something evident in the Fall's massive body of work (most obviously coming to mind is Paranoia Man In Cheap Shit Room, but there are plenty more). A lot of his sackings of members may well be down to paranoia inherent in his psyche, although he likens the ethic to running a football team and understands that people grow or can't hack it, which I prefer to think is the truth.

The lines in this are desperate and almost like a cry for help from the character he assumes here, lines like 'I've got shears pointed straight at my chest' and 'In a dark room you see more than you think' suggest drug-induced psychosis but can equally apply to any situation you could imagine, trapped in a job or trapped in a situation, it's all the same. The physical aspect affects me most here, the simple closing lines of 'I go to the top of the street/I go to the bottom of the street/I look to the sky, my lips are dry....' just creates a feeling of panic, of otherworldliness that he would go on to recreate a myriad of times. The constant keyboard is almost mocking when lined up side by side with this song's lyrics, which is why it's such a success.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Day 93: He has patents on moaning!

This one sounds better live I reckon, the production on this studio is a bit flat in my eyes, but who cares? Still an awesome song. Check out the entry I did for the song Smile, the live video in that follows it up with what I'd say is a definitive version of this song.

Song: 2x4
Album: The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall
Year: 1984

This is a Fall staple, just a simple, yet effective riff, but his vocals here approach that squeaky scream he rarely attempts these days, really distinctive. I actually love Brix's backing vocals here, she sounds very riot grrl here, did she ever get into that scene? The Adult Net seems a bit too pop to be considered spiky enough I suppose. This one showcases her unique guitar style and isn't buried by the dual drummers, something I wish we could see again, it adds just something else to the whole sound.

I'd say this is as close to punk as the Fall come in this era, a simple, 3 minute rager, as the rest of this album certainly explores some more pop and folkish elements. Underneath all the audio mess is again a tale of dark prose told in a rush, this time on what seems to be a serial killer with some very strange habits, who wears glasses and now has a 'Georgian glazed porch' who else could get those three words into a song that is essentially about hitting someone over the head with a piece of wood? You know who.

Day 92: Up from Hell, once in a while

This would have been Tuesday's offering...

Song: Fiery Jack
Album: Totale's Turns
Year: 1980

I've had to use a recording for the video I'm not sure which version it's from, but sounds good anyway. This was on Totale's Turns, which was a part-live/part-studio beast. This song has a country-esque sound, kind of like the music they use for long chases on westerns or on films like Smoky and The Bandit.

It's quite a performance, the song never really changes, the same insistent drums and fiddly guitar line with some trebly noises over the top now and again, so it doesn't really build much atmosphere. MES is on top form, seeming to be alluding to someone who has drank their life away (a portent on his own life?) and reminds me of Married, 2 Kids as this is almost the polar opposite.

Fiery Jack
seems to be a bit of a bastard and I know this is years before he got the reputation, but could almost be the 'Mad Mark' character. Where this differs is it's a critique of the needlessly angry, just potshots at some idea of a masculine man maybe.

He gets particularly aggressive towards the end, insisting 'Eat this grenade' over and over, the random threat coming out of nowhere, as it often does with heavy drinkers.

Day 91: This hideous replica...

Back with a vengeance, I've been in France for work this week, apologies to Fall people. Had a conversation with an Australian who used to have a friend who used to have MES over quite a lot. Apparently used to come over, place his little bag of speed on the coffee table and talk rubbish, once bowed fully when he met said friends mother, brilliant.

Anyway, been listening to In A Hole in my car recently, so this song has jumped out at me, they open the set with this one I think, great little slice of live Fall. what is below is obviously the Grotesque version.

Song: Impression Of J.Temperance
Album: Grotesque (Against the Gramme)
Year: 1980

So this one follows the high standard of the rest of the album, an insistent bassline throughout with some screeching guitar parts, it all bubbles along nicely and with a dark edge while MES tells the story of a dog breeder, a vet and what I presume is some sort of dog/man hybrid being born, it's all very Franz Kafka, the horror present and further revealed.

That would be my reading, but the rest of the song is just fantastic for memorable lines 'This part is hard to describe' and 'There are no readouts for this part of the track' are lines that give an impression of Mark stepping out from behind the fa├žade of being in a band and almost becoming an observer. It's all very post modern. Other lines of note are the brilliant 'Only two did not hate him' which I presume is a comment on this character being a dog breeder, a notoriously snide game to be in I imagine, constant competition and out-doing one another must make for a lonely life sometimes.

I do wonder if this J Temperance ever really existed, or whether Mark read about some backwater dog breeder who loved his dogs a bit too much, either way, to put it into song is just brilliant as ever...

Excellent military drums as well, must mention that, always adds an authoritative air to a song, or in the case of The Fall, some dread.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Day 90: It's been the bane of my life...

Chilled out one for Sunday.

Song: Time Enough At Last
Album: Code:Selfish
Year: 1992

Among the techno and sometimes hectoring vocals on display from this 1992 offering, Time Enough At Last is a milder, more relaxed foray into Smith's head, the title taken from the classic Twighlight Zone episode, first broadcast in 1959. The story features a man who loves to read, but is prevented from doing so by those around him. Surviving a nuclear blast which kills everyone in the world except him, he stumbles across the remains of the public library and sorts out books he wants to read for his now empty lifetime. Just as he settles down to read, he breaks his glasses, meaning he cannot read again. I think the point is 'be careful what you wish for' but in my mind, he could easily find some glasses somewhere.

Anyway, this song seems to be about taking stock of your life, taking a step back and deciding what to do and trying to deal with life's problems, there's a line 'the projectiles hit you/When you least expect it' which is true enough.

Overall, the song has a wishy washy feel with shoegaze-style guitars and MES in an almost-singing mood. It's all very airy, but these kind of Fall song are sometimes what you need.

Day 89: It's there but I don't read it...

A more punk one today...

Song: Futures and Pasts
Album: Live At The Witch Trials
Year: 1979

So this one is fast and frenetic and takes more from the punk scene than later material did, they dropped the snotty, angry thing quite fast as Mark realised he could do more if he made his own framework. This one is still amazing though, I'm not generally a massive fan of LATWT, it seems to rely on speed and anger to get through and ends up sounding a bit repetitive as it travels through its 11 songs, despite most of those songs being quite short. This one, however is one the best on the album, combining what would become The Fall's trademark sound, a high reliance on the bass sound being loud but still crystal clear and the keys throwing some chaos into the mix. The drums sound equally frantic here. This may be to do with how quickly it was recorded, all 11 songs were put down in a day despite the band having a week booked. MES was ill apparently, so hence the 'live' sounding nature of the album, but without it actually being live itself.

The lyrics here are a bit more accomplished than the rest of the album which tends to rely on the title being repeated a lot. Here we hear Smith painting a vivid, clear situation: 'I was in a sleeping dream/When a policeman brought my mother home/By the window I didn't scream/I was too old for that/I was in a drunken dream/The pubs were closed/It was three o'clock' now this seems like it could be from one of Smith's favourite shows The Twilight Zone, the sense of the uncanny and the first-person narrative at play. It certainly sounds as if he is pitching a film idea, one that would certainly be set in black and white with miserable-looking actors.

The next part gets even more surreal: 'At the bottom of the street it seemed/There was a policeman lost in the fog' now this seems even more like the first line, witnessing things while you are awake as if in a dream, being a casual observer. This could well be a comment on the effects of conciousness and the unconscious having a grip on reality. It could also be a comment on people steadfastly living in reality, the lines: 'Look at the woman of thirty-nine/Look at the man of forty-nine/You can read their lousy lives/You can see their ugly face lines/They understand but they don't see it' like they have ignored everything but their lives, quite an easy thing to do.

All this is crammed into a few minutes of music, incredible. Even more incredible when you imagine Smith was only around 22 years old at the time, such maturity in his writing.

Day 88: You don't need that cosmic crap...

This one seems the most playful I've heard in a while...

Song: Choc Stock
Album: Dragnet
Year: 1979

So this one is just a bit daft, but MES couldn't help but slip some serious lines in there towards the end. This is as close as The Fall get to sounding a bit like Frank Sidebottom (his cover of Hit The North still makes me laugh). They even say during the course of the almost too-long tune 'Why are you smiling/Why are you laughing/At or with this song' it is intended to be funny I suppose, but then The Fall's snotty, antagonistic head rears up again as well, meaning you can't feel fully comfortable with it.

The song seems to be a statement about the band being different, I suppose Dragnet has the self-reverential Printhead and Your Heart Out on it, so this is just another one recorded as a mission statement of sorts. I know MES didn't particularly like being part of the punk scene, or even the post-punk scene, so the comments about class in this song are probably something to do with that. Similarly, the parts about not needing space boots or 'that cosmic crap' are probably about the rise of glam in that era too, there are some gems among that scene that still sound great today, but for the most part, it was terrible, ugly chaps in make-up and with frizzy hair singing see-thru sexual metaphors in platform shoes. Those kind of bands end up in country parks playing to middle-aged/elderly people who are sipping wine while sat on rugs, can't imagine MES at one of those.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Day 87: In comic type letters...

I've had to use the live version of this song to blog it, as Shift Work seems to be shrouded in copyright mystery, sort it out Youtube...

Song: The Mixer
Album: Shift Work
Year: 1991

This video gives a great impression of the song, I like the bits with what sounds like rehearsals on his little tape walkman and the fact Brix seems to be wearing trainers with a red dress, amazing. The song itself is a pretty good one, it has a warm, satisfied sound to it and the lyrics reflect this. The sound of the melodica can grate for some people, but here I'd say it combines well with Brix's guitar lines and the quick and paced beat laid out by the drums.

The lyrics are great, I feel that this fictional 'Mixer' is MES himself, he sounds relaxed and pleased with the laid-back backing track and lines about reassurance like 'he turns and smiles at me' make me think it's about self-awareness and reflection, but who knows? I still feel MES is not a shameless self-promoter, he is still incredibly question-dodging and still gives interviews as if the journalists are out to get him. I'd say this is more a nod to say that he knows who he is and those doubting him are way off the mark. However, I seem to recall him saying that no Fall song is about himself, but I would argue the opposite, every Fall song seems to be about himself, but without being overly sugary and sickly sweet. You will never find MES singing a folorn ballad for example, or even referring to himself in the third person. He has done that once as far as I know on Middle Class Revolt ('You're sleeping with some hippy halfwit/Who thinks he's Mr Mark Smith).

Overall I'd say this is one to just enjoy, this is The Fall in rare reflective and calm mode.

Day 86: I got a lot of things to say now baby...

Never let it be said that The Fall let things get stale...

Song: I'm Frank
Album: Extricate
Year: 1990

So this is possibly the only Fall song to feature a flute (correct me if I'm wrong) and has an upbeat and rockabilly style, Martin Bramah was back for this album and the guitars sound incredible on this one.

MES's vocals sound great, he almost sings every line on this one and the guitars and him combine to create a call and response style effort. This one is notable for its simplicity and a fantastic middle 8, sounding for all the world like a pop song, but without the influence of Brix, showing MES has an ear for pop of his own. The production sounds probably the best The Fall can sound, everything is clear and you can even tell the extra percussion adds weight to this as well. I can't believe how up to date this sounds given it was recorded 21 years ago, The Fall are timeless.

This is another Fall song that plays well on a long journey, might be one to watch the speedometer though, it makes me put a bit too much gas on personally.

Day 85: Raced a couple of hundred yards...

Here's a schizophrenic one if there ever was one...

Song: Bournemouth Runner
Album: Bend Sinister
Year: 1986

Bend Sinister is becoming another fave of mine, this song should tell you why. Starting off all spooky and serious, it soon descends into a keyboard lick-led jaunt that John Shuttleworth would be proud of, I think they must have had the same Casio, who knows, maybe they bought it from the same shop.

When it finally kicks in, the contrast with the beginning is amazing, an upbeat, driving Fall tune that runs for a lengthy 6 minutes in total. Mark's vocals are incredible here, his timing impeccable and varied. The keyboards seem to do what they want over the whole thing, it's all very end-of-the-pier stuff, which may be intentional what with the location, one of Britain's many seaside resorts. Do Americans say seaside? Seems a bit tommy to me.

There's some amazing lines in here that are laugh-out-loud funny, stuff like: 'Our backdrop was friendly, heavy/ Often it would rumble into hotel/ And partake with us/ In diluted drink and dogmeat/ Of RAC-reccomended hostelry' this gives some amazing images, to imagine MES in a pokey bed and breakfast on Bournemouth's seafront is hilarious, but I love the lines about dog meat and the sneaky mention of the RAC. This is what I love about The Fall, no pretensions, just songs about real life, who else has songs about subjects as diverse?

This is again, a strange contrast of an album, the LP runs the gamut, from chirpy numbers like this to dystopian collages like US- 80s/90s and then a cover of Mr Pharmacist. Just shows you what the band can do, which is mainly surprise.

Day 84: The season for hard drugs and cider mate!

Hello all, back again. I've been really busy this week with not being at home and staying elsewhere for work, I'm actually off to France next week too, will try and find the time with my netbook, but if you don't see any updates, that'll be why.

Onto the blogging proper, today's is a suggestion and I'm glad it's such a good one.

This song reminds me of Half Man Half Biscuit (who I'm sure stole a raft of material from The mighty Fall).

Song: Middle Mass
Album: Slates
Year: 1981

So this one features an incredible bassline that runs through the whole track courtesy of one of the best bass players ever, Steve Hanley. It has a swaggering rhythm to it, all confidence and big gestures. Mark's vocals are great, with some excellent lyrics.

Now what this song is about I've no idea, but it could fit a myriad of explanations. I'd like it to be about football, the talk of summer closed season and the bits about drugs and drink make me think it's about football hooligans, but there's just my interpretation for you. The bits about 'running with and from the cats from tin pan alley' make me think this too, though it could equally be one of Mark's early gangster-like film noir nods, possibly about a young gang member who is naive, unaware of the world. The use of the American colloquial 'cats' made me think this might be the case.

This is actually one of the more listenable songs on Slates, as the rest of the album can sometimes grate, the production differs from the rest of the LP here, all clear and crisp. Perhaps they wanted to showcase that bassline, I certainly wouldn't hide it under reams of fuzz and scratch. I like the clear dynamics on display here too, the spoken parts and the whispered parts bring something else to the whole effort, very nice.

Just a note on Slates, I love the cover to this, which is what looks like a blurry live shot of the band, I always see something else if I catch the cover in passing. I see a night scene with some lights from a distant fire, or I see a bonfire, strange what the mind conjures up, that said, sometimes it's bloody stupid, I used to think the Phil Collins album my parents had (they had some awful stuff) reminded me of tomato soup, it's the one where it's his smug face staring at you, No Jacket Required, I'm glad he has retired from music, I have remembered that right haven't I, I didn't dream it?

Friday, 10 June 2011

Normal service will resume shortly...

Sorry to all my readers, been away for the week, same next week, this weekend will see an update bonanza.

That's right, bonanza.

All hail the new puritan!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Day 83: You shall feel the wrath of my bombast!

Bass-line a go-go.

Song: Bombast
Album: This Nation's Saving Grace
Year: 1985

Sounding for all the world like a robot issuing a firm threat at the start, this is MES puffing his chest out, it's good stuff, with an excellent S. Hanley bassline making everything else seem extraneous. Its a good example of a jam-like track becoming a studio one. This album is full of recording innovation and this song is one of those that seems as if it could last forever. The lyrics aren't much to shout about, but do keep up the whole energy of the track, joining in with all the strident guitar and bass that make this a real album highlight. In fact, scratch that, because every song on this album fits, this is a rare Fall album where everything just flows. Others I would argue that maintain this almost-seamless nature are YFOC, Fall Heads Roll and The Infotainment Scan, where songs seem to have a common theme or template, this song fits in perfectly with the amiable, wandering Paintwork and the straight-up confusion that is of Couldn't Get Ahead.

I often think this is one of the band's best moments, it's certainly an album I'd recommend musicians to listen to, it almost defines thinking outside the box, both with the aforementioned recording techniques, but also in terms of loose playing, the lack and ensuing musicality of the players styles on here defies an easy explanation, it just sounds right. Like a band in tune, not necessarily in the traditional sense, but in the artistic vision they share. I'd have been proud to come up with half of what the line-up on this album did, so inventive and free of genre constraints, it must be a hell of a lot of fun being in The Fall, no matter how brief your involvement.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Day 82: I'm kinda two-tone...PUH!

Best song about a hangover ever?

Song: Feeling Numb
Album: Cerebral Caustic
Year: 1995

This one's great, Mark sounds like he is waking up all the way through this one, from the opening bits, talking about prozac and being numb post-festivities, Brix's beautiful chorus seems to get his interest and he sounds more and more sharp through the song. The lyrics are great, just general points about how he is feeling post-party I presume.

Brix's chorus is amazing, makes it sound equally 90s and 60s pop, Mark doesn't even ruin the choruses, even when he joins in. Just a good pop song.

Have to say this, the music reminds me of Elastica, which is obviously a band that The Fall are linked with, what with MES singing on a few songs and them being influenced by The Fall quite a bit. It's that trebly, yet still hefty guitar tone that does it, the drums also contribute to this, the clipped, staccato nature of it all is very britpop (I hated that term at the time, still do now). That said, parts of it sound a bit surf-rock and psychedelic, so it is probably another spongy, all-encompassing influence ball as usual.

Have to say, MES actually attempts some singing here and it actually sounds great, do any songs exist where he sings all the way through? Perhaps you can help me out Fall fans, I think he has a great voice when he tries, but wouldn't swap his vocal style ever.

Another highlight on this track.... the closing noise he makes... PUH.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Day 81: Hailing a cab to Edinburgh

I've decided to blog this album after saying I wouldn't until after I'd done the rest, there are some great songs on this, but it's still my least favourite as it is the soundtrack to a ballet and I imagine works better if you can see it with the performance, some of the tracks lack depth, which is a shame.

Song: Cab It Up!
Album: I am Kurious Oranj
Year: 1988

So yeah, this was one of the first songs written for this album, as I've said before, they opened a showcase gig at HMV in London with this song, when they were meant to be promoting the release of the same years' The Frenz Experiment, bloody awkward as usual.

It's quite repetitive, but not in a a usual way for the band, it feels to me like a lot of the songs on here are extended beyond their natural lifespans to create enough music for the soundtrack, remember they played live as Michael Clark and Company danced around them, so it needed to be of a decent length.

This song must be a contender for 'the title mentioned the most in song' in the Fall's canon and as you'll know there are some real doozies out there. That said, this one is likeable, the daft keyboard melody plinking all over the garage band sound the rest of the band are laying down sounds amazing and the drums sound excellent, there's some really complex fills curling out of the speakers here.

Mark is still employing his early and now often talked-about squeal here, giving the word 'uptown' some added clarity, but I'm loathe to say there's not much else to recommend this song.

Sorry Oranj fans, this one's a bit flat for me.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Day 80: See the people all in line.

A rollicking cover today, originally by The Move.

Song: I Can Hear The Grass Grow
Album: Fall Heads Roll
Year: 2005

This is actually a very faithful cover, down to the drum fills, I think I prefer the Fall version, a bit more post-punk venom adds a bit of rough to what was somewhat of a hippy track, I've included the original at the bottom of the post.

The lyrics are so 1960s it's unreal, 'I can hear the grass grow/I see rainbows in the evening' you can imagine this being parodied, the original sounds painfully close to Listen To The Flower People by Spinal Tap, but as ever, MES and co have transformed an old classic into their own devilish vision. This flows really well on what is one of my favourite Fall albums, the whole thing just has this driving energy to it, the drums sound massive, Mark's vocals are on top form and it's almost like a new Fall, they were hinting at this standard with previous albums, but from Fall Heads Roll onwards, they have outshone a raft of previous output. I do still hate comparing different eras of the band though, there's joys to be had on even the weirdest, most sketchy albums as well as the ones everyone agrees on.

I always end up having Fall lyrics in my head long after listening to them, for example, I was singing 'Get up, make a buck' all day in my head today, can't even remember what song that's from.

Think my mind is starting to crack, have a listen to the original below for comparison...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Day 79: Skyscraper tall.

Here's one off an album that people either love or hate, the title of the album makes no grammatical sense, doesn't annoy me, but felt it needed to be said...

Song: Crop Dust
Album: Are You Are Missing Winner
Year: 2001

This whole album sounds to me like one from the 90s, not 2001, but there we have it.

This one has an amazing eastern-sounding riff picked out that gives it an African/Arabian feel, really cool, but then the rest of the music is hard to pin down, sludgey and caustic, it scrapes along as if in a trance as Mark sounds like he is drunk and far too close to a nice expensive condensor mic. He growls and gives it some gusto, but underneath all this are some great lyrics as usual. It sounds like a drunk recollection, bit-parts sewn together through a Guinness-like haze, half-remembered sections of a night in dark and smelly boozers.

I like the lines towards the end about world war one soldiers, joined by a drunk singer from Manchester, the way he says in the 1990s is amazing, sounds very hazy. It reminds me of some of the vocal performances on Your Future Our Clutter, the mumbled grumble he has is masterly, nobody else sounds like this, good thing too?

Apparently this whole song is influenced by 60s band The Troggs, with a particular song I Just Sing, I can see some overall resemblances, the riff that kicks off the Fall song sounds the same, its more of a blueprint than a cover, good stuff again, MES borrowing parts of pop culture again, naughty naughty. Included the Troggs song for clarity below...

Day 78: Gert's motor car.

Oh my God, this one is amazing.

Song: Athlete Cured
Album: The Frenz Experiment
Year: 1988

Just when I think I've heard it all, something else leaps out at me by this incredible band, someone actually asked me today, what I had been listening to, all I could say was ....erm.... The Fall? I have a problem.

This one is amazing, has actually made me laugh out loud like an idiot, this story, vividly told for once, is about an athlete whose brother is making him ill through revving his car in the drive and making the fumes enter his bedroom, there's some fantastic imagery here, the brother, Gert, parking his volkswagon on the driveway 'willy-nilly' and the like, really funny. Mark's vocals are again like a narrator on some b-movie film noir epic, but you can't take it seriously, the story is just so ridiculous.

I like the way he stutters lines sometimes, if you are reading through the lyrics with the songs as I sometimes do with blogging them every day, he often stops short of a word or two and messes up the timing, I think on purpose, it works really well, gives the impression he is reading notes he's found on a park bench or something, brilliant.

There's an often-quoted rumour that the riff in this is actually Tonight I'm Going To Rock You Tonight by Spinal Tap, I'm inclined to agree, I've included it below, see what you think!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Day 77: She studied bees.

Here's a great one today.

Song: Two Librans
Album: The Unutterable
Year: 2000

To say the lyrics in this song are obtuse would be to state the obvious, but they really are. What other band would mention Tolstoy and Oprah Winfrey in the same 4 minutes? The way he mispronounces Chechnya is also hilarious, Chechehcchchchch?

The music is full of punk guts, hard and full of attitude, this harsh and frantic sound is focused and seems to me to run through the whole album, the drums sound very similar to Cyber Insekt, which is no bad thing, it sounds futuristic and forward-thinking. I like the brief respites with almost drum and bass parts and single, plonking piano notes, brings the idea of dynamics into play, which The Fall are almost synonymous with not using. Mark's vocals are a fierce snarl, he sounds like he is approaching the mic as if it has spilled his pint, rasping and growling some of the closing syllables and he adds his trademark '-uh' to a few more lines than usual. I always like it when he does this, paints the song as truly his.

I can imagine this is a good one live, though I've not seen it, is there a video floating around anywhere?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Day 76: Batten down the hatches...

I wanted to blog another Levitate song today just to give it some balance due to my panning of Jungle Rock yesterday.

Song: Hurricane Edward
Album: Levitate
Year: 1997

This one, again, is a smorgasbord of noise, the guitars again sound like early-90s printers, there's also some electronica bubbling under there, but this time the drums take centre-stage, relentless and pummeling, they don't really give up at all, even in the second half when industrial noises and a taped reading by Tommy Crooks talking takes over. This song is so patchwork-quilt that it sounds like it was found following a hurricane, lying with its tape spooled over grass, wound back in and included in the album sessions. At points the guitars and bass sound very Trout Mask Replica, awash with bad tuning, bowed strings and a sense of almost anti-rhythm.

Mark sounds a bit nonchalant on this one, but it suits the ebb and flow of sound, bringing together what could easily be a sound collage without it. The lyrics deal with some first-hand reports of a hurricane, the vague imagery espoused paint more of a picture than they realise I think, the lines like 'My ears were rushing' and 'He knew the climate' conjure up being taken by surprise.

The second section which I briefly mentioned, is almost like hearing a conversation over the sound of pounding farm machinery, quite creative really, the drums keep a driving beat while the guitars gurgle and scratch and there's some feedback creating some white noise in there as well. All very impressive. Perhaps the musicians involved are now making documentary soundtracks for Channel 4, all drones and stark beats.

In other Fall news, I just bought a gig advert off eBay which is for a gig The Fall played the day I was born, apparently at the Lyceum in London, its only a small black and white ad, but thought it'd be good to frame. I wonder what songs they played, it was 1984, so I'm guessing stuff off Perverted By Language and The Wonderful and Frightening World...

Ha! Just had a look at the visi site, thanks to the obsessive nature of Falldom, they have the setlist:

No Bulbs/ GodBox/ The Classical/ Elves/ Fortress/ Clear Off/ Smile/ Copped It/ Slang King/ 2x4/ Pat Trip Dispenser/ Lay Of The Land/ Stephen Song/ Hey! Marc Riley

Sounds like a hell of a gig.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Day 75: How to ruin rock and roll.

This is just strange...

Song: Jungle Rock
Album: Levitate
Year: 1997

This is a cover of a novelty song, which they've done before, but this one is just a bit dull, MES sounds a bit uninspired, the guitars at some points sound like dot matrix printers droning on and the whole thing never takes off to be honest. People have given me mixed messages about Levitate, what I've realised so far is that it is a difficult one, given the trouble surrounding it with people leaving and things happening all over the place, its understandable some of it sounds a bit thrown together, but this is just a bit disappointing.

Taking a positive out is difficult, if I was being kind, you could say they've flipped the feel of the original, which was a chirpy rock and roll number (which was used on a Vic and Bob sketch where Tom Fun is squashed into an arcade machine being thrusted by a model of a gorilla). The Fall version sucks all the joy out of the original and turns it into a down-trodden damp squib. I think I'll be skipping this song from now on and I don't normally skip anything, I like to absorb albums, even duff tracks.

Think this is the worst song I've blogged so far so I'll stop here.

Day 74: You gotta have good condition...

Here's a chilled-out slice of relaxed Fall loveliness.

Song: The Coliseum
Album: The Light User Syndrome
Year: 1996

This one is great, its a laid-back, relaxing piece to be honest, swathes of slowly strummed electric guitar, combined with some almost trip-hop/electronica backing. Mark's vocals are recorded in a crackled monotone, but still ring through.

The lyrics are almost a polar opposite to Leave The Capitol where in that song MES was implying you should Exit this Roman shell, on here he is resignedly suggesting you've got to be of a certain standard to get into the 'coliseum', which I presume is either a city or a record company. I can almost imagine this is a sequel to LTC, the sound is so laid-back and so are the lyrics and the way he sings it, it could not be more opposite. Where LTC was fraught and angered, this is so laid back it's almost horizontal.

I do wonder if he ever writes songs with this in mind, like an extension of ideas he placed in a song years ago. There's a fantastic blues rock band called Clutch, who did exactly that, on an early song in their career A Shogun Named Marcus, singer Neil Fallon sang 'Yes, I'm a New World Samurai, and a redneck nonetheless/Yes, I'm a New World Samurai, and I can read your mind/Check it out, I'm like a buzzbomb' years later, he recalled this on 2001 song The Great Outdoors, singing 'Remember when I told you that I was a samurai?/Well the fact of the matter is that was a lie' I love the fact that if you're a fan, you can make the connection, but it also doesn't alienate new listeners, this track does the same and whether MES meant it or not, the threads fit if you look. I wonder how many other songs do the same thing?

This is a rare song that is fully calm by The Fall, I've listened to it several times today and it suits them, more of this please.

Day 73: Too long in the mitts.

I've done a quick list and it seems I still have around 300 studio songs to blog, amazing, the Fall never ends! Apparently there should be an album out this year as well.

Thanks to those who are still reading, means a lot, still enjoying it and I actually miss doing it if I miss a few days (as I am wont to do at the moment, between houses).

Anyway, today's is an unusual one (but aren't they all?) and should have been Thursday's song, so here we go.

Song: Muzorewi's Daughter
Album: Dragnet
Year: 1979

This one has a very eastern-tinged, picked out melody running through it, although it still sounds chaotic and unpolished as this album was, it still sounds different and a bit daring for this period of The Fall. It does slip into some more noisy, frenetic parts, but overall, quite sedate.

The main riff reminds me of the main riff from Hip Priest, the lilting, slow one, good stuff. The production is a bit clipped and brutalist, but that's the way we like it, nice and caustic. The lyrics seem to concern the title, a guy called Muzorewi's daughter, apparently being cooked in a pot, seemingly giving in to fate.

A quick bit of research throws up this information on who Muzorewi could have been: Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa (* 14. April 1925) in former Rhodesia), a Methodist bishop and nationalist leader, was prime minister of the short-lived coalition government in what was called Zimbabwe Rhodesia; he held office for only a few months in 1979.

So this chap was probably in the news around the time this was being written, again a marked piece of history slotted into the band's back catalogue, but I've no idea if his daughter was cooked in a pot, but I do know now that this guy stood against Robert Mugabe a few times, so maybe he wasn't a bad egg. He died a while ago, but was seen as an important political figure in Zimbabwe's turbulent past. What makes it less turbulent now, I've no idea.

The lyrics are quite repetitive, but are delivered with both intensity and humour, MES seems to be mixed quite high in the sound stakes, giving it a practice room/bootleg sound, reminiscent of later live albums like In A Hole and the like.

This is probably due to being recorded in three days, sometimes I wish bands would do this kind of thing more often, basically, get together, throw some songs together, ad lib a but and just get it down. Instead you have people poring over every snare strike, every whisp of feedback, every note out of place and autotuning the atmosphere out of things, even bands who previously sounded rough now compress everything down to a homogenous, digital pancake, which is a shame...