Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Day 37: Wants anarchy...

Another day, another request, this time from a guy called Robert, who has asked for some stuff off Perverted By Language, which is one of the first albums I owned by the band, its a dizzying one to begin with, I had to listen to it over and over before its mysteries revealed themselves, here's a particularly dark one devoid of humour, which is unusual for MES.

Song: Smile
Album: Perverted By Language

Year: 1983

This is of course the first album featuring Brix, but apparently the vast majority of this album had already been recorded when she joined, so I'm not sure if she contributes to this track at all, its listed as written by Smith and Craig Scanlon, and it sounds quite stark and minimalist so I'm inclined to think she doesn't feature.

The track is a long, dark passage of one riff, not unusual, but the space left for MES to improvise over is more canyonesque than normal, the delay on his vocals only adds to the chilling atmosphere, the music simply creates the mood, he provides the dread. The lyrics run like a list as is his wont, but here take on resonance as MES almost sounds evil as the song opens, the bass sound and general style of the song reminds me of Joy Division, and not in that way that any band who takes things steadily and moodily does every music critic ever, the bassline picks out such a similar path to Peter Hook's style its just there.

Of course this period of The Fall featured two drummers, playing in tandem to create a bombastic sound, but here it creates tension, as the song relentlessly churns your stomach, the drummers become more obvious as MES actually instructs them to 'take it down' towards the end before the shouted command of 'UP UP UP UP UP UP' brings the dynamics to the fore again, actually amazing.

The lyrics, well, the repetition of the word 'smile' over and over becomes almost ghastly and full of horror as the song continues, sometimes delivered as a acid-laced word through gritted teeth, sometimes a full on patented MES squeal, but its just haunting. Elsewhere, the lyrics have a bitter edge to them, as I mentioned previously, most Fall songs feature something humourous or a sly poke at someone or something with an affectionate spin, here you get the feeling its a dark, dark tale he's telling, some great imagery here, the part about 'meat animals' gets me every time, like he's pouring scorn on a group he hates, but in a manner which suggests he means it.

Here's a cryptic one 'Lousy celebrity makes joke record/Lick-spittle southerner/Waiting for next holiday by gas miser' now I can hear that first part in any other Fall song, but the rest, no way, as ever its anyone's guess what this means, but I've picked it out as an example of MES really finding his lyrical sting, this album I'd say encapsulates a period where his lyrics were so entrenched in folds of meaning he almost came across as a savant, sure there are lines you can take from all the albums he's ever made, but this one has a twisted charm that I think is unique, see 'Eat Y'Self Fitter' for proof, its almost another language.

I have to include this video as proof of this song's lasting legacy, this is their first performance on national TV, what do they choose to play on a widely-viewed program, broadcast around tea time? Yeah, this one, the slow-burner that hangs menace in the air, you can see Mark's face crumpling with every spat invective here, just amazing, unintentional humour arrives thanks to the presumably Tube paid-for dancers, who try and gyrate alluringly while the audience looks bemused and terrified. Brilliant.


  1. another personal top 10 fall track. from what is probably my favorite album of theirs too.

  2. Seriously gave me chills this one.

  3. great to see this footage..I hadn't seen it before...I'm still really enjoying the blog ~ Bev

  4. Just watching it again, brilliant.