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...

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Day 72: A pop song on the subject of capture?

Weird but brief one here, love it!

Song: Terry Waite Sez
Album: Bend Sinister
Year: 1986

So I ought to explain to those who don't follow world affairs or were too young to remember this instance, I certainly was, Terry Waite was a Christian hostage negotiator who was held captive for around four years by an Islamic Jihad Organisation. Quite why MES felt he needed to immortalise him in post punk song is anyone's guess, but it is quite amusing.

The lyrics seem to show hope for his release, there is a line that mentions 'Mr Big' whether this is a reference to Waite's portly stature or something you find in hostage negotiation it is unclear, the imagery of trees and a dove seem to suggest the Bible, maybe Smith is suggesting Waite is a Noah-like figure or he can rely on his religion to get him out of the situation. Seeing as this was recorded in 1986 and Waite was taken hostage in 87, maybe this is just poking fun at Mr Waite, a tad unfair, he seems to have been a very caring man in his time and must have been bemused by this odd few minutes of song.

The line 'let the real reverend walk/he plans but they won't let him in' seems to be about Waite's desires to wade into situations to try and solve them and authorities blocking him. Quite understandable, I like it when MES documents the things around him, be it books, other musicians, current affairs or otherwise. To do it for so long has created a patchwork history of strange events, which I have to say is massively enjoyable to look back through, cheers Mr S.

Day 71: Hammered...

This is one of the strangest performances I've heard by Mr Smith.

Song: Anecdotes+Antidotes In B#
Album: The Marshall Suite
Year: 1999

Mark sounds absolutely smashed on this, slurring words, out of time and you can hear him smacking his lips together and other glottal noises as he delivers some pretty obtuse lines over and over. I did enjoy this one, but I always feel like it's the aural equivalent of rubbernecking when you hear someone having trouble with a song. It works, weirdly, the lyrics are actually pretty good and the feel of his delivery sounds frustrated and anxious. The lines about walking down a train carriage and no smoking being allowed is something you can imagine him doing. I'm imagining a sozzled Smith falling down a narrow train corridor, trying to find an opening to have a crafty cig out of, but getting more and more sweaty and frustrated when he can't find one.

I still can't shake the feeling this was recorded in a hurry, I know around this time he was having problems with lineups, but equally, this album has the amazing Touch Sensitive on it, so maybe this was a mis-step, or maybe I'm being totally stupid and it was all part of the Marshall theme that he said the album was, the life of a character, maybe in this particular instance, Marshall was inebriated and in need of a glass of water, what other explanation could there be?

Day 70: Stephen Hawking has nothing on MES

Mark E Smith as an omnipotent-sounding computer? You got it.

Song: Surmount All Obstacles
Album: Middle Class Revolt
Year: 1994

So this one is an interesting one, on an album full of all other genres you can mention, this particular song wriggles out of any box you care to place it in. Sure there's a very 90s-sounding Fall thrashing away in the background, but the constant drones and hums from the keyboards and the layering of drums and vocal multi-tracks makes it sound claustrophobic. You can almost imagine a Bohemian Rhapsody-style mirror effect if they ever made a video for this one, overbearing and a bit unsettling.

If the aim to to overbear the track with sound, mission accomplished, it sounds a little like some of the multi-tracked midi files you used to get on futuristic Mega Drive games around that time, lots of brash beats and electric guitar, perhaps with a pounding dance beat over it. The lyrics seem to be about avoiding other peoples' glares, ignoring critics and doing it for yourself, a theme that comes up so often with The Fall I'm starting to wonder if MES is the self-aggrandising paranoid man he is purported to be and these songs are a reaction to that. He often states he doesn't like writing personal lyrics, but some do creep in, see the latest album for proof, however on this its one of those twisted fictions he is so good at and I feel like there is a real story at play here as well, lines like 'Heinz is guilty' and the bumf about being a black belt tell me this may be another literary jigsaw someone may solve for me. If not, then its a very witty narrative that should be applauded.

His vocals carry many different tones and are recorded differently, overlapping each other all the way through, often he leaves himself space to play in, here, its as tightly packed as it can be, there is barely room to breathe, relentless and alarming in equal measure.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Day 69: I'm feeling voxish...

Back on track, so here's a great one for a lazy Sunday.

Song: I Feel Voxish
Album: Perverted By Language
Year: 1983

So this one has more than a faint stink of Joy Division to it, the bassline is twangy, the drums militaristic and the guitars paint a post-industrial landscape over it all. However, Mark's vocals are wholly original as usual, he even throws in some patented screeches at the end.

Linking the idea of the title to any kind of meaning is hard, since voxish is a word MES seems to have invented, but take its closest real counterpart, a 'vox pop' which means in broadcast and media terms, a questions asked of a variety of people, comes from the Latin vox populi which means voice of the people. There's several people who are said to have coined this phrase, but most historians tend to point to it being a popular aphorism around the time of King Charlemagne, so pretty damn old then. A rough translation of the full phrase means: And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness. This fits in with what I judge the song to be about, which is, being wrapped up in real life by the views and opinions of others, even when you don't want to be.

Lines like
'I feel voxish, stack-heeled Hari Krish/Those disgusting [vegan new/youth punks]/Caught my life mould, give me silenced lectures' this appears to be MES rejecting the views of others that may have been forced upon him.

There's some fantastic paranoid/revenge lines in there too 'I've been sharpenining a knife in the back room/On a brick I got from the garden/No fucker's gona push me round again' just brilliant, you can see a dishevelled man in a dodgy coat bent double over a brick with a rusty knife. It's all about the imagery.

The keyboards sound great on this one, in a similar way to the rest of this album, the myriad of sounds created over the album is amazing, the comic plink-plonk adds to the overall canyon-sized space between The Fall's serious side and their more playful endeavours.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Day 68: Bark at the moon with Mark E Smith...

So this is actually today's as far as I can tell, hope you've enjoyed today's mixed bag of entries, will be doing my utmost to keep up as I keep saying, but here we go with another one!

Song: Wolf Kidult Man
Album: Imperial Wax Solvent
Year: 2007

So this is a rough-as-hell bluesy number with some very cool vocals, cooly delivered I mean, its MES visiting film noir again, this is a great big dirty number and sounds as if it has been scraped along a concrete floor before being mastered.

The guitars buzz with that 'garage band' feel MES has been so keen to deliver for years, her sounding like they have been recorded in one, the earthed amps you can almost see, their grills shaking the cobwebs of long-dead spiders loose. This is The Fall getting mean and meaning it, the drums clatter and crash, the production on Mark's vocals seems to hiss and steam.

The lyrics here are part-mythological, concerning a werewolf I imagine, the sample at the start, a primeval howl, signals the dark nature of the song, but as usual, MES mixes in some current references, 'Where is your mum?' being a particularly funny example, taking out the serious side of an often po-faced legend (you know the type of thing, that Twilight nonsense being a good example).

Mark's love of The Twilight Zone (the only twilight show worth watching) rears its head again, as a recording of the episode Printers Devil appears at the end, again cementing the weird, sci-fi elements of the song. I love the fact he can slip in references like this now and again, something completely self-indulgent, but something we fans can sink our teeth into (no pun intended).

Day 67: Book of film on rack.

Here's an unusual one, with a futuristic slant.

Song: Cyber Insekt
Album: The Unutterable
Year: 2000

Now could this be about the millenium bug? Remember that? Hilarious, COMPUTERS WILL DROP PLANES FROM THE SKY, nope, didn't happen did it?

This is the opening track off a reinvigorated Fall album and features Frank Chickens vocalist and all-round media busy woman Kazuko Hohki, who adds, weirdly, a European edge to what is already an unusual Fall song.

The guitars appear to have been eschewed here for deep synths and strings as well as a rattling, train-like beat in the background, there's some fantastic noises here and its all very dystopian future, a great opener to a great album. It's all a bit Blade Runner, commenting on our influences not being that original 'Book of film' and 'Book of book' being interchangeable examples throughout.

The misspelling of song titles is something MES has always liked to do, but here I feel it is a snide comment on the kind of terrible sci-fi he is perhaps parodying here, the kind of awful book or DVD you might see for sale in an airport or train station, the references to 'book of film on station rack' may give this some weight, quite funny really.

I like the chilled out section in the middle, still bogged down with samples, but still makes it sound like a dance track with a brief chillout, this is The Fall via Ibiza, via some futuristic wasteland, brilliant.

Thinking about that drumbeat, it sounds like a lot of cyber metal around at the time, if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Pitchshifter or Mad Capsule Markets, although I'm sure this is just coincidence, it even has elements of the brief reign of madness this band held for a while back around the turn of the millennium.

Day 66: He is not apprieciated...

This would have been Thursday's song this week, apologies they are all coming at once, but better than not coming at all I presume!

Here's one I've had to think about for a long time as its a song that has followed the group around since they released it, its been reworked several times into new songs, there must be a million live versions of it, but I still rate the original over anything else. It appears in 90s thriller Silence Of The Lambs, its unhinged dynamics suit the unusual subject of that film well. Who knows if the director wanted a song about a deluded genius and thought of MES?

Song: Hip Priest
Album: Hex Enduction Hour
Year: 1982

So, perhaps one of the most minimal songs by the Fall musically, but one of the most atmospheric in terms of lyrics, I've seen someone, can't remember who, saying this is MES's most self-reverential song, that it is about their lack of commerical success. Bollocks to that I say, since when did the Fall care about commercial success? Why would they record obscure covers, release singles with no backing, constantly switch labels and be deliberately difficult if they wanted chart positions? I think the brief hits they had were pleasant bonuses, but MES and co have always treated the band like a job, while not compromising their artistic integrity once to my mind.

Anyway, the song, that drum beat that fills the song with an air of menace, the casually picked guitar line, Mark's now-famous 'heeee-eee iiii-iiiisss nooo-ooo-oot, eeeerr-preeciaTED' and the fact it jumps in and out of intensity with the dynamics gives it the air of an improvised jam, with MES in total focus with his vocals.

The lyrics are baffling, the line 'drink the long draught Dan' has always puzzled me, can anyone tell me what it means? It's delivered with such feeling and comic brevity that it must mean something, whether its an in-joke, a reference to someone in particular or just a throwaway line, I've been wondering for years.

I like the part where it picks up in volume and the guitar skitters maniacally, this is where MES delivers some of my favourite lines 'I picked my last clean dirty shirt out of the wardrobe' being particularly good, but my personal favourite is 'People only need me/when they're old and gone to seed' again, as I mentioned this morning in my Disney's Dream Debased entry, this sounds so olde-English it could almost be Shakespearian, brilliant.

The cries of 'Hip, hip, hip, hip' are also amazing, it follows the stab of the music perfectly.

I won't talk about the rework for I Am Kurious Oranj now, I'll cover that when I do that song, if anyone has anything to add to this particular entry, let me know as I know it is a song heavy with history throughout their career, are there any particular live versions people enjoy for example?

Day 65: A song about nothing.

So this would have been the song I blogged about on Wednesday, a self-proclaimed song about nothing.

Song: Mother-Sister
Album: Live At The Witch Trials
Year: 1979

So despite being a song about nothing, this one is a fantastic romp, really full of punk spirit and surprisingly well-recorded considering the album was recorded in a week and this was their debut. The spoken excerpt at the start is great, right from the start the Fall were self-referential and obtuse, very post-modern.

The song itself is like the band falling downstairs, calm and collected one moment, hare-brained and scattershot the next, Mark's vocals are brilliant, the inflection and dynamics work incredibly well, his cries of 'aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, Mother-Sister!' are not only funny, but cathartic it seems, really like this one. I love the keyboards, they sound perfect backing up the screeching guitars and heavy-handed drums, I'd have loved to have heard this at the time, it would have sounded so different, remember punk had almost come and gone in its original, commercial form and I'd argue that The Fall and bands of their ilk, The Raincoats, X-Ray Specs etc, made much better music than The Sex Pistols and all that guff, as people have said of these bands before, The Fall had more ideas than three chords and anti-monarchy/empty anarchy threats, I'm glad they have persevered, this is a snapshot of a band finding their feet, but taking massive steps.

The lyrics are something else, not a clue what they are about, but general phrases that stick out include 'why don't you put your neck in' some of the lines here remind me of later masterpiece Hip Priest, the space in which MES has to dribble invectives over is the same.

Day 64: Dark Disney, not Fantasia...

Fear not, I am back, sorry to people who regularly check this blog, I've been staying with friends and family all week, I'm going to actually blitz what should have been blogged in the week today, so today you get 5 days at the speed of 1, you lucky people.

Dan Lewis, long time reader, regular correspondent, has requested the arrestingly dark Disney's Dream Debased today, so here goes. That previous sentence reminds me of Harry Hill's old letters section on his first show, where every week he'd read out a letter from 'regular viewer, Bunty Hoven', anyway, back to the task in hand!

Song: Disney's Dream Debased
Album: The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall
Year: 1984

So Dan has a motive for asking for this song, but it's a wholly admirable one, he's taken the lyrics of this particular song (good one to pick) and has written a short story based on them, which appears in a collection he helped edit into a book, Dan's story appears in this book.
Check it out if you can, he sent me the original and it's spot on, captures the harrowing subject matter quite well, but from another angle.

So what about the subject matter? Well I don't know about the rest of you, but I always found Disney to be a bit strange anyway, talking animals and hackneyed morals always creeped me out, for a young boy bought up on Thundercats and Dr Who, to find a massive surge in the 90s for all-singing, all-dancing films based on fairytales was a bit off-putting. The Lion King is still good though. Anyway, for those that don't know the story, the lyrics here are based on a real life event that happened in January 1984 at Disneyland, a 43 -year-old woman died on the Matterhorn attraction, which was a bobsled ride based on a mountain range-style structure. At the height of the ride, she was thrown from the sled and was pinned under another sled's wheels becoming mangled under the wheels. She died from severe injuries to her head and chest, not nice. What attracted MES to write about this is probably the direct gulf between how Disney portrays itself, a magical, happy place and this, a hammer-horror style death that you cannot imagine even happening.

I just read up on some more history of deaths at Disneyland and the first ever death was quite similar, though the person who died was a young man who defied safety regulations and stood up on the top of the same ride, but fell to tracks below. Other deaths include drowning in the Rivers Of America section of the park, deaths on the monorail that runs around the park and a horrific freak accident a few years ago where a boat's moorings snapped loose and hit two guests on the head, killing one and injuring another. I suppose its par for the course with a place that large and so busy, but its still disturbing.

So the lyrics and song are quite well-thought out, the music is actually quite upbeat and jolly in the overly sickly-sweet tones that Disney employ, but the lyrics are delivered in a lilting singing voice, which makes it, again, quite disturbing. The way he actually sings this reminds me of the Half Man Half Biscuit song All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit, in the way syllables are packed in like sardines, but as a result have some added comic effect.
Lyrics obviously focus on the accident and a weirdly serene sense of calm, lines like 'blood on the ground/blood on the sand' and 'The nurses climbed up' paint a macabre picture that works really well with the minor chords and sharp guitar sound and again, the vocals are produced in such a way as to sound effected, here they sound a little flat and distant, but that's the great thing about Fall albums, the way in which Mark's vocals are recorded makes a difference every time, he can he tinny, muffled, overly loud or indecipherable (most times) but always effective with the bunch of songs recorded.

I like the use of very British phrases to describe an American tragedy 'No two ways about it' and 'No maybe about it' sound at odds with the situation, really clever.

I'd like to think this is a touching tribute to a tragedy, but I know in reality it isn't, it was probably too much of a temptation to write about for MES, but with a company as cheery as Disney and an accident this unreal, there can't have been much doubt in his mind, perfect Fall song material.

I'll be writing the next four songs this evening, cheers!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Day 63: Uh-Reformation!

Okay here is a brilliant one, this album needs to find a home in my car, though it might make me speed.

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

Things that are amazing about this track (here's a change for today)

* That bassline.

* That bass sound (rumbly)

* Lots of Uhs! Which is always good.

* Reformation! shouts, great stuff.

* This one also reminds me of The Dead Kennedys, a good thing.

* The cover to this album is one of the best Fall record covers ever, either a mosaic or a cracked stained-glass window, either way, looks great and suits the record title perfectly.

* The fact that the shouts of Reformation! get more strained as the song progresses, real emotion.

* These lyrics make MES sound like a confused old man, but could also be about the previous lineup splitting and the uncertainty that surrounds that (every time): Two or three weeks/
Three or two weeks/Who did...what the.../What's the matter?

That bassline, again, its making me jump up and down, what a song.

* Cheese states/Goldfish bowl two lines that are unconnected, but are both screaming out at me as being pregnant with meaning, Cheese states I can imagine being about travelling through the US with this particular lineup (one of the BEST I still maintain) and seeing various signs like 'Arkansas, America's frying pan lid' and the like, I wish we did that over here, 'South Yorkshire, Sheffield is nice, avoid the rest'? The other line could quite clearly be the old meaning of everyone looking at him like he's in a bowl, analysing what he is doing, the drags of a life in the public eye.

* That bassline, think its only two notes, I still rate it.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Day 62: One endless pursuit of women.

Here's a Fall track so of its time it's unreal. It appeared on 1996's The Light User Syndrome and sounds like an amalgam of what makes the fall recognisable, but also has britpop and guitar music from that era's stamp, really good! I kinda miss the kinds of bands this reminds me of, the likes of Elastica, Sleeper, Echobelly and on a another level, Dinosaur Jnr, Sebadoh and a bit of dream-pop/shoegaze like Ride or My Bloody Valentine.

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

The whole sound and production of this track brings to mind the bands I've already mentioned, the riff on here actually sounds a hell of a lot like the one used on one of my favourite songs Behind The Counter, but with a style like The Fall's there are bound to be brief crossovers. One notable element of this track is Brix's breathy exhalations over the verses, sexy or just disturbing? I'm a bit freaked out by it to be honest, her backing vocals are actually brilliant here otherwise, the wailing over the 'chorus' double-tracked with her vocals complete that dreamy element. Mark's vocals are delivered under a layer of fuzz, I can imagine live, Brix would take centre-stage and Mark would be skulking in the background, his lines deliver elements of a circus master at work 'let the sideshow begin' and some of a more macabre nature: 'spine clicked and came out of its box'.

I'd like to think of the phrase 'spinetrak' as an internal compass, no idea if that's what good ol' MES would think, but with Brix singing the chorus as she does, it sounds devoted, maybe it is the whole adage of men thinking with their groins and women thinking with their heads, the line: 'On endless pursuit of women/And desire to impress them' it certainly fits with his often-mentioned hatred of overt sexuality and behaviour (Slates. Slags etc. for example).

This song is definitely one of their more memorable ones, a chorus you can sing along with, almost an overdose of pop signatures taking over, for a rare change, MES is almost a footnote on this song, it belongs to Brix and the rest of the band.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Day 61: Sinister Popes...

Here's a request, and it's claimed it's a hard one. I agree, but only because it's so different.

Song: Papal Visit
Album: Room To Live
Year: 1982

So this is what sounds like a highly-improvised soundscape to me, there's some scratchy violin actually played by MES, some footstep-sounding percussion, some industrial noises and faint squalks of feedback in the background far off. The main focus of this is the lyrics, which focus on an account of a papal visit, incredibly sinister and unnerving.

The zombie-like delivery adds an air of unease to the track, lines are uttered as fact in a calm, unwavering voice about an actual papal visit. I think it's a bout disbelief that people could be duped into making a fuss, and just general thoughts about it. As with everything in the wonderful and frightening world of this band, normal items and situations take on unusual traits, yellow-white umbrellas for example.

The sinister lines come in the form of 'helicopter strips the land' and specifics like 'the first impression will be the last'. Some say this song is a focus on the evil of the church, the uneasiness it creates is similar to the unease people get when broaching this subject, the idea of 'human trash' fits in with this, but again, this is just conjecture, it could be to do with anything.

It's generally disturbing as a whole, the drone of the violin combined with the unusual percussion and Mark's barely-there vocals mumbling about lay bread and assassinations simply add to this. This whole track actually sounds years ahead, it sounds like stuff that improv groups like Sunburned Hand Of The Man put together now, washes of nothingness that build to create terrifying beasts, the real joy of experimentation within music.

Comparisons must have been made to The Velvet Underground with this track, the post-modern lyrics and highly obtuse sounds would suggest this, but I would argue MES would not have consciously ripped them off, I have faith that this is a wholly original track, it creaks and stammers to an end, to close what, after all, is the strangest Fall release ever, surely?

Friday, 13 May 2011

Day 60: Enter at your peril.

Here's a great one, one I've picked myself (request blast this week people).

Song: Dead Beat Descendent
Album: B-side to Cab It Up!
Year: 1989

I presume this one was recorded around the time of Kurious Orange, because it's the B-side to the excellent Cab It Up! and there's a dancer in the video, utterly brilliant, both parties completely ignoring each other in a cramped studio. This is actually one of the best-produced, and played songs I've reviewed for a while, the drums are a particular standout, there's some real dynamics at work there and it's probably Wolstencroft's best performance for me, he's really going for it in the video.

Same goes for Mark, the lyrics are clear and he employs some actual timing that's with the band, the quiet/loud dynamics work incredibly well. Some may say this song sounds like a B-52s rip, it could quite easily descend into Rock Lobster given some more spindly keys, but it stays on the right side of cool for me. the snaking bassline and the nice and twangy guitar riffs that underpin this whole song give off that cool surfer vibe, yet another string to The Fall's genre-splicing bow.

The lyrics seem to be about being perceived as a loser, MES would not care if this was levelled at him, he often states it is of no importance what the audience, press or anyone else think, and this is probably backing it up. I also think his lines about not dancing particularly well and being avoided on a dancefloor for that reason could be a rallying cry for the unusual people of the world, saying they are almost 'out of step' but they don't care.

I actually love the way he sings 'enter at your peril' at the start of this, the way it's enunciated is amazing, the timing and pitch of every line in this song is perfect, I could well imagine this being a hit, but as usual, The Fall hide some of their best songs in the depths of B-sides, live albums and bootlegs, the only way is awkward.

One funny thing I will point out is the expression on MES's face when the music stops and the video freezes in and zooms in, great stuff.

Day 59: I didn't count on the guest informant!

Request from Simon today, cheers chap. I actually wrote this on the day it was meant to be published, but blogger was down last night, typical!

Song: Guest Informant
Album: The Frenz Experiment
Year: 1988

This sounds to me like a cross between Mark imagining he is Jack Nicholson in The Shining and being an invisible observer in an episode of Murder She Wrote. It probably started out as one of his film noir songs, but quickly descended into this, brilliant.

The music is a bit rockabilly, but also a bit American blues and there's some great 60s-sounding organ in there as well, very Hammond-ish.

Lyrics, now these are amazing, from the strict paranoia of: 'I called the colonel to the cheap hotel, I attacked the bed/I wired the phones as well' which sounds like he is stalking someone with a rusty magnum, to yet more paranoia: 'I've been split on, I've been tattled on,/I had not counted on Guest Informant' it's like he's being followed around by a dark, shadowy figure in a trenchcoat, or an unassuming double agent.

The next line, Simon picks this out as his favourite and to be honest, it's mine here too: 'And the morning Scotch, of another Sunday over/A miserable Scottish hotel,/Resembled a Genesis or Marillion, 1973 LP cover' I can imagine this already, but here is the cover he may have been envisioning, Marillion didn't actually form until 1979:

The whole thing has the air of a confused twilight phonecall you might receive from a breathy man in a phonebox, not making any sense, maybe not even intending to, one of Mr Smith's more manic moments, yeah?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Day 58: Also Sprach Zarathrustra

Here's a dance-influenced one from the 90s, love it.

Song: Free Range
Album: Code: Selfish
Year: 1992

Apparently this was the only self-penned top 40 hit for the band, but who gives a flying shit about charts? I realised what a con they were back when I was a cynical ten-year-old, I still can't believe they count down the top 40 every week on the radio still, weird. Anyway, enough about my hate for popularity charts, this song is great.

It has that driving tinny-yet-defiant drum sound that came with a lot of dance music at that time, something my dad terms 'tick tick' music, but obviously has The Fall written all over it. It has a dreamy quality about it, like a post-club euphoria to it, the lyrics however I'd say are as opinionated and unusual as ever.

To me its a song about paranoia and avoiding peer pressure, the lines 'it pays to talk to no-one' and 'pressure guilt' back this up. In simple terms, it could simply be a bizarre rant against free range farming, putting pressure on people to buy free range products out of guilt? By now, on day 58, I would not put anything past MES, so who knows?

Love these lines: 'This is the spring without end/This is the summer of malcontent/This is the winter of your mind' not only paraphrasing Shakespeare, but slipping in quite venomous lines to what is quite a chirpy song, but we've seen that before haven't we Fall fans?

Had to include this, the only Fall video featuring a whistful and windswept MES in a jeep!

Can somebody send me some more requests? I keep making my way to familiar albums, help! Oh and also, Shift Work is copyrighted on youtube, is there a way to bypass this? Seems a shame to not be able to include it in this mental experiment.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Day 57: Enter the Twilight Zone.

Today's song is a belter from This Nation's Saving Grace, which is fast becoming one of my favourites, this song is named after an episode of The Twilight Zone, a science fiction/fantasy show that has run in sporadic fits and bursts since 1959. I can see how the show fits with MES's world view, it featured interesting, off-kilter storylines and underwent crazy plot twists. I really must seek out the DVD compilations.

This song's Twilight Zone episode is about a salesman who can sell people whatever they need before he or the person buying whatever the item is know they need it. I'd say that Mark's lyrics here are very little to do with the episode, but take the theme of giving people advice or guidance and pushes it relentlessly.

Song: What You Need
Album: This Nation's Saving Grace
Year: 1985

So this song has some amazing instrumentation in it, a walking bassline courtesy of Steve Hanley and some great keyboard work from Simon Rogers, it almost sounds like the incidental music you hear at American baseball games, very original. The lyrics are delivered in this great way, the band backing MES up all the way through with group vocals, quite a rare thing, but it works, it gives it an unhinged, manic aspect. Mark's lyrics almost become a call and response later on, he makes lists out of lines all the way through, the band cutting through this with their collected shouting. All very impressive. I'd say the lyrics are a response to advice or things people have mentioned to MES and he is simply ignoring their advice, the backing vocals almost act like a backdrop, they could be the people telling him what he needs and his solo vocals could be the reaction. I like the references to The Brothers Copeland and Iggy Stooge, The Fall have many influences and The Stooges is one that comes up all the time, maybe this is either an acknowledgement or a refusal to accept that comparison. As ever it's very open to interpretation.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Day 56: Keep your cap on your pen.

This is almost a slow motion Fall song, very strange and showcases this album's rockabilly roots.

Song: The Acute
Album: Are You Are Missing Winner
Year: 2001

So this one is what I presume a filler track, but I still like it, Mark's vocals are drawled more than usual, he may actually be very drunk, I've no idea, but he seems to peter out, mumble lyrics and sounds quite depressed. The contrast here with the rockabilly music jauntily passing over his performance is quite unusual, as is the shredding that comes in around halfway through. The lyrics sound to me like a statement of fact, this is how it is, deal with it. That could actually be an allegory for this album, some people cannot stand it, others rate it as one of the most inventive albums they ever recorded. It's certainly a million miles from the pop-era and any semblance of focus has been utterly lost, but as he states on the opening track, this is a new Fall lineup, one that perhaps had ideas differing from the last one and this is the result. I'd say the next album, The Real New Fall LP manages to get them back on track, but AYOMW is an important document in the canon of The Fall, the experimentation of the cover versions, of which there are three, (to my knowlege) the unusual recording methods and general air of misanthropy make it a multi-headed beast to be tackled with repeated listens, I urge all Fall fans to give this album another go if you have previously written it off.

Just a note to say if my posts become a bit sporadic over the next few weeks, its because I won't be at home all that much, when I am I will catch up, but I'm commuting to a new job until I move house, so won't always have time/internet access to complete the blog on time every day, you have my word that I'll try though!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Day 55: This is the home of the vain!

Okay, so this is probably my favourite song by The Fall, it's just so unhinged and life-affirming, the reason I've avoided covering it until now is I was afraid I couldn't do it justice in words, it's a song that is steeped in a myriad of meanings and is one of the best Fall songs lyrically as well as musically I think they've ever done. It's also one of the best and most representative opening tracks to an album ever.

Song: The Classical
Album: Hex Enduction Hour
Year: 1982

I find it amazing they recorded this very clean sounding album between the raw power of Slates and the experimental weirdness of Room To Live, it has more in common with the Brix era than any of the surrounding releases, but there we have it, The Fall is an ever-changing beast. This album features two drummers and the production pops with their variety of styles, there's some cowbell in there, differing rhythms and it all fits perfectly. The bass sound, courtesy of Steve Hanley, sounds incredible on here, more complex than usual for a Fall album and it makes this particular track stand out, there's also much more variation than you would expect on this one, lots of little twists and turns, melodies appearing from nowhere seamlessly, keyboard sounds rushing in and out, sounding all chaotic, yet focused and honed.

The only negative aspect of this song is the opening gambit, I'm sure many people don't mind it now, but when I first heard it I had to kind of get over how blatant it is. I have no idea what is meant by it, but use of the 'n' word is universally frowned upon these days (you'd hope) and even in 1982, this would have been shocking, just for clarity, the line is: 'Where are the obligatory ni**ers? Hey there fuckface, hey there fuckface' whether this is a line he'd heard at a show, or if he was paraphrasing someone, who knows, but its there, a little smudge on what is otherwise an incredible song. Apparently Mark sent a copy of the album to Motown Records in 1984, the only album he had to hand and the result was an outright rejection, he has publicly stated that perhaps it was to do with those opening lines. Shooting himself in the foot I reckon.

Anyway, onto the rest of the song, there are some incredible concepts on show here, from the 'now I can remember, now I can remember!' lines about the 'Hotel Amnesia' and the 'destroying of romantic actors' the bizarre claim that 'there are only twelve people in the world/the rest are paste'. My favourite part is the brief segue that comes in the form of 'You won't find anything more ridiculous than this new profile razor unit/Made with the highest British attention to the wrong detail' it just makes me laugh every time, an obscure reference to British engineering, or just a comment on the petty and minutiae people focus on sometimes.

Mention must go to MES's vocals, one minute he is squealing 'Poleaxe! The Classical!' the next he is singing, the amazing refrain of 'I've never felt better in my life' and there is everything in between, his timing is perfect, his delivery easily understood and he sounds oddly angry and amused at the same time, which is why I love this track so much. As it fades out, I can't help wanting to hear the next song on the album: Jawbone and the Air Rifle, the two songs run into each other so smoothly, this release feels like an album, rather than a collection of songs.

Much mention of his lyrical twists and turns on this album have been talked about and I fully agree, I would argue this is MES at his most sharp, equaled only by Grotesque and Perverted By Language, he is clear, concise and inventive and this is the album I always have with me, the rest are great, but this has the edge for me. He has recently found even more to insert into his lyrics, see the likes of Mexico Wax Solvent, Bury, What About Us?, Blindness and 50-Year-Old Man for proof, but this is an exemplary period of creativity for him.

Thought I'd include this live version from 2002, MES seems to be in slow motion, his vocals are slow and more drawling, but it stills retains that punch, good stuff.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Day 54: A nightmare on wax.

Here's something that could well test even the most ardent Fall fan's commitment to their cause, a genuinely erratic and noise-laden melting pot of sound.

Song: Spectre Versus Rector
Album: Dragnet

Year: 1979

So this was recorded a good few months, but in the same year as their debut Live At The Witch Trials and the first thing you will notice is the god-awful production, but as I've said before, this is most likely intentional, MES has stated that they recorded this in the fashion they did to get away from the pop elements of LATWT and he couldn't have gotten further to be honest. Vocals are buried under layers of muffle, when they do appear they are relating a condensed narrative about ghosts and possession and they seem to be almost ad-hoc and improvised (MES being a fan of Damo Suzuki, the master of this art may be why). The story has elements of HP Lovecraft in there, the name Yog Sogoth mentioned at the start is from one of his stories and the M.R James was a 19th-century writer of ghost stories, both early narrative inserts from Smith, which have become common throughout the Fall's discography. I'd say the vocals remind me of those recordings you hear on Americanised ghost shows now, where they record white noise and then listen back for possible voices in the ether, you often get the odd sentence buried deep within, so perhaps the recording methods are evoking that feeling, the heady mix of that, combined with the discordant music is certainly unsettling. A line in the album's Dice Man mentions that Smith 'just wants to read a horror story' which ties in with this one, truly unusual.

The music is so badly recorded it makes the musicians sound truly amateur, but again, this was the point of the early Fall records, Smith honed often complete beginners into what he termed a 'garage band sound' and people have often said they have to 'un-learn' instruments to be able to play in The Fall, some of the chord progressions and the guitar equivalent of jazz 'squalkings' here are quite inspired, sounding for the most part like improvised mess, there are sections which chime together that sound great, on the whole, this track is like being sucked into a free-jazz vortex, there's a fine like between this kind of wild improv and complete shit, but I think they veer just on the right side. I once went to see this gig and was amazed this was masquerading as music, I've seen quality improv, such as the amazing Flower/Corsano duo, who blow my midn every time I see them, but as you can see, there's a difference, in finding a flow that all the musicians can join, or creating a foggy, sludgey goop that bores people to death (two of my friends at the Magik Markers gig fell asleep on their feet).

It really is a test of your mettle as a Fall fan whether you rate this or not, what do you think?

Friday, 6 May 2011

Day 53: Don't mess with Brix.

A nice simple one today, one of the rare times Brix takes over on main vocals, I know this divides fans, it is a bit rough and ready.

Song: Don't Call Me Darling
Album: Cerebral Caustic

Year: 1995

So I can see why people might not like this one, Mark's vocals take a back seat here and the lyrics aren't that spectacular, they basically set the scene, which to me is to rally against macho knobheads in clubs, who may well use the old vernacular 'Darling'. I'm not sure anyone says the word quite like the British, cockneys, liverpudlians, yorkshire people, all have their own way of saying it, it is one of the most sarcastic words when said in a particular way, which can be equally offensive.

Brix's delivery is raging and almost like nails down a chalkboard for me, she has this raw gravelly aspect to her voice that suggests she really does mean what she's screaming, I'd just prefer to have had a bit more variety, this could have been a real spot to develop some lyrics on an excellent theme.

The music gathers pace, with some excellent keys underneath it all, like Peel said, the Fall are always different, always the same, the beat, riff and timing of the music could be from anywhere, but the dynamics and the fact it cuts out before Brix is done caterwauling is totally unique to the song.

I think this one really speaks for itself, so in a rare moment of clarity, I'm going to cut this one really short, what do people think of this particular track? Brilliant feminist Fall, or annoying, insistent growling?

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Day 52: The Fall are a joke?

Here's one that divides Fall fans as far as I can tell, it opens the difficult Cerebral Caustic, an album often cited as the worst Fall LP, but I quite like it, its unusual and has an overwhelming feel to it, like they threw everything they had into it without much in the way of plans.

Song: The Joke
Album: Cerebral Caustic

Year: 1995

So this cuts in with some detuned guitar and then the drums, vocals, bass and electronics cut in, to me it could almost sound like a new york hardcore song if performed in the same way by a heavier band, the lyrics cut through the heavy sound really well, I like his clipped delivery of the line 'Go back, go back/To your diseased hut!' the lyrics seems to be addressing someone, not sure if it would be the soft target of Riley again, but it could be, lines like 'Five years of PC camp' could refer to anything, but could be to do with Riley's work on Radio 1 or the band he formed after leaving The Fall, who knows? I like the production on his voice in this one, it's almost like he's barking these lines down a telephone or through a megaphone, they are direct, clipped and obvious this time, not much in the way of open interpretation.

I always like it when MES conjures up an image, whether its a man carrying plastic bags around to secrete everywhere, a man shooting the corner off a tomb or here, just a mention of 'coloured sweets' its great, there's a whole world of insane images contained within the Fall's back catalogue, I get frustrated when people don't understand their charm, it's so easy these days to dismiss things quickly, so going back through about 30 years of music is a real eye-opener for me. People say that this album was a disappointment, quite how I'm not sure, maybe it isn't that obviously a catchy or clever piece of work, it doesn't showcase itself very well, the production sits on just the right side of irritating, but therein lies the appeal, Dave Bush's electronics underpin this track in particular, combining with the traditional garage-band drums to create a modern-sounding song. It reminds me of bands that were around and doing that sort of digital mess underneath, showing MES again had his finger on the pulse of surrounding influences, the clicking and pulsing electronics could be taken from bands like Pitchshifter, Mad Capsule Markets or Atari Teenage Riot. I'm surprised MES never cottoned on to that digital hardcore sound more fully, their vocals are very MES, almost unintelligible screams and mutterings through battered digital boxes over a soundtrack of distorted guitars and digital ephemera. Now there aren't that many digital influences in The Fall's sound these days I doubt we will hear stuff like this again, shame!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Day 51: I'm the carry bag man.

It's amazing how Mark E Smith can repeat a word over and over and have it melt into your mind for a few days after. Where people may see lack of talent singing-wise, MES always makes up for it in planting the most absurd lyrics into your head.

I know for one, whenever I see someone with a plastic bag, I always think of this song, but I'm sure it's more than a simple quirk that Smith chose to sing about something so uniformly used by everyone. I wonder if he ever uses them, I can imagine him refusing one when offered politely in a supermarket, although knowing how he hardly ever eats, I doubt he gets to the local Asda or Lidl much (former Fall members have stated that if they ate a meal on tour, they were mocked for being 'fat bastards').

Song: Carry Bag Man
Album: The Frenz Experiment

Year: 1988

So this is off the transition from the brutalist Fall of Bend Sinister to the ballet-soundtrack artiness of I Am Kurious Oranj, I'd say this is the Fall taking the foot off the pedal, as it flies by at a much more serene pace and actually sounds very pop (Brix is present, no surprise there then). This particular song is the second track and rumbles along nicely, the music is uniform, the drumming exemplary, its swift snare fills make it pop and crackle and the production is a great improvement on Bend Sinister's wall of noise and walkman-mastering glory, right production for the right set of songs on both counts I reckon. This is crisp and warm, whereas that album could well give you tinnitus. I like the use of loud-hailer on this track, gives the song a sing-along aspect (which I presume translates well live). It reminds me of the repetitive grooves of later songs like Pacifying Joint or Touch Sensitive, not only the music, but Mark's wailing vocals for each one of them, the drawl he brings out of his mutter and into sustained lines is great, the great anti-melodic nature of it all is fantastic.

The lyrics, now the sing-along part is obviously the title sang and chanted all the way through, but there's some brilliant conspiracy theory/surreptitious lines running through it. The idea of a man hiding carrier bags around a cityscape is quite amusing, planting them behind bushes, shop doorways, park benches etc. The lines: 'I don't make waves, I hide bags in graves/No cash is earned straight nowadays anyways/Please all you onlookers understand/So make gangway for Carrier Bag Man' sounds like a rallying call for hoarders, like it is this fictional 'carry bag' man's mission to save items in a Womble-like state. Maybe Mark is using his sage-like powers of prediction here and envisions the TV shows we have been plagued with for years like Grime Fighters and How Clean Is Your House?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Day 50: Bend down and scratch the carpet for insects.

Another strange one today that doesn't offer much in the way of context immediately, but it's still fun.

Song: The Aphid
Album: Cerebral Caustic

Year: 1995

This marks a turbulent time for The Fall (although it could be said it's all turbulent) but this marked a slight return for Brix, who co-wrote about half the album, including this one. Smith actually got rid of two excellent musicians around this time, Craig Scanlon and Dave Bush, which many thought was a mistake, so this is their last appearance on an album.

Anyway, this song is another great example of MES bringing in influences from great writers of novels, this time Philip K Dick, of whose 1977 science fiction novel A Scanner Darkly this is based on. It only encapsulates the first for or five pages, but with such a strange opening to a book, I can see why he may have been affected to write in this style. The pages explain a man who is obsessed with bugs in the carpet, whether these bugs are real it's not clear, but he has a strict method for collecting them. What MES has cleverly done here is write from his perspective, almost like an inner monologue, a step-by-step guide for removing aphids/bugs from a carpet, with precise instructions on how to find them, what jar to use, how many steps to take across the floor etc. It's all very OCD, something which lends itself to Mark's vocal delivery, the list-like way he sometimes emits his words fits in well with a list-like personality he is trying to portray. I'd say this is a fantastic effort, it left me bemused before, but having now found out the reasons for such abstractions, it makes perfect sense. Lines like: 'Bend down/Scratch around the carpet for insect/Get hook clamp, stand up/Get frame, put insect in jar' you can imagine being recited over and over by someone rocking back and forth in a padded cell, very affecting.

I think you can tell Brix is back, the riff that leads this is of her style, uniform yet playful, it has that cool, effortless charm that she bought to the group in the 80s, but I wonder how many people thought it was an attempt at finding former glories. It does bounce along nicely and it is a catchy song altogether, but it does seem to be a tad lethargic, thankfully the lyrics and vocals save it, as well as what sounds like a sample from the A Scanner Darkly film which ends the track.

On more thing to add, the album cover, an early Photoshop mistake? There are some terrible album covers from this era when graphic design on macs and PCs became widely available, is this the worst Fall album cover? Its either this or the patchwork nightmare of Shift Work for me.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Day 49: Do me a favour...

I thought I'd investigate a few of the weirder albums for a few days this week, this track is off 1997's Levitate, which was marked out as the album made just after Brix had left and long-term drummer Simon Wolstencroft had quit before the end of making.

Song: Everybody But Myself
Album: Levitate

Year: 1997

This track has a very strange start to it, what sounds like Mark at a gig, being heckled, or perhaps a practice room attempt at the song with some freestyling lyrics, falling straight into a cleaner-sounding studio version that has Nagle's keyboards pushed up over everything else, including the vocals, as a result, it sounds a bit club-ish, dance beats and some trebly keyboard fumblings make up most of the melody while for the rest of the song, the title is repeated over and over.

This sounds to me like a defiant stand that can either sound triumphant or fall flat on its face, the start is the sound of an irritable MES but its a great little snippet of real sound, I'm still in two minds as to whether its a gig or simply a mess of multi-tracked vocals as there seems to be a few vocal tracks running on top of each other all over the track, the half-mumbled 'backing vocals' he seems to give himself now and again suggest it could be manufactured and I really shouldn't be surprised that he has allowed lo-fi recording onto the album.

I'd be interested to know what people think of this album, given that it was recorded in such a fraught period and the music is even more basic than usual. Do please comment if you have anything to add, this track has stumped me frankly!

The combination of post-rave inspirations and the void of space he has given himself here may well be designed to confuse the listener, it certainly has me this time. The cover to this album is equally disturbing an early attempt at Photoshop skills when it first came out no doubt, but the masked face on the front is still menacing, kudos to MES, this is one of the most unnerving albums I've heard in the Fall canon.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Day 48: A run-in with Boston immigration.

Here's another request, off an album I have neglected, its an album that apparently is a bit of a blip in some people's heads, but I like the brutalist nature of it, really clunking and bleak for the most part.

Song: U.S 80's-90's
Album: Bend Sinister

Year: 1986

Now the drums on this song almost sound like a machine to me, I don't know whether they used one of those electronic kits to record this one, but the production is so digitised it's almost inhuman. It may just be that fashion they seemed to have in production circles in the 80's for a 'big' drum sound, plenty of effects applied to the snare and clipped cymbal cracks to make it sound a bit stadium, it works for some bands (The The, Joy Division etc) but here this song sounds like a public service announcement to me, Mark's vocals sound like a pre-recorded message booming out of an old public address system on a loop. That loop has become corrupted over time and lines are delivered over and on top of each other. The music reflects this, the bass sounds amazing, but has the sound of a dot matrix printer endlessly reaming out page after page of barely-legible computer code, on that green, punched paper you used to get.

It's all very dystopian, you can imagine this being played very loud over a post-apocalyptic wasteland a la Terminator 2, trash cans on fire here and there and machines stomping around, all very much of its time, this was 1986, sci-fi was a pretty big deal at the time, this could easily be on a soundtrack to a film, it's so bloody bleak. I like the fact the lyrics seems to be about airport security banality, the lists of things banned on board for example and the lines about being rapper, needing to get off the crapper, amazing.

This gives me visions of MES writing this while waiting for a flight in the middle of the night in a US airport, no idea why and just being exhausted, taking in his surroundings and reading those terrible magazines you only seem to see in public areas like airports and office receptions. Quite an abstract one this, the production makes me feel a little uncomfortable.