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!


  1. I have to say that I don't think that Cerebral Caustic is in anyway a bad album by the Fall. I am sure that for me 'The Light User Syndrome' is up there with the small list of albums I am not a huge fan of. For me 'The Joke' is a brilliant track and I love the version on the 27 points which of course is live and has an edge to it. For sure this does come across as a New Year Garage Band bashing out a classic with MES giving it some shouting vocal delivery which is always good to hear him give it some edge which sometimes is missing from more recent works.

  2. Good song - with a nod to Milan Kundera. Five years in a PC camp!