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.

1 comment:

  1. well said.
    my favourite fall song too. one of my favourite songs full stop.

    an absolute juggernaut of a song, the line 'i've never felt better in my life' is simply unbeatable, especially accompanied by that tune.