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.