Sunday, 26 February 2012

Day 122: I have seen the madness

This is a laid back cut from Totale's Turns, which passes by without much fuss, but is still worth a decent listen.

Song: In My Area
Album: Totale's Turns (It's Now or Never)
Year: 1980

So yeah, it's a nice little outing this one, comparitively mid-paced to most tunes of the time, it is obviously a live recording, possibly tidied up in the studio, but it sounds great. Little bit of background crowd noise to begin with (this album was recorded in clubs around the north) and we're into what sounds like to these ears what Elastica and similar bands ripped off in the 90s, minus the pop sheen. The simple but hook-heavy riff really cries insistence at you, slipping into your mind before you know it's there. The song never strives to run any faster than this mid-paced tempo and it's layers work well together, guitar parts chirrup and float in the background, flitting in and out of existence which gives it a very lazy and dreamlike feel. Among songs that clatter along like heavy goods vehicles, this is a comparitive lake of calm. The vocals are very impressive, clear and concise, there's not much improv happening for a live gig (compare that to now, we usually get the title of the song, but very little else clear) and its staying power is its best friend.

The lyrics seem to be a badge of pride, the kind you hear people saying quite a lot 'I've lived here all my life' etc. But with a weird, detatched mood running through it, some of it unpleasant. The lines about 'burrowmen' and 'faces frozen in pain' suggest hardship and unpleasantness, but there's also silly humour in there too 'The dwarf plays pool to prove his height' being one example. The little aside from Mark at the end sounds both patronising and friendly at the same time: "Are you doing what you were doing two years ago? Yeah? Well don't make a career out of it." Sounds like a bad pub joke, but also like a genuinely sharp put-down so make of that what you will.

It all points to frustration I'm afraid, MES seems to be stamping his peers with a mark of disdain, accompanied by a roll of the eyes, he mentions the 'me generation' at one point. This still stands now,we have a country where we are afraid of telling people 'no' for fear of reprisal, maybe the sage-like powers are at work again here too.

Reading Mick Middle's book, Mark constantly voices his fears of documentation and trainspotter types poring over old songs, stating the Fall are a band that live in the present. I quite agree, but I'm afraid I will keep going back over the past as it's still throwing up weird gems like this. Guess I'm one of those sad office types he hates so much, oh well.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Day 121: Is there anybody there?


Song: Psykick Dancehall
Album: Dragnet
Year: 1979

From the initial cry (that titles this entry) this is a manic one that's just brilliant. So much energy and confidence, the playing is shaky from all players to be honest, but that's this track and this album's charm. Mark sounds pretty clear despite the production being muddy as sin and the lyrics read like a loon who has approached you in the pub.

'I saw a monster on the roof/Its colours glowed on the roof' just sums it up, he adopts this detatched delivery as well that only adds to the addled sound being produced. I swear they must have made this album during a full moon or similar as its fully manic, desperate and unhinged. The title implies a place where young people go to take drugs and dance all their frustration out, the 'just bumble stumble to the waves' part is definately suggestive of that. The 'esp medium dischord' also suggests psychotropic drugs, esp being extra sensory perception, which probably intimates these disco biscuit-loving people are communicating on another level, another horror story piped through MES's ever-sharp delivery.

I like the lines that bring to mind a run down town, 'my garden is made of stone/there's a computer centre over the road' just reminds me of living in a semi-rough bit of Sheffield, a bit tatty, but with plenty of charm too. The music just gets more and more murky as it progresses, which is fine by me, halfway through its like someone has jammed the band and Mark with a cattle prod and they wake up. The guitars squelch against each other, which only underlines the fact the whole album was recorded in two days.

Been reading the Mick Middles biography of The Fall and have to say it's fantastic so far, feels like snippets of Fall history, all over the place like their albums, one moment Mark is playing up to the 'Mad Mark' vibe, the rest of the time, he is just wistful. He seems to be the mad man at the centre of a storm and weird and strange people seem to be attracted to him and repelled in equal measure, it's quite funny hearing Mark's reaction to the internet when that first became more usual, he spits in disgust at the idea of Friends Reunited, wonder what he makes of Facebook?

Monday, 20 February 2012

Day 120: But the path disappeared...

Here's the single from Ersatz GB, which is a pretty damn good one.

Song: Laptop Dog
Album: Ersatz GB
Year: 2011

So this was the song they picked to showcase the latest album, which to me is an odd choice, its a bit held back as far as the rest of the album goes and never really gets going in the rat up a drainpipe way that the rest does. That said, it's a nice romp through some pretty good lyrics and a nice line in future-baiting from Mr Smith.

'All life was there, but the path disappears' is a great line, I honestly didn't get the reference for ages until I heard the 6Music interview where he explains its all about a bloke going mental as all his pictures, songs and his whole life is on a laptop. Obviously Mark finds it hilarious that anyone contains their life on a laptop, let alone goes looking for it in bins following its loss. I originally thought it was a bit more serious and po-faced after all that line is quite poetic, but nope, bought back down to earth by MES and his giggling at idiots, nice.

He's a bit late in stopping dead the laptop crowd, the coffee shops have been infested with them for years, but maybe he thought it was about time. I like the 'a big creature will stalk you' line, I have no idea what he means, but I always imagine the creature to be something mythical that knows all your secrets thanks to your stupidity in losing it. Similarly it could be the Laptop Dog of the title, but I feel like that's a reference to us all being doting on our little machines, the laptops have become masters and we're all gazing longingly at them. I know I spend far too much time staring at absolute crap, it must be nice not to have that compulsion.

I like the music on this one, its upbeat, if a little obtuse with Elena's keys plonking all over it in her out of tune way, but I feel that only adds to it. The little excerpt from the end harks back to rehearsal tapes, like a half-remembered segment he wanted to add in at the end, it doesn't even fade out, it's almost like a footnote, even in the way he enunciates the syllables of the word 'ig-nor-onts'. Seeing this one live showed me how unbelievably tight the rythmn section is in The Fall right now, I almost want to hear the next album now, while they are still firmly in the fold. Anyone heading to the London gig, I'll see you there.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Day 119: The pleasures of curvaceous women.

This one is a departure from the last few entries, shrouded in spiky electronics.

Song: Serum
Album: The Unutterable
Year: 2000

This still sounds futuristic and it is now around 12 years old as a song. The scratchy bassline that kicks this off, combined with the Wip3out-style music that follows is like a cyber-punk future backdraft, with MES absent-mindedly yakking into the mic in somewhat clear tones for the roughness that runs amok in the background.

The lyrics seem to be a bit 1984, as in people needing a serum to get through life, the 101 could be debated as code, perhaps Room 101 (the room in which you cast things you dislike) but then he bookends this with 101.1, which makes even less sense. He seems to like lists on this album, see Dr Buck's Letter, which suggests a mild theme running throughout, he lists food elsewhere.

This must have been a fun album to make, basically a cacophony of guitars, almost a wall, with some skronky keys over it, electronics trumping and farting over it, blasts of 90s -sounding guitar riffs now and again, listening to it back on cans must have been hell to play over.

Mark sounds focused at times, distracted at others, which is the best way to hear him I think, you get this weird sage-like majesty off him now and again and garbled nothings the next, its like listening to someone who is hammered come into lucidity for brief patches before flying low under the fug again. The lyrics are humourous, but with a taciturn and judging edge, which makes it seem all the more disorienting.The lines about curvaceous women bring to mind soiled copies of The Sun or Blackpool pier peep shows and the leery, greasy men that frequent such places. The idea of deadbeat dads needing a lager to get through the day also springs to mind, all the lyrics point to dissapointment I fear.

And can I hear maracas? The most strange of all hand-held percussion next to shakey eggs?

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Day 118: Paranoia

This is not a song to listen to on a snowy, dark night.

Song: A Figure Walks
Album: Dragnet
Year: 1979

If you thought there was nothing but flamper and fluff from previous releases, this is surely that must have changed people's minds about The Fall. Not only is this pretty minimal for the group for the time, it's a long and drawn out song (that reminds me of the recent Monocard in places) with a subtle and insistent melody. Mark's vocals still sound like he is delivering them through a toilet roll in a stark bathroom, but that's the way we like it.

The repetition works here on several levels, not only to hammer home the stalking narrative that dogs the lyrics, but also as a hypnotic, almost tranced out musical drone. This would actually do really well live if they had some cod-horror or Peter Cushing-style horror projected behind them, slow, deliberate moves and a sense of foreboding is what marks this out as The Fall gone dark.

The lyrics concern being followed, the feeling we all get from time to time, be it walking home from a night out, or while driving miles with a familiar car in our rear view. The mentions of a 'quick trip to the icehouse' and 'tales of horror' add to the atmosphere of dread. It's also helped by Dragnets minimal and shoddy recording techniques, it sounds like it could be rumbling from a lone transistor in the corner of a scene where someone is overtaken by fear, preferably in the black and white that mirrors the album's artwork.

Going back to the lyrics, imagine these scrawled in red, found on yellowed paper and you get the gist, it's like the daubings of someone consumed with paranoia, trapped in a world of their own creation: 'Something followed me out/ Go out again/ A figure walks behind you/ A shadow walks behind you/ A figure walks behind you/ A shadow walks behind you/ And if it grabs my coat tail I will turn and hit it/ If they remove the pegs/ Keeping my eyes open'.


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Day 117: Exotic fruits.

This is a weird one which would be more at home on another album I feel but it's pretty damn good either way.

Song: Dktr Faustus
Album: Bend Sinister
Year: 1986

The more this track drags on, the more demented it becomes. It starts with Mark singing his lines through either a megaphone or phone line, which is reminiscent of the delivery the avant-garde band Coil adopt quite a lot. the dual-recorded and slightly ropey guitar gives it a folky edge and the vocals, clashing with Brix's all the way through give it an unhinged feel too. The lyrics seem to be based loosely on temptation, which of course is the theme of the play of the same name, or to give it the traditional name the The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus which was written by Cristopher Marlowe, based on the ancient tale/legend of Faust, who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and power. This would explain all the references to fruit throughout, the fruit being knowledge and representing temptation, which in turn also points back to the fall (oof!) of man when Eve was offered the apple by the snake in the garden of Eden. Who'da thunk The Fall could go biblical? Well they did.

The music on display here is of real note, the start is rather minimal, but it is deeply layered as it progresses, going through a repetitive loop as most Fall tunes did at the time, but with experimental edges in there too. The constant twinkle and scattering of high pitched notes suggest multiple tracks that the musicians may have been encouraged to improvise on and Brix's detatched and unhinged vocals also add to this. It is eccentric in the extreme and could be quite a challenging listen, even for the most commited fan, myself included. The parts where Brix, Mark and even another vocal track or two from Mark are blended together, singing in a cacophonous choir of sorts which sounds ghostly and mocking. You can almost imagine this being performed with medieval masks and lots of naked flame, shapes dancing all over the place. Wouldn't want to listen to this track on a bad trip, the screaming of the word BANANA would probably send me over the edge. If that doesn't, the stylophone would.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Day 116: The only Fall song my Dad could name.

My Dad likes music, a lot, but this is the only song by The Fall he has mentioned to me before, so here it is, this one is for Colin Shields, who does this blog along with other volunteers who are surveying heritage sites that are at risk at the moment.

So to the song:

Song: Rowche Rumble
Album: Single/Dragnet/Totale's Turns
Year: 1979

One of those annoying tracks that was never an album track but seems to have been a staple of live sets for years and was also the third single they ever released. It STINKS of ...Witch Trials but has much more in the way of inventiveness about it than you'd expect, lots of wurlitzer-style keyboards that could make you sick if you played this song too loud and plenty of strange vocal tics in there too. The bass has a bit of Clashness too it, but don't tell anyone I said that.

This must be one of the only songs ever to be written about pharmaceuticals and menopausal women. It may be cliched but there is something rather sinister about the pharmaceuticals industry, pricing each other out of the market, irrespective of how good the drugs work, they've always been rotters. This however, is an almost light-hearted take on it, the lines about Swiss gnomes suggest the Rowche is actually Roche AG, which was (and still is?) a big pharmaceuticals giant. MES does hint at the evil, The dope addicts are especially smashed and What are the people around you taking? certainly paint a horrible picture and he does go down the road of drugs protest as well: And loads of people across the land/ Who do a prescribed death dance/ While condemning speed and grass/ They got an addiction like a hole in the ass which paints a weird picture of people doing this new dance craze, this Rowche Rumble.

Again, this is an example of MES hiding some pretty dark material behind another seemingly singalong and perfectly harmless tune. Like the weirdo with sweets laced with arsenic down the park, he's smuggled the nasty stuff in. I bet loads of people have heard this song and never given it half a thought.

Makes Ant and Dec seem even more redundant doesn't it?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Day 115: Spit on the streets!

What a vulgar idea, but it does happen...

Song: Psycho Mafia
Album: Live At The Witch Trials (reissue)/Bingo Masters Break Out!
Year: 1978 for the EP.

This is an excellent little song and one that should never have been buried on an early EP, fans must have loved it when the CD reissue came out, it's just great.

What I love most about it is the punk attitude on display, but already the lyrics have transcended the genre, real grit, not just empty, boring stuff about monarchy or how tough life is. This conjures up a gang of drug-fuelled, eye-popping weirdos prowling around and everyone getting out their way. The British version of Rebel Without A Cause but no stupid bikes or leathe jackets, probably just donkey jackets and weird stares. This is compounded with lines like 'Our eyes are red/Our brains are dead'.

Mark's sneer is audible even at this early stage and the shortness of breath, resulting in 'Co! Mafia! showing what energy they pack into this two minute ripper. If there was ever a case for Mark's vocal talents being weak, doubters should be played this. Just snotty.

Sonic Youth have done a cover, but it lacks the simple charm of the original, but love the fact that SY have covered the Fall several times. By the way, does anyone think this sounds like Eat Y'Self Fitter?Link