Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Day 126: 60-hour weeks...

Apologies for severe lack of updates, I've taken on the editorship of this website, I started it with friends in 2004 and it was really popular at one point, but we let it slip badly over a few years and so I've decided to ressurect it, but still have time for The Fall. Anyone listen to 6music today? Lauren Laverne played 'Touch Sensitive' possibly the only time that will ever happen at work, awesome.

Song: English Scheme
Album: Grotesque (Against the Gramme)
Year: 1980

So this is a sprightly little number, all bad casio and an almost sing-song nature, it could easily have been plonke on ...Witch Trials as it's just 2 minutes long and features some snotty-nosed vocals from Lord Smith.

But wait! There's something calculated and suddenly profound hidden in there... The line 'He's rich, but he struck it rich...switch' signals a subtle change in the music, it's another case of MES the conducter giving vocal instructions to the band while they are playing again, once again, there is no fourth wall and we are just intruding on the spectacle.

There's some well-observed stuff in here too, I'm talking almost kitchen sink: 'Down pokey quaint streets in Cambridge/Cycles our distant spastic heritage/Its a gay red, roundhead, army career, grim head/If we was smart we'd emigrate' this just smacks of thick-stockinged women blarting to each other about nothing over the fence. The kind of thing you get regailed with when you visit your hometown, brief and synopsied recent histories of people. All part of the great Fall documentary then, a brief snippet, but a good entry in the scrapbook nontheless.

The word 'scheme' is very British too, we have 'schemes' as something positive, even though the meaning of the word is 'to plot', as in 'Mark E Smith schemed to chuck out another member of the band, he was sure he could make it to 100 former members'. When I was growing up in the 90s, there were summer sessions at the local secondary school where kids could be looked after for a whole day against their will, they called them 'play schemes' and it was incredibly bleak and depressing, well summed up Mr Smith, I like.

Requests are still accepted by the way, anyone care to reach through the void and suggest a tune?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Day 125: Sleepy Sunday

Chilled out one from me tonight.

Track: Jap Kid
Album: Levitate
Year: 1997

So here's a track sans Mark, quite rare but I guess this is all Julia Nagle. Most of the band had left at this point, but Mark and Julia made this album anyway, her electronics are all pushed to the front and people often lambast this album, but this track stands out to me as a calm, relaxing track amongst some pretty messy tracks (see Jungle Rock elsewhere on the album).

It's like a cross between a traditional Japanese song, played slowly and carefully over a plodding drum machine and a lullaby, the kind you might get playing while a mobile moves round over a cot. Like a whisper in the chaos, this is probably seen as filler by many, but it's certainly an interesting track. If this was your first taste of The Fall, you'd certainly be confused as to the rest of their canon and how this fits in.

Moments of calm or reflection in The Fall are rare, so it's probably best to just enjoy this one. Other tracks that look inward (Bill is Dead or Happi Song) tend to create a stink with fans, so this wordless effort could never be seen as cloying or sickly-sweet, just a few moments away from the drunken lurch this album otherwise serves up.

More Fall-isms tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Day 124: Split an egg and war was born...

The Fall were once known for cover versions on their albums, sometimes the choices were obvious and sometimes silly (think Walk Like A Man, Ghost In My House, Victoria) but then now and again they can pull a track so wedged in strangeness, it has to be dragged out of the bag kicking and screaming, see stuff like nI'm Going To Spain for an immediate example.

Often tracks can pass you by, you presume there just isn't a cover on the particular record you are listening to, well here's one of them and I've found the original to be even more disturbing.

Track: War
Album: Middle Class Revolt
Year: 1994

Yeah so have a listen to The Fall version, it's certainly an odd-shaped track to fit in with the somewhat dreamy LP's tone, with lyrics about love and some whistful bits on there too. This track pulses with not only a relentless backing vocal that annoys as well as confuses, but the main vocal is seemingly endless, ragging on and on to devastating effect. Nigh-on inpenetrable, I'm always secretly glad it's all over as it's a challenging, acutely scary track.

The lyrics are delivered in a loud, but strangely distracted manner, and depict all sorts of messages about war itself. The interplay of ryhme and unpleasant subject manner combine to create a ghastly word poem: 'While war casts her gory locks/Over the deserted docks/She casts her gory locks/Over the deserted docks' just makes the idea of war all that more repugnant. One line that keeps coming up is 'War does what she has to' which is poignant yet deeply depressing at the same time.

I can see why this was chosen as a Fall cover, the lyrics are scrambled under horrible noise so as to distract from their grim reality, which is something I've mentioned within countless posts on this blog. What I cannot get my head around is the music that the original band Henry Cow play, it's like Captain Beefheart trying to break free of shackles, its wild, unruly and even more irritating than you first imagine it could be. Witness the original version here. A scale of dog barks, along with a demented circus-like beat and some circuit-bent sounding trumpet along with a rolling tongue rectiting the lyrics at speed could make most people turn for the off switch, but something makes you keep listening. Witness their free jazz nightmare that brings to mind Reeves and Mortimer's Mulligan and O'Hare, such is the unbridled expressionism on display. I'm no musical snob, I've watched the likes of Martin Archer several times, but some of it I find very hard to appreciate, this is on the cusp.

As it goes, The Fall version is more accessible, and how many times can you say that?

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Day 123: Abstraction, you know it's the smell!

This is just a perfect song, really.

Song: Proteinprotection
Album: The Real New Fall LP
Year: 2003

Here's a quite direct and brooding piece with some excellent vocals from 2003, now around that time, it was still quite new to have 'sciencey' bits on hair adverts and one thing they always harped on about and still do is the prevalence and importance of protein in hair. As Simon Pegg once wrote for Spaced, all of the words associated with it are 'made up to make hair seem important'. I know this song is probably absolutely nothing to do with all this, but it certainly fuels my rant. The lines about abstraction add to this, often in these ads, protein 'cells' would be bouncing around on impossibly shiney hair in the strangest situations.

Looking closely at the lyrics, it's like a defiant stand really, the repetition of 'Out of the masses/Any time' over and over suggests a middle finger to all and sundry, the stuff about chimney's being king confuses me though, what could it mean?

If, which is very unlikely, the song is about Pantene or one of the many gooey hair products out there, I can't imagine these ads taking up as much time as he gives them here. The whole song seems abstract as he suggests, the music goes from bubbling Sonic Youth-style tension to 60s-pop soaring majesty and back a few times.

His vocals on here sound as if he is addressing someone from a shed on a loud-hailer, and at one point a bee or wasp has flown in and he does that agitated noise that brings to mind the 'Hick-wap-huh' of the Man Whose Head Expanded, which almost sounds like a vocal spasm. The backing vocals deserve a mention on this too, just sublime 'oohs' but lift it from just a throwaway track into something utterly uncanny and richly diverse. A mutated song,  but one that will remain in my head for the rest of today at least.