Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Day 127: I guess it just goes to show you know...

This is one of my fave early Fall soundz, one which rings with a still-youthful Mark's seething anger and vitroil, while still sounding like he's having a laugh. It'd be weird to hear him do it now, but as they say, delving into the past is never dignified (as this blog has shown).

Song: Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
Album: Single in 1981

So this is one of the most deceptive songs to be recorded by The Fall, the way in which Mark delivers his lines, all manic and almost like he's just walking down the street just singing to himself covers up some truly inventive and science fiction-esque lyrics. What appears to be a song about the day after a pills binge, the talk of not eating the weekend and the haze of a Germanic weekend away soon becomes a living nightmare, although as MES puts it here, 'I had an awake dream'.

What this actually is seems to be an Open All Hours scene gone Philip K Dick, mannequins have security cameras in and burly guards are mobilised to deal with a lacivious, leering pervert and the whole report is delivered in this eerie, half-manic voice that just gets you all itchy.

The line about proles dancing in cardboard pants is probably part of a bizzare vision brought on by the Sunday morning comedown, but seems unsettling rather than humourous.

Previous to this, it's a bit more tame, what the descriptions conjure up are the moments when you emerge from a party or night out in the crisp but cold morning light, taking in the world through raisin-tight eyeballs, 'Went home to my slum canyon/ On my way i looked up/ I saw turrets of victorian wealth/ I saw john the ex-fox/ Sleeping in some outside bogs' this suggests the small town nature of the song, Wigan gets a mention (Wigan isn't that small though surely?) but it suggests everyone knows each other and knows who this Johnny is. Calling him an 'ex-fox' though might mean literally that, an ex-fox, a formerly live fox, could even be a reference to Thin Lizzy's/Phil Lynott's Johnny The Fox, so could be a glam rocker just passed out, who knows?

Until inspecting this song closely, I'd always thought it quite a lively, light number, but it's full of filth isn't it? Curse you MES, curse you to hell (Wigan?).
This version is also worth hearing, it's got some amazing additions, instead of just cutting his dick off, he cuts his head off too. Note the completely wired keyboards and the Elvis like swagger he adopts for some lines. This is my favourite Fall live album at this moment in time, it's amazing.

Also like his voice-trumpeting at the end too, this gig sounded weird, people sound really miffed by the whole affair, well you would wouldn't you?

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.

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?