A GUEST POSTING by JONDER
Another era in the 40 year history of The Fall has ended with the departure of Elena Poulou (who married Mark E. Smith and joined The Fall prior to 2003’s “The Real New Fall LP”. This year the band (sans Poulou) released a new album, “New Facts Emerge”. Mark E. Smith also turned 60 this year, despite the BBC’s recent report of his death.
This ICA covers the past ten years, an unprecedented period of stability for an infamously volatile group. Elena kept The Fall and its frontman fit and working, and she cowrote several of these songs (though she was neither as prolific nor as talented a songwriter as Mark’s former wife Brix Smith, who now leads a group of former Fall members called The Extricated).
ELENA’S THE FALL : SIDE ONE
1. Fall Sound – Mark E. Smith is notorious for sacking musicians, but the tables were turned when his bassist, drummer and guitarist quit en masse. Mark and Elena borrowed two members from an American band called Darker My Love, and they recorded 2007’s “Reformation TLC” (the initials signifying the “Traitors, Liars and C-nts” who deserted the band). Fall Sound is a statement of purpose, and contains a clever Smith couplet: “Only water passes my lips/ Only beer passes my throat”.
2. Wolf Kidult Man – the 2008 album “Imperial Wax Solvent” introduced new members Peter Greenway (guitar), Keiron Melling (drums) and David Spurr (bass). This lineup (with Elena on keyboards) remained intact for nine years. Mark must have been pleased with this hard rocking tune, as it became a standard on setlists.
3. Bury! #2 and 4 – one of the best Fall songs since Sparta FC, an insistent march with a memorable refrain. This is the single version: Bury Pts. 1 + 3 appears on the 2010 album “Your Future Our Clutter”. The lyric “A new way of recording/ A chain ’round the neck” is aimed at Domino Records, who wanted the band to put more time into the album.
4. Age Of Chang – Domino’s position may have been justified, as the two Fall albums that followed (“Ersatz G.B.” and “Re-Mit”) are littered with throwaways. Age Of Chang reflects The Fall’s working method. As reviewer Mark Prindle wrote, Mark’s “employees” bring him songs and he “rejects the parts he hates and fills the remaining melody-shells with noise… (He) rips them apart until they sound like The Fall.”
5. Loadstones – the band sounds exceptionally tight here, and Mark leaves the “paintwork” unmolested as he delivers an urgent but inscrutable vocal. Cryptic lyrics have always been central to The Fall’s appeal. Several websites are devoted to decoding Smith’s writing, a challenge that increases in difficulty as his diction becomes more slurred.
ELENA’S THE FALL : SIDE TWO
6. Auto Chip 2014-2016 – a classic from 2015’s solid “Sub-Lingual Tablet”. Mark wonders, “How bad are English musicians?” but the band has conjured a mesmerizing motorik groove. The album references Mark’s physical maladies, but here he sounds vigorous in spite of his “suffering”.
7. Amorator! – a song from 2013’s “Remainderer” EP. “Never forget your brain is a bubble of water/ And a blank sheet for a top-up,” Smith announces, as Keiron Melling plays a galloping Mancabilly beat (aka “Country & Northern”).
8. Dedication (Remix) – this version of the “Sub-Lingual Tablet” track Dedication Not Medication appeared on the EP “Wise Ol’ Man”. Elena’s synth and Dave Spurr’s bass are stark and discordant. I prefer this remix over the album version of Dedication, an extended whine by Mark E. Smith about “good grief bed wet pills”.
9. Wise Ol’ Man – the title track from Elena Poulou’s last record with The Fall. In an interview prior to its release, she proudly pointed to this tune as the first to feature vocals from all members of the band. The song may be a tribute to Fall promoter Alan Wise, who died in 2016.
10. Brillo De Facto – this ICA ends as it began, in the aftermath of a departure. “New Facts Emerge” was recorded by Smith, Greenway, Spurr, and Melling after Elena left. Unlike “Extricate”, it doesn’t appear to be a “divorce album”. I found the first half of “New Facts Emerge” brutal and thrilling (especially this track and Fol De Rol), but the rest seems uninspired.
England’s Heartbeat (Brazilian Ambush) – a 2014 World Cup song created by ex-Fall member Ed Blaney, Mark E. Smith and Jenny Shuttleworth. Blaney has remained on good terms with Smith, a feat unmatched among the scores of former Fall members. He and Mark made several records credited to “Smith And Blaney”, and Smith appears on Blaney’s 2016 album “Urban Nature”. During this past decade, Mark also guested on Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach” and Ginger Wildheart’s “Mutations: Error 500”.