And now to something which isn’t technically an album, and so qualifies for inclusion in this series.
Slates was released on 27 April 1981. It has six tracks on 10″ vinyl, but wasn’t eligible for either of the single or album charts, being too long for the former and too short for the latter. (It is 24 minutes in running length). It was, however, included in the UK Independent Singles chart, where it reached #3, but it was also ranked at #13 in the best albums of 1981 by the NME.
It was originally put on sale for just £2, (nowadays you can expect to pay more than £30, even for a battered copy of the vinyl), and was, without any question, another way in which MES tested the patience of everyone at Rough Trade. It’s a recording which is has long been among the very favourites of long-standing fans of The Fall while also being one that more recent fans cite as being among the best of the back-catalogue.
It does seem that the plan, when convening at Berwick Street Studio in London was to come up with a standard 7″ single, although which tracks would have made that up remain unclear. I’m guessing that the label would have pushed for Fit and Working Again, with it being the most immediately accessible of the songs, and I’m sure they would have been horrified if presented with An Older Lover Etc. as it is the sort of song that would be of appeal to a very small minority of listeners, with most reaching for the off button quite quickly, or, if they stuck it out to the end, would wonder, ‘what the fuck?’
In all likelihood, it would have been Prole Art Threat that everyone initially had in mind, given it isn’t too far removed from the frantic energy put on display on the most recent singles. But given that MES was always looking to move onwards, maybe not….
The other three songs on Slates are great listens. It’s worth noting that, thanks to Rough Trade’s US arm, Slates was available in some shops on the other side of the Atlantic (where it retailed for $5), and it can be no coincidence that its tunes, and in particular, Leave The Capitol, would become the sort of templates for the way that indie music of the non-polished variety was set to go over the next decade or so. Pavement anyone???
The musicians on Slates are the same as on Totally Wired, indicating that the band was enjoying something of a settled period, although it would later transpire that MES was falling out on a frequent basis with Marc Riley.
mp3: The Fall – Middle Mass
mp3: The Fall – An Older Lover Etc.
mp3: The Fall – Prole Art Threat
mp3: The Fall – Fit and Working Again
mp3: The Fall – Slates, Slags, Etc.
mp3: The Fall – Leave The Capitol
Production credits are shared among Geoff Travis, Grant Showbiz and Adrian Sherwood, which maybe explains why the sound is, for the most part, cleaner and more polished than previous releases. It was perhaps for this reason alone that MES decided he’d had enough of Rough Trade and so, within a matter of weeks after Slates hit the shops, the ties had been severed (for now!).