We’ve reached 2011.
The Fall seem to have a very settled line-up, with MES being alongside Peter Greenway (guitars), David Spurr (bass), Kieron Melling (drums) and Eleni Poulou (keyboards). Having taken leve of Domino, the band ink a new deal with Cherry Red Records, a London-based independent label dating back to 1978, which, in addition to releasing new music by a wide range of acts which can often best be described as maverick/left-of-centre, (Luke Haines has been part of the label for a long while), has become a specialist for all sorts of re-releases, particularly CD box sets containing previously unreleased or hard-to-find material. It was actually something of a misnomer that The Fall hadn’t previously been part of the roster, and it proved to be a happy and fruitful partnership, with the label being responsible for all the band’s releases between 2011 and 2017.
First up was this single, on 7 November 2011:-
mp3: The Fall – Laptog Dog
mp3: The Fall – Cosmos 7
mp3: The Fall – Monocard (Lunatic Mix)
It was something of a low-key release, limited in numbers, and therefore something of a rarity on the second-hand market. The label was much more interested in the release, just seven days later, of the album Ersatz GB, a ten-track LP which came out on vinyl and CD. It was the band’s 28th studio album but, and this probably won’t come as a surprise, was the first ever time three successive studio albums had been recorded with the same-line up. As I say, no surprise, but at the same time quite an astounding fact.
The album reached the lower end of the UK charts which was deemed a satisfactory outcome by all concerned, given it was released to what can best be described as mixed reviews, while a number of the live shows to support the impending release of the album were dogged by MES sloping off-stage mid-set; leaving Eleni to take the vocals. Here’s one fan’s take on things on what proved to be something of a notorious gig in Edinburgh on 3 November:-
Who would be Mark E. Smith’s wife? Last night Fall fans were treated to simultaneously one of the worst and best gigs of the year, as the majority of the proceedings were left to Mrs. E Smith to fill in the gaps after Mark exited the stage.
Things started promisingly: the band in great form and the new songs (we heard perhaps two of them) sounding excellent. Then Smith disappeared off stage (nothing unusual about that); spookily however, his voice remained. Was he perhaps paving the way for his own demise, when the band will have to tour to backing tapes of his lyrics? Soon the voice disappeared too, leaving us to endure the longest ever version of ‘I’ve Been Duped’, sung without apparent irony by Mrs. Smith.
As far as a group of people in their 40s and 50s could be said to be restless, there was a certain fractious mood abroad in the crowd: a few squidgy plastic pint glasses were thrown towards the stage (emptied of the £4 contents); Mrs. Smith ill-advisedly greeted this with outstretched arms in a ‘come-ahead’ gesture. She explained before walking off that “Mark has terrible voondz (wounds) on iz feet and haz to walk up five flights ov stairs to get to zee stage” when this with greeted some derision from certain elements in the crowd, she replied “What? Are you a doctor?” before leaving to boos. Suddenly we were reminded just how young Mrs. Smith really is: her possibly misguided loyalty deserves the highest praise.
To their credit the band took to the stage again to launch into an instrumental ‘Reformation’; Mrs. Smith was about to offer the mic to the crowd when suddenly, a fellow wearing a combat jacket, silk scarf and a handlebar moustache, leapt to the stage; at first it seemed to be all part of a huge practical joke, as the uninvited lead singer with admirable chutzpah, extemporized lyrics about going to see The Fall and Mark not being there. This was brought to a premature end as he was approached by a large shaven headed bouncer. Before we could chorus “he’s behind you” our unknown Bob Calvert impersonator was led away, looking crestfallen. On the back of the bouncer’s neon-yellow t-shirt was the ominous message: ‘Stage Security, here to assist you’. More boos followed, but immediately gave way to cheers as none other than Mark E. Smith was led on stage supported on either side like King Lear by two stage hands. He sang the rest of ‘Reformation’ (sort of) before delivering a superb version of ‘Mr. Pharmacist’, complete with keyboard solo. Then it was all over.
Did I ask for a refund on my ticket? Did I throw a pint glass? No. My only thought was ‘I hope his feet get better.’ Misguided loyalty is clearly infectious.
It’s really no wonder that by now I had given up on things….I never did buy anything that came out on Cherry Red, and digging out the tunes for today’s posting will be the first time I’ve heard them. They’re not the worst – the single is a sort of plodding, middling thing but very clearly the sound of The Fall, while the b-sides offer a mix of fat electronica rockabilly (yes, really!!) and an eight-minute Krautrock effort, if that happens to be your thing.