Another guest ICA from Jonder
THE FALL’S GONE MAD: DECADE TWO (1987-1996)
The mid-80’s were a peak of commercial success and artistic invention for The Fall.
Mark E. Smith‘s play “Hey Luciani” made its debut in 1986, followed two years later by the ballet “I Am Kurious Oranj”. The Fall hit the charts in 1987 with There’s A Ghost In My House and Hit The North, followed in 1988 by Victoria.
1. Jerusalem (live) – Smith contrasts William Blake‘s anthemic vision of England with a complainant from the 20th century nanny state (“it was the fault of the government”.) The album “I Am Kurious Oranj” is a mixed bag highlighted by Big New Prinz, a dramatic revision of 1982’s Hip Priest. In the stage production of “Kurious Oranj” (inspired by the life of William of Orange), The Fall provided musical accompaniment for Michael Clark‘s dance troupe.
2. Bremen Nacht (Alternative) – The 1998 LP “The Frenz Experiment” took a step sideways from the path of chart success. “We had had two Top 40 singles. So everybody expected a commercial album, and that was the last thing I wanted to do,” Mark later said. Bremen Nacht is a strict lesson in The Three R’s (repetition, repetition, repetition), demonstrating that The Fall had not lost sight of its core principles.
3. Dead Beat Descendant – Brix left in the summer of 1989. A few unreleased studio tracks were combined with a live set to fulfill the Beggars Banquet contract with the album “Seminal Live”. From the first live Fall album (“Totale’s Turns”) through “The Twenty Seven Points”, “2G+2”, and “Live Uurop VII-XII”, studio recordings have been scattered among live Fall performances. Dead Beat Descendant is a hidden gem.
4. Black Monk Theme Part 1 – 1990’s “Extricate” is an astonishing and essential Fall album. Martin Bramah, a founding Fall member, returned on guitar. Kenny Brady joined on fiddle, and The Fall expanded to a septet. It’s hard to avoid hearing “Extricate” as a divorce album, but the songs aren’t necessarily about Brix: Mark had married and divorced a second time before “Extricate” was released.
5. The Mixer – Martin Bramah left The Fall again before 1991’s “Shift-Work” album, leaving Craig Scanlon as the sole guitarist. Kenny Brady remained on fiddle, and with his help The Mixer became one of the loveliest melodies in The Fall’s repertoire. Dave Bush programmed electronic rhythms on this and the next few albums. “Shift-Work” was mostly tame, with the notable exception of Idiot Joy Showland, a virulent critique of Madchester bands.
6. Free Range (7″ Version) – this single from 1992’s slight “Code: Selfish” album is an example of what Smith and his fans claim to be his psychic or “pre-cog” abilities. The lyrics may refer to the history of Balkanization, or they might presage the coming Bosnian War. Smith seemed to predict the 1996 Manchester City Center bombing in the song Powder Keg, and Terry Waite Sez preceded Waite’s kidnapping.
7. A Past Gone Mad – this track from 1993’s “The Infotainment Scan” contains the unforgettable declaration, “If I ever end up like U2, slit my throat with a garden vegetable.” “Infotainment” was another strong Fall album. Brix contacted Mark to compliment him on it, and he responded by inviting her to rejoin The Fall.
8. City Dweller – “Middle Class Revolt” (1994) marked the return of the two drummer lineup (steadfast Simon Wolstencroft and the peripatetic Karl Burns). Behind The Counter was this middling album’s single. In City Dweller, Salford’s native son proclaims, “Get out of my city, you mediocre pseuds.”
9. Don’t Call Me Darling – Brix came back, cowriting and duetting with her ex. There’s not a lot of love among Fall fans for this 1995 LP (“Cerebral Caustic”), but it’s full of playful humor. Darling contains one of my favorite MES lines: “People hate beauty/ I cannot fathom it.” Mark fired Craig Scanlon after this record. Scanlon had played guitar with The Fall since 1979.
10. Cheetham Hill – another duet, this one with producer Mike Bennett, from the 1996 album “The Light User Syndrome”. Brix would leave The Fall again after the tour to promote this LP. She’s in top form as a guitarist here, and Julia Nagle‘s keyboards are equal parts melody and noise. It’s a wonderfully aggressive sounding album, a fine end to the second tenure of Brix and The Fall’s second decade.
BONUS TRACK – I Want You – despite what Mark E. Smith said about Madchester, he regarded The Inspiral Carpets well enough to lend an impassioned guest vocal to their 1994 single. Mark also made a live appearance with The Clint Boon Experience. A decade later, ex-Fall members Steve and Paul Hanley joined Inspiral Carpets’ Tom Hingley in his group The Lovers.