AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #171 : THE FALL (5)

ALL HERE IS ACE: The Fall’s First Decade (1977-1986)

A guest posting by JONDER

I started this ICA before Mark E. Smith‘s death, but found it hard to reduce The Fall‘s first and greatest decade to ten songs. It was a period of boundless creativity, as the group moved from strength to strength with an astonishing series of singles and albums.

Sean O’Neal observed in the AVClub.com, “Most Fall fans don’t have something as pedestrian as favorite albums or songs, but rather favorite eras and lineups.” For me, nothing surpasses the bass-driven, double drummer sound of these years, topped with trebly guitars and Mark’s distinctive delivery. The lyrics bristle with dark wit and undisguised contempt for the scene, the press, record labels, musicians, the city of London, and even the audience.

SIDE A

1. Crap Rap/Like To Blow – Smith introduces the group as Northern outsiders. The Fall’s 1979 debut album, Live At The Witch Trials, features Yvonne Pawlett‘s cheap keyboard and the metallic sheen of Martin Bramah‘s guitar, both soon to disappear from the lineup.

2. Before The Moon Falls – by the end of ’79, only Smith and Marc Riley remained from the first LP. The tenure of bassist Steve Hanley and guitarist Craig Scanlon begins on Dragnet. The production recoils from the bright clarity of Witch Trials. Smith paraphrases William Blake: “I must create a new regime or live by another man’s.” An ex-Fall member is quoted on the album’s back cover: “I bet you’re laughing your head off at this, aren’t you Smith?”

3. C & C’s Mithering – An epic travelogue and a tirade against the music industry, from 1980’s Grotesque. An odyssey that spans two continents and three months, set to two chords and three beats.

4. The Container Drivers – The Fall could be funny. This is from the third of The Fall’s 24 Peel Sessions. It is a portrait of truckers on speed, with observations culled from Mark’s job on the docks. One moment that always makes me smile is around 1:45, when Paul Hanley fires off an overlong drum roll.

5. Winter – 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour is often named as The Fall’s finest album. This song is the first half of a ghost story: you flipped the LP over when it ended to hear the conclusion of the tale. Storytelling was a significant part of Smith’s writing in the 1980’s (cf. Wings, Spectre Vs. Rector, The NWRA and New Face In Hell). There were fewer narrative songs in the decades to follow.

SIDE B

6. Room To LiveThe Room To Live album was something of a disappointment. How could it not be, just six months after the spellbinding Hex? Some of the songs seem morose, but the title track is a high-spirited Country & Northern romp.

7. I Feel Voxish – Marc Riley cowrote this song, but was fired before it was recorded. Smith plays with assonance in the phrases “pillbox crisp” and “feel voxish”. Perverted By Language (1983) was The Fall’s last album for Rough Trade, and the first to feature Brix Smith.

8. Slang King“This is Mr. and Mrs. Smith to whom you are speaking.” Mark was a slang king, a perverter of language, and an inventor of words like “corporatulent”. Here he explores alliteration and onomatopoeia: whip wire, swoop swoop. 1984’s Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall was the group’s first LP for Beggar’s Banquet.

9. L.A. – The lyrics to this tune are few, outnumbered by Mark’s wordless falsetto and percussive vocalizations. L.A. is a showcase for Brix as a guitarist, and a tribute to her birthplace. Near the end she quotes from the movie Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls: “This is my happening, and it freaks me out!” LCD Soundsystem recently used the same line. (This Nation’s Saving Grace, 1985)

10. US 80’s-90’s – A critique of modern American Puritanism from 1986’s Bend Sinister. Smoking bans and the “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign of the Reagan era signified a sociopolitical shift since The Fall’s first US visit. This song and L.A. foreshadow the synthesizer friendly Fall Sound of the 90’s. There’s also a reference back to the first track of this ICA, as Smith calls himself “the big shot original rapper” but adds that “it’s time for me to get off this crapper.”

Mark E. Smith was a vocalist, songwriter and bandleader unlike any other. The Fall seemed to expect more from their listeners, and to give up their secrets less readily. I was a suburban American teen when I first heard The Fall. I couldn’t completely grasp what they were doing. Still I was enchanted, and soon obsessed. The music was uniquely compelling, and for me it remains so.

JONDER

JC adds…..huge thanks to Jonder for being so patient….this ICA landed in the Inbox months ago.  That’s the last of the backlog cleared, so if anyone else wants to a go, then feel free to drop me a line…I promise you shouldn’t have long to wait to see your work appear in print!

CHARGED PARTICLES (V2) : Part 1

Let me take you back 12 months to this posting on 2 June 2017.

I don’t have a music blog of my own but I gather I have something in common with JC and the regular contributors that do: Like you lot I was always the guy people asked to make mix tapes (and, later, playlists) for parties, trips, birthdays, etc.

One of the categories that people liked very much was called Charged Particles. These consisted of songs with one word titles ending with ION. That was the only thing they had in common. Turns out there are tons of them; I’ve got nearly 200 in my iTunes library and they always seem to combine interestingly. I mentioned doing something with the list when I met JC in Manchester and he said, ‘Ask me, I won’t say no, how could I?’

My thinking was that he could plug in a charged particle post when he was away or busy or couldn’t be bothered that day to put up a new one. The posts would be short and sweet and let the music do the talking. JC liked the idea okay and correctly guessed the songs I had in mine for the first one.

And here it is. Remember the only guideline is a single word ending in ion. Can it end in ‘ionS’? No, so no ‘Complications’ by Killing Joke. Does it count if you cram a bunch of words together like ‘StationtoStation’? Nope. How about if the word is preceded or followed by a phrase in parentheses? No, not that either. (Unless I feel like it.) Hyphens? Sure, why not.

JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

There were sixteen Friendly Particles features in 2017, appearing on a regular basis between June and October. They were great fun to do….not a lot of words were used but some great songs featured, linked in a way to others in ways that hadn’t seemed obvious, with the common factour being the all-important -ion ending in the title. And gthe series was illustrated with the handiwork of Sam, the Friendly Artist.

The good news is that Jonny’s back for another summer season. Here’s the first contribution:-

The Fall

No one’s over the loss of Mark E. Smith, and I don’t suspect we will be anytime soon. Flipping through my iTunes library I found these four, but with the Fall’s catalog there are doubtless many more. Feel free to remind me.

Mansion – from This Nation’s Saving Grace
Reformation! – from Reformation Post TLC
Dedication – from Wise Ol’ Man
Repetition – from Bingo-Master’s Break-Out!

JTFL

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #147 : THE FALL (4)

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 TRACKI 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.

JONDER

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #144 : THE FALL (3)

A GUEST POSTING by JONDER

THE HOUSE IS FALLING IN: The Fall’s Third Decade

My last ICA on The Fall featured the group’s fourth decade, a period of stability anchored by Elena Poulou on keyboards. This ICA (1997-2006) captures The Fall in flux, from 1998’s onstage fistfight to the “traitors” who left Mark and Elena during a 2006 US tour. It’s all in the books: The Fallen, Mark E. Smith‘s Renegade, and memoirs by Brix, Stephen Hanley, and Simon Wolstencroft. A book on Manchester music by Paul Hanley is forthcoming.

This ICA showcases an exciting decade of sonic innovation. I think Fall members Dave Bush and Julia Nagle in particular brought a level of technical sophistication in keyboards and programming that expanded the Fall’s sound. Nagle is the only constant (apart from Smith himself) for the first five of these ten years.

1. Inch – the production team DOSE had worked with Mark on the single Plug Myself In, but DOSE was fired during the recording of the 1997 album “Levitate”. Inch begins with a glimpse of Smith’s methods as a composer: how does a man who plays no instrument communicate to musicians and producers what he wants to hear? Inch appeared on “Levitate” as the chaotic 4 1/2 Inch. This DOSE mix was not released until 1999.

2. Ten Houses Of Eve – kicking off with a jungle beat, Ten Houses was the opening track on “Levitate”. This remix is from 1998’s “Masquerade” EP. These were the last recordings to include the rhythm section of Steve Hanley and Karl Burns. Burns joined The Fall in 1977, Hanley in 1979.

3. Birthday Song – a fascinating departure from whatever one might consider “normal” for The Fall. Julia Nagle composed a stately instrumental and challenged Smith to write a love poem. Perhaps the only Fall song remotely like it is the touching Bill Is Dead. Birthday Song appeared on 1999’s “The Marshall Suite”.

4. Shake-Off – a more representative selection from “The Marshall Suite”, an album that generated a near hit with Touch Sensitive. The lyrics to Shake-Off touch on a range of unappealing topics: fixing a bathroom cistern, “eyeball injecting” chemicals, and a reunion of Simple Minds.

5. Dr. Buck’s Letter – Julia Nagle’s last album with The Fall was “The Unutterable” (2000). There are several outstanding cuts on that record, but Dr. Buck’s Letter is most beloved by fans. In the latter half of the track, Mark E. Smith reads from a magazine feature by Pete Tong, and cannot contain his amusement.

6. Crop-Dust – one of the few highlights of 2001’s “Are You Are Missing Winner”, an album recorded on the cheap with musicians from a local band called Trigger Happy. Many consider it one of the worst Fall albums. “Are You Are” is similar to the most recent Fall LP (“New Facts Emerge”) in that both were recorded after the departure of a lover, and both have an aggressive garage rock edge untempered by digital instruments. Crop-Dust, however, is built on a sample from garage rock progenitors The Troggs.

7. Janet vs Johnny – Elena Poulou joined The Fall in 2002 (as manager, keyboard player and Mark’s third wife). Poulou first appeared on the EP “The Fall Vs 2003″, which contains this psychedelic tune. A revised version entitled Janet, Johnny + James appeared on “The Real New Fall LP”. PJ Harvey has performed the song in concert.

8. The Past #2 – “The Real New Fall LP” (2003) has a strange lineage. It was originally entitled “Country On The Click”, but after the album leaked, the songs were re-recorded. There are also differences between the UK and US versions of the album. In any configuration, it ranks as one of the best long players in The Fall’s career. The Past #2 makes wonderful use of call-and-response vocals (as does the album’s centerpiece Theme From Sparta FC and earlier songs such as Eat Y’Self Fitter).

9. Blindness – the 2004 and 2005 albums “Interim” and “Fall Heads Roll” were disappointments. But the track Blindness was widely hailed by the long-suffering faithful. It conjures the menacing tone and relentless drive of the band’s Rough Trade era. This version of Blindness is from the vinyl pressing of “Fall Heads Roll”, which differs from the CD.

10. Higgle-dy Piggle-dy – from a 2006 tribute to The Monks. This is the third Monks song covered by The Fall.

BONUS TRACK: Family Feud – from the Von Südenfed album “Tromatic Reflexxions“, a 2007 collaboration between Mark E. Smith and Mouse On Mars which followed MES’ appearance on the Mouse On Mars single Wipe That Sound.

jonder

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #137 : THE FALL (2)

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.

BONUS TRACK:

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”.

JONDER

TWO SONGS TO KICK-START YOUR MONDAY

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Warning. They’re not for everyone. I won’t be offended if you jog on and come back tomorrow.

mp3 : The Fall – Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul
mp3 : The Fall – Fantastic Life

The two sides of a single from early 1981 and the first ever release on Kamera Records.

Bloody marvellous…..although I didn’t think that at the time. Took me a few more years to ‘get’ The Fall.

BONUS POSTING : ANNA AND THE FALL

1

Big thanks to Jez and Kev for responding to my plea for help a couple of days ago:-

mp3 : Anna – Masonic Youth

I was looking for the song on behalf of S-WC who has been asked to put together music for an upcoming wedding and Anna was the first band that the groom ever saw live back in 1993. It’s a bit rocky and lengthy (nearly nine minutes)….and I don’t think somehow think it  will be the bridal waltz. But you never know….

According to info on last fm, Anna were a four piece group from Croydon in London, consisting of Pete Uglow (guitar /vocals), Darren Lynch (guitar), Philip Lynch (bass guitar) and Cormac on drums & percussion which emerged from an earlier band called Electric MotherFucker Brothers who were totally against the then fashionable baggy beats and floppy fringes. Discogs reveals there were four singles and one album between 1992 and 1994, all on either Go! Discs or its offshoot, Free Records.

Talking of S-WC, as many of you know he, together with his sidekick Tim Badger, have a wonderfully entertaining blog called When You Can’t Remember Anything which specialises in featuring one song plucked from random shuffle in i-pods. They’ve got some guest contributors this week, starting with yours truly, and out of more than 25,000 songs available (including around 250 of Mrs VV’s selection which are horrific – e.g. Niki Minaj) I was lucky enough for a classic by The Fall to rumble its way through. Pay a visit to their place and see for yourself.

Another guest ICA tomorrow. I think most of you will enjoy it.