ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (13/22)

Album : 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – The Fall
Review : Pitchfork, 8 July 2004
Author : Alex Linhardt

The Fall have seen so many compilations and reissues of their work during the course of their 26-year career that they named their latest full-length The Real Fall LP for clarification. Given the reputation of these numerous shoddy anthologies, however, and the fact that, with the exception of the excellent 2002 Rough Trade release, Totally Wired, there has never been any truly “definitive” Fall retrospective, the best a potential convert could hope for was to pick whichever disc bore the prettiest packaging.

While other Fall comps pride themselves on monochromatic slabs of cover design more appropriate for Rothko retrospectives than tumultuous punk albums, 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong instantly has one thing going for it: Its artwork is absolutely hilarious, keenly referencing Elvis Presley‘s billion-selling 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong. With its image of countless self-replicating Elvises hailing down in dashing suits, that original cover was a perfect embodiment of pop music’s narcissism and weirdness– incidentally also the two subjects of nearly every song Mark E. Smith ever laid to tape.

As the first legitimate career-spanning compilation, 50,000 Fall Fans begins at the band’s inception in 1977. Smith was a mere 20 years old, weaned on garage rock, kraut-rock, and a one-year stint as a dock worker. Like all young adults, he named his band after a Camus novel, quickly releasing a series of singles before 1979’s full-length debut, Live at the Witch Trials. Represented by “Repetition”, the pre-Witch Trials band consists of simple angular guitars, teen-pop rhythms, and drunken charm without any of the complexity or chaos that would later become integral to their work.

Around 1980’s Grotesque, The Fall began to seriously investigate other genres, channeling spiraling rodeos (“How I Wrote Elastic Man”), steely noise-pop (“Totally Wired”), and rhythmic shrapnel (“New Face in Hell”). 50,000 Fall Fans spends its leisurely time in this nascent stage, but the brunt of the album is understandably spent exploring The Fall’s near-perfect run of albums in the mid-80s, from 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour to 1986’s Bend Sinister. A staggering 13 tracks from this era find their place on this two-disc set, forging a truly brilliant sequence. Ranging from the blustering, seismic noise of “The Classical” to the schizophrenic death-rattle of “The Man Whose Head Expanded”, the album provides a convincing case that The Fall were the most uncompromisingly progressive and reliable band of the 1980s, whether they assumed the guise of punk heavyweights or sweet electro-divas (with the assistance of Smith’s wife, Brix).

With this sort of lead-in, even the most questionable song of the band’s notorious early-90s phase seems challenging and substantive. Considering that this anthology’s second disc includes the band’s stab at Europop/ska-rap (“Why Are People Grudgeful?”), this is truly a feat. As a general rule, this disc pulls one song from every album released from 1990 to the present, distilling each allegedly mediocre release to one stunning single. If anything, however, these selections compel listeners to return to the band’s 90s output with their tranquilized synths (“Masquerade”) and brash genre-blenders (the Cocteau Twins-vs.-AC/DC dynamics of “The Chiselers”).

Of course, with a career that’s spanned four decades, 50,000 Fall Fans inevitably winds up omitting some of the most crucial songs in their canon, including “Oh! Brother!”, “Slang King”, “Bombast”, and “Oleano”. Still, the songs represented are consistently fascinating and invigorating, many standing as among the finest of the last quarter-century, chaotically navigating punk through ever more adventurous territory, from Countrypolitan to house music.

As a result of this willed diversity and comprehensiveness, 50,000 Fall Fans has finally stepped up to assume its rightful position as the most successful and essential Fall compilation in existence– a convenient summary for fearful neophytes reluctant to dip their toe into the black hole of the band’s discography, as well as die-hard fans seeking a distillation of choice cuts from the group’s more wayward 90s efforts. Smith is never less than inspiring on any of these 39 tracks, flaunting his confrontational sneer and leering sarcasm over some of the most erratic, riled riffs in punk. In his oft-ignored later period, Smith sounds even more unhinged, furious and battered, cloaking criticisms of governmental policies in lunatic poetics that the most pretentious high-school fanzine dadaists would cower before. Smith quite literally sounds as if his mouth has been pierced full of gaping holes leaking bile and cancer.

Incidentally, this is also the fundamental difference between Smith and Elvis. Elvis was pure sexual dynamite, basking in his own libidinal juices; in sharp contrast, Smith is the ugliest, grimiest beast of Lucifer to ever drag his expanding head from a pub’s water closet. Elvis may have drooled sex, but it was artificial, manipulative, cheap. The Fall, like all truly great sex, climaxes in rage, regret and release– the three criteria for all utterly essential rock music. 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong chronicles more than two decades of those climaxes, perhaps to one day be held in similar regard to the album its artwork parodies.

mp3 : The Fall – New Face In Hell
mp3 : The Fall – The Classical
mp3 : The Fall – The Man Whose Head Expanded
mp3 : The Fall – The Chiselers

JC adds : I wasn’t sure whether to look out for any reviews of compilation albums, but I couldn’t resist this genuinely warm, appreciative and occasionally LOL piece from Alex Lindhart.  There are still folk out there who sneer and claim that real journalists can only be found through print media, in the same way that those of us who write about music via blogs aren’t nearly as qualified as those who have contracts with publishing moguls.  This review on its own should puncture those self-righteous bubbles.

Besides, 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong is the starting point to where I would direct anyone who remains unsure about the unbridled genuis of Mark E Smith and the quality of the music he made during his lifetime.

The fact it got a positive mention in this review means I’ve included The Classical as one of the four tracks today…..it is one of the greatest bits of music that The Fall ever recorded, but I’ve always been uneasy about the lyric ‘Where are the obligatory n*****s? Hey there, fuck face!’  I don’t think MES was being racist, but he certainly was being confrontational and combative, ensuring that the tune wouldn’t get aired on radio.  I hope nobody is offended…..

WHY ARE PEOPLE GRUDGEFUL?

April 1993 saw the release of the 31st single by The Fall. The only previous chart success enjoyed by the band had come via cover versions. There’s A Ghost In My House (as made famous by R. Dean Taylor) had gone Top 30 in 1987 and the following year Victoria (originally by The Kinks) had reached #35.

This time round, Mark E Smith took some drastic action by merging two cover songs into one, and creating a sound that bore little resemblance to the originals. The best and simplest explanation is offered up on a fan site devoted to the band:-

“Why Are People Grudgeful? is a cover version, or to be more accurate, a cover version of two different but related songs. The story behind the original versions is as follows:

“Born in the rural Jamaican village of St. Mary’s in 1936, Lee Perry began his surrealistic musical odyssey in the late ’50s, working with ska man Prince Buster selling records for Clement “Coxsone” Dodd‘s Downbeat Sound System. Called “Little” Perry because of his diminutive stature (Perry stands 4’11”), he was soon producing and recording for Dodd at the centre of the Jamaican music industry, Studio One. After a falling out with Dodd (throughout his career, Perry has a tendency to burn his bridges after he stopped working with someone), Perry went to work at Wirl Records with Joe Gibbs. Perry and Gibbs never really saw eye to eye on anything, and in 1968, Perry left to form his own label, called Upsetter.

Not surprisingly, Perry’s first release on Upsetter was a single entitled People Funny Boy, which was a direct attack upon Gibbs. What is important about the record is that, along with selling extremely well in Jamaica, it was the first Jamaican pop record to use the loping, lazy, bass-driven beat that would soon become identified as the reggae “riddim” and signal the shift from the hyperkinetically upbeat ska to the pulsing, throbbing languor of “roots” reggae.

Joe Gibbs released a reply (using the moniker Sir Gibbs) in a song using the same rhythm called People Grudgeful. MES amalgamated the two songs to help create The Fall’s cover version.”

The reviews were mostly favourable with the UK-based paper Melody Maker going as far as saying it was the most engaging thing Smith had done for a couple of years. As ever, there was no day time airing on the BBC or commercial radio but there were enough sales to see it reach #43. It was also voted in at #11 in the John Peel Festive Fifty of 1993.

mp3 : The Fall – Why Are People Grudgeful?

mp3 : Lee Perry – People Funny Boy
mp3 : Sir Gibbs – People Grudgeful

The 12” version of the single was deleted very soon after release and is one of the harder-to-find and more expensive bits of vinyl across the entire back catalogue. It contained three tracks on the b-side:-

mp3 : The Fall – Glam-Racket
mp3 : The Fall – The Re-Mixer
mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music

Yup……the latter is a cover of the disco classic as made famous by Sister Sledge. Bonkers and brilliant in equal measures.

JC

FROM THE ARCHIVES – 22 DECEMBER 2006

THIS NATION’S SAVING GRACE

Last week it was Morrissey who made a long-overdue debut on the blog. This week it is the band dominated by the mercurial, (isn’t that always the adjective that you have to apply?), talents of Mark E. Smith.

I’m referring of course to The Fall.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t someone who loved this band from the outset. I did hear them on John Peel time after time, but I didn’t quite ‘get it.’ And things weren’t helped by my first live experience of the band back in late 1982 (it might have been early 83) at Night Moves in Glasgow.

I’d gone along to see the Cocteau Twins but stayed on to watch the main act, which turned out to be The Fall. It was a pretty poor gig – the sound was all over the place and the band were not even talking to one another far less having any communication with the audience. Thankfully, it turned out to be a short event (maybe 30 mins at the most), and then there was an hour or so of ‘indie-disco’ to send everyone home in a good mood.

So I more or less ignored them for a while. But a couple of years later, a move to a new record label – and a crucial change in personnel – led to the release of a run of records that were easier to listen to, and to the horror of the hip-priests, The Fall got radio-friendly with a broader appeal. I started paying attention again.

With a recording history going back almost 30 years, featuring dozens of singles, EPs and albums, there’s plenty to choose from. But I’m sticking with a song that has turned into something quite personal in recent years.

I’ve been lucky in that almost all of my close friends are still alive*. But there is one who passed away a couple of years ago after a long illness, and I do think of him every now and again. Especially at this time of year.

This is for AGF. And while he would have abhorred The Fall – he was a classical music buff – he would have been very amused that there is a song out there that makes me think of him every time I hear it.

mp3 : The Fall – Edinburgh Man

It’s a 1991 release, originally on the LP Shift-Work. It’s also available on a multitude of compilations, but surprisingly not on 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – 39 Golden Greats which is pretty much indispensable.

 

*that was a situation which would change over the next few years….there’s been a lot of tragedy since 2006 and I wouldn’t have coped anything like as well without the amazing support from so many blogging friends.

JC

LET’S ALL MEET UP ON THE POST 2000

The original Vinyl Villain musical extravaganza was born on 30 September 2006 and in a little under seven years managed to feature somewhere in the region of 2,500 posts before it was cast out into t’internet wilderness by the evil people at blogger.com.

The (new) Vinyl Villain was born on the day the old blog died – 24 July 2013 and today marks it’s 2,000th posting.

A lot of those have come from the brains of many friends and guest writers, a situation which has given me great pleasure over the years. It’s the guest postings together with the contributions which come through the comments section that make me determined to keep things going, particularly on the increasing number of occasions when the inspiration seems to be a long way away or I’ve a general feeling of fatigue or fed-upness about it all.

Thank you so much friends, comrades, amigos and compadres.

I had a great chat with Drew a few weeks back….I’ve been so wrapped up in issues of my own that I’ve failed to keep up with the blogging activities of my friends over recent times and had totally missed that he had temporarily brought things to a halt over at his place, although it’s great to see he’s slowly getting back into the groove.  I’m not going to go into huge detail about what we talked about, suffice to say we both felt a lot better after a couple of hours. We also agreed a particular photo should be used to illustrate the 2,000th post on T(n)VV on the basis that it brought me to a stop when I saw it on the streets of Galway a few months ago….and also that he laughed when I showed him it as we jointly imagined the theatre show was really about Mark E Smith (RIP) going to Cape Town and trying to recruit local kids for his band now that he’d burned his bridges with every single indie musician in the UK.

We also agreed this should be the song for today:-

mp3 : The Fall – Lost In Music

Not sure if I’ll get to 3,000 posts….but rest assured I will be back tomorrow.

JC

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 Live – The 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 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.

JONDER