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.




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).


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.


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.


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”.




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.



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.



The alternative title of this posting is ‘The day I pissed off my good mate ctel (aka Acid Ted)’.  He just does not like The Fall and there’s no convincing him other wise.

With so many tracks to choose from this could have been a stupidly impossible task.  Instead, I narrowed it down to choosing ten from the forty-seven songs listed as singles on wiki.  It’s also very heavy reliant on what could be broadly termed indie-disco material which I accept isn’t fully representative of the band:-

Side A

1. Touch Sensitive (Artful Records, 1999 : #104)

Hey Hey Hey…..and familiar to millions as that strange song which helped sell cars

2. Oh! Brother (Beggars Banquet, 1984 : #93)

With the best bass guitar lead line outside of Hooky and New Order

3. Hit The North (Beggars Banquet, 1987 : #57)

The single before this and the single after this both made the Top 40 – but they were both covers (There’s A Ghost In My House and Victoria) and while more than decent they’re not a patch of Mark E Smith’s paean to his Lancashire roots. Catchy as fuck chorus.

4. Free Range (Cog Sinister, 1992 : #40)

The best-performing of any of the non-covers, what sounds like a nonsensical almost freeform lyric is actually a superb dissection of political history and a warning about the rise of right-wing politicians across Europe.

5. Theme From Sparta F.C. #2 (Action Records, 2004 : #66)

And jst as indie-guitar rock with catchy choruses briefly came back into fashion again here in the UK, Mark reminded everyone that he’s been doing it for years and that when he turns his mind to it he can outdo any of the young pretenders

Side B

1. Totally Wired (Rough Trade, 1980 : did not chart)

One of the very finest post-punk/new wave songs of all time.  It might sound a bit rough’n’ready nowadays but for something that is now 35 years of age it still feels awfully fresh.  I’m sure every alt/indie/punk band on either side of the Atlantic have been influenced in some shape or form by this

2. Cruiser’s Creek (Beggars Banquet, 1985 : #96)

How this piece of indie-dance magnificence never charted remains one of the great mysteries of life.  I’m dancing away as I type this….it has made for a lot of spelling mistakes that have had to be corrected!

3. Rowche Rumble (Step Forward Records, 1979 : did not chart)

It starts off as if its going to be a great songs to shake your hips to on the dance floor and then it goes all majestic in a noisy way that will annoy your parents who will say ‘can’t play and can’t sing….it’s just a racket and turn it down’  Or if you move forward to 2015 the same words will be uttered by a wife who just doesn’t get them…..

4. 15 Ways (Permanent Records, 1994 : #65)

This is a cracking pop tune that if given to a more orthodox lead singer than our Mark would surely have been a Top 10 single.

5. Hey! Luciani (Beggars Banquet, 1986 : #59)

Because you can never have too many songs about a Pope who died suddenly just 33 days after his election to the position….and also because as my mate Aldo knows I have an alternative rude lyric that I sing while dancing to this!

mp3 : The Fall – Touch Sensitive
mp3 : The Fall – Oh! Brother
mp3 : The Fall – Hit The North
mp3 : The Fall – Free Range
mp3 : The Fall – Theme From Sparta F.C. #2
mp3 : The Fall – Totally Wired
mp3 : The Fall – Cruiser’s Creek
mp3 : The Fall – Rowche Rumble
mp3 : The Fall – 15 Ways
mp3 : The Fall – Hey! Luciani

Bonus track

mp3 : The Fall – No Bulbs 3

One of my favourites but disqualified as it wasn’t necessarily the lead track on an EP from 1984.




A couple of weeks back one of my re-posts made reference to the occasionally oblique lyrics which flowed from the pen of Billy Mackenzie. It got me thinking a bit more about Mark E. Smith who, over the years, really has had loads of us scratching our heads at many of his lyrics, including this effort from back in 1992:-

In 2001,
A life code
It pays to talk to no one
No one!

Proliferating across the earth
Also Sprach Zarathustra,
Faction Europa

Free range

Also Sprach Zarathustra
Proliferating across the earth
Pressure guilt, grudge match
12 cm flak unit,
Range 1 stroke 35

This is the spring without end
This is the summer of malcontent
This is the winter of your mind

Free Range

By 2001,
Also Sprach Zarathustra
It pays to talk to no one
No One!
Europa, faction
Proliferating across the earth

Free range

This is the spring without end
This is the winter of your mind
A life code

Free range

Insect posse
Will be crushed

Moravia, trouble
Moldavia, Europa
Every second third word
Europa, it pays to talk to no one
No one!

Free range

mp3 : The Fall – Free Range

It’s an absolute belter of a tune and while the lyric might appear somewhat nonsensical it is packed with all sorts of imagery and references from history and philosophy with a message of concern about the ever-increasing rightwards shift of politics across Europe as the free market system took an ever-increasing stranglehold on society (of which one UK Prime Minister had just a few years prior stated there was no longer any such thing), events which Mark E Smith thought would inevitably lead to warfare on a scale of that such as 1914-18 and 1939-45.

The 12″ version of the single had three other belting tracks to enjoy:-

mp3 : The Fall – Return
mp3 : The Fall – Dangerous
mp3 : The Fall – Everything Hurtz

Fact….this is the only original Fall track to reach the upper echelons of the UK singles chart, hitting #40 for one week.



Today’s blast from the past is from away back in December 2006.  It was just 10 weeks or so after I’d started the blog. I’ve included it as a way of showing just quickly things can change….see sentence now marked with **


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.


2014 Update.

I’ve since lost a number of close friends and a brother, all in tragic circumstances and all of whom were taken too early. I’ve also got to know someone who lost a child at a horribly young age after the bravest of battles against a horrible form of cancer and right now I’ve got another mate who is terminally ill but is making sure his final days are memorable in so many ways for so many people.

I’ve also heard and lots of other sad and distressing tales since that original posting above which have made me realise just how lucky I was in the first 43 years of my life to have been more or less untouched by tragedy.

As I say, much has happened this past eight years or so and I’ve no doubt that much more pain and heartache is still to come  – some might think that’s a bit doom-laden but it’s actually laced with realism as both my elderly parents are still alive and as I type keeping excellent health all things considered.  What I can say is that when things have been difficult, then I’ve taken great strength from the help and support offered so willingly by my friends electric.  Thank you one and all.

I can’t possibly finish on that downbeat note…here’s another great MES track…a cover of a Kinks classic and it’s especially for my great mate ctel!!

mp3 : The Fall – Victoria