... Issue 1
The Biggest Library Yet 12
Dingwalls and Reading Alleycat reviews
Published: July 1998, 40pp, A5 SOLD OUT
He's Grim Up North
An overview of Camden Dingwalls gigs, and recent events in the form of an article which appeared in the May 1st issue of the Guardian, written by Jonathan Romney
The Fall's 1982 LP Hex Enduction Hour bore the proudly graffiti-ed slogan: "Have a bleedin' guess". That's been their watchword all along - have a guess what the band's founding ranter Mark E Smith was on about in his uniquely garbled lyrics, have a guess how they'd go on sustaining their apparently infinite variations on what should have seemed a limited musical format.
This week, it was have a bleedin' guess if they'd even turn up. Three members of the band had walked out after a disastrous US tour, claiming Smith was impossible to work with. After a fight on--stage in New York, Smith had been arrested, then gone AWOL. It seemed more than likely that if The Fall turned up for its two London dates at Dingwalls, it would be in the form of Smith alone, acidly and obscurely inveighing against the woes of the world.
In fact, what the partly-enraptured, partly aggrieved audience got was a subsistence-level Fall - Smith wit Julia Nagle on keyboards, guitar and stacks of rough-and-ready pre-programmes, and a terrified-looking woman on drums. Sometimes it sounded like Suicide's pared-down electronica, sometimes it harked back to the Xerox scrappiness of The Fall's very early days on the Manchester punk scene.It was possibly in honour of those days that Smith revived their antique number Industrial Estate (chorus: Yeah, yeah, industrial estate!), a prospect as likely as David Bowie encoring with The Laughing Gnome.
The makeshift feel was part of the fun, but it's doubtful any other band would have got away with it. Smith's fans are unusually indulgent - after all, he recently received a "Godlike Genius" Award at the Brats. But Smith asks for trouble - it's a point of honour with him to be a lousy communicator. Not only are his lyrics cryptic in the extreme, they're often inaudible and declaimed in a voice resembling Donald Duck through a British Rail tannoy. Over the years, he's evolved a singular anti-charisma, stalking the stage with the sardonic ill-grace of a no-nonsense supply teacher.
It's hard to explain why The Fall's continued existence matters so much more than, say, the prospect of a Spice Girls split or an Echo and the Bunnymen revival. But following The Fall has always required something of a leap of faith. You can't be logically persuaded, for example, of the brilliance of song titles like Eat Y'self Fitter, Mere Pseud Mag Ed and the (quintessentially Mancunian) You're Not Up To Much. It may sound like weary punk nostalgia to say it now, but of all his generation, only Smith consistently displayed the anti-social intractability that John Lydon turned into a cabaret act.
Smith may have invented his own form of marginality, but he and his cohorts have always been able to come up with something compelling, always sounding irreducibly like themselves, whether experimenting with rockabilly, disco, garage punk, or tape-spliced garble. However, excessive Smith's fancies, they were somehow the one band to dabble in other art forms that you could never accuse of pretension - whether scoring ballet for Michael Clarke or performing Smith's Vatican-conspiracy play Hey! Luciani, which just about compared favourably to the dramatic works of Ernie Wise.
Much hinges on Smith's persona as a full-time whinger, venting an impatience that verges on intolerance. He plays up plain speaking almost as a Thora Hird parody of Northernness. The one time I interviewed him he announced proudly that he's been brought up to be "dead thrifty".
In his recent book England Is Mine, Michael Bracewell places Smith in a tradition of English, especially Northern, anti-social madness. He sees Smith as a latter-day avatar of Billy Liar and Branwell Bronte the doomed fantasist of the family. Not surprisingly, Smith has long admired Vorticist misanthrope Wyndham Lewis, the spirit of whose broadside Blast lives on in his seethings.
Among alternative pop's professional provocateurs and Sunday Situationalists, Smith is the real - an authentic Victor Meldrew figure ("I'm a bumbling old fool, me," he recently professed. I'd go further than that - he's on his way to being a Terrible Old Man of the calibre of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, the French novelist whose indiscriminate loathing fuelled a spectacular career of linguistic breakdown. Such attitude in Smith underwrites and even makes semi-comprehensible such obliqueness as, "Oh what branch, what branch is it that has a pipe of aluminium sprawling underneath it?" on his recent single Masquerade.
Judging by recent events, Smith has gone beyond being a self-appointed spanner in the indie-rock works, and headed into out-and-out dysfunction. The Fall's survival may be in question, but Smith's, I suspect, isn't. "The only pleasure in this life is work" he has said. Although the thought of spending 20 years of your life being in The Fall is one of the scariest things I can imagine, it's not quite as depressing as the thought of spending the last 20 years never having heard them. As for the next 20, HAVE A BLEEDIN' GUESS.
USA: New York Coney lsland High
Great. I give The Fall a duff review and end up on the next Fall album in a song called 'Yank Wax': 'Man with frog name/What's in his ears/ What's in his ears?' Or end up on the business end of one of MES's cigarettes, or get fired. Ah, but one advantage of not being in The Fall is that Mark E Smith can't fire you, as he has done Craig Scanlon (the tersest guitarist in rock), Marc Riley and a host of others. If 1997 and 1998's personnel trends are any indication, MES's hanging jury is giving way to a hanging judge, as he announces to the world, 'If it's me and our Granny on the bongos, it's a Fall gig.' Doesn't exactly make for a fun ride in the van for the group, or much of a show, as seen at Coney Island High (which is neither in Coney Island, nor a high school).
After interminable opening sets by local groups, The Fall 98 ambled out and worked up an intro for The Marquis. Arriving with a welcome 'Ah-eh!' and sporting a shiner on his right eye, Smith started as he meant to continue, the anti leader who drew the eye but rejected any responsibility for putting on a show. With a twitchy gravitas copped, it seemed, from both Johnny Cash and John Quincy Adams, he chewed air, blinked and checked that his mic was plugged in about 1000 times. The tics even enhance MES's profile as one of Rock's True Somethings, number one in a field of one: the dissolute rock librarian. Looking some ten years older than he is, MES still managed to exude menace while he stood there wobbling. Again, not exactly a rock show, but definitely worth a trip out of the house.
Shedding his tweed jacket after a sort-of rollicking 'Ten Houses Of Eve', MES revealed a dark shirt with big red roses woven into each shoulder, a nod perhaps to Country stoics who also like to alternate brilliant vocals with no-show performances. He earned his stoicism, moving in time with the music only twice, pounding the microphone during 'I'm A Mummy' and shimmying, a little, during 'Lie Dream of a Casino Soul'.
The Fall's implicit musical manifesto has always embodied a touch of 'What chords?' mulishness, an anti-technique belief in the power of garage rock's grimy thunk to raise up the visceral rock moment to defeat filigree and Steve Hillage both. But this group was, more plainly, just at odds. MES's voice, that voice, held the crowd's respectful attention for a good while, as the group struggled through what sounded like a live rehearsal Karl Burns thundered and Steve Hanley tried to lock with him while guitarist Tommy Crooks played inaudible power chords from other songs and keyboardist Julia Nagle fought to stay awake, yawns and all. The group transformed (or mulched) stormers 'Masquerade' and 'Scareball' into endurance tests, caning the main riff to death without working up any steam. Two chestnuts, 'Hip Priest' and 'Lie Dream of a Casino Soul', saved some face, allowing Burns and Hanley to lessen the burden of what to do, ie get soft here, stop here, then get loud. The mighty 'Inch' devolved into power chord mush, stealing what could have been the evening's finest moment as MES woke up to yowl 'The house is falling in!'. The key to the disarray was probably the obvious, seen best halfway through the set when MES announced that the group would take a ten minute break. With grim fury. Hanley threw down his bass and stormed off, while the rest of the group followed, no happier. After a crisp four minutes, they returned, maybe happy to have their pep talk over with, but no more primed to rock. As someone in front of me said, 'It's going to be a short tour.'
Even if he hadn't dragged everyone off stage for reorientation, dictatorial flourishes abounded When things got especially lost, MES would drop his fist onto Nagle's keyboard for some Sun Ra clusters, turn up Tommy Crooks' amp and occasionally leave the stage, directing Crooks to finish singing the song at hand. To add to the general discomfort, his directions were right, Nagle was well south of rocking (or present) and Crooks was never loud enough, until he gave in for the final number, "Behind The Counter', and let his amp work a bit.
The Fall seem to be running on inertia, the primal rock 'n' roll dream materialising in the studio, ironically, but chased from the stage by one too many hip lectures.
from the TBLY postbag
With regard to the bonus CDs released in tandem with the Room to Live & Palace of Swords Reversed re-issues. They were not recorded at Manchester Band on the Wall, as stated on the discs and packaging, but came from a gig The Fall played Bury (at the Derby Hall 27/4/82 to be precise), MES even mentions a local newspaper at one point (the Bury Times - Midweeker).
Stephen Hargreaves, Bury
An appreciation of some recent Fall highlights (excerpt)
PEEL21: A nicely garbled Calendar began The Fall's 21st Peel session, which included one new song 'Touch Sensitive'. A man is labelled 'drunk and too old' if he is over 40 and shows interest in a girl, it complains. Instead, it seems you should say 'it's bitter cold' and 'worry about your milk'. It has a nice angry sound: 'I think they've got a bloody cheek.' The tune is a cross between M5 and Elves with an excellent couple of bars in which the sounds strips to bass and drums alone,. Steve Hanley's wiry playing shows how sorely he will be missed.
Grotesque (After The Gramme):
very possibly the greatest album ever made
Emerging in December 1980 from its gloriously messy sleeve, this early Fall classic derives from a time when all Fall songs seemed part of some intricate, inter-connected web of complex conspiracy and data. Resolutely low-fi (and long before that was a fashionable sub-genre in itself), this grinds, lurches and clatters with wit, intelligence and anger. From the brilliant, startling wordy rant of The N.W.R.A. to the bizarre sound collage of W.M.C.-Blob 59 this is a timeless LP. Lyrically, it has huge scope and uncanny focus. Musically it is taut and tightly disciplined. With what seems like thousands of words, and more ideas than most bands cram into an entire career, there is still nothing here that shouldn't be. Mark E. Smith was at his very best in terms of writing and delivery, and there is a luminous clarity to his ideas.
New Face In Hell is a strange paranoid conspiracy tale in which, "Wireless enthusiast intercepts government secret radio band and uncovers secrets and scandals of deceitful type proportions...", set to a ridiculous kazoo melody. Pay Your Rates is a wired, punky juggernaut of controlled menace. The Container Drivers was almost a pop song, prefiguring the sound of Brix-era Fall records. Perhaps best of all are Impression of J. Temperance a sinister sci-fi/horror tale culminating in the chilling chant of, "This hideous replica!", and the long, rambling, relentless narrative of C 'n C-s Mithering which mentions Johnny Rotten, pokes fun at Radio One's Round Table and contains inspired lines such as, "Like Faust with beards / Hydrochloric shaved weirds!"
Throughout Grotesque Mark and the band make the ordinary extraordinary and the everyday deeply alien. It is the sound of The Fall at their sullen, sinister, evocative best. Other albums may have included better individual songs, but few Fall LPs are so consistently stunning. If Grotesque lacks the driving power of their other greatest records (Her Enduction Hour, This Nation's Saving Grace) it more than makes up for it with its creepy subtlety, crazed ambition and hypnotic imagination. It is, almost certainly, this thrilling and unique band's greatest LP.
***look what happens when I scan in some text and can't face tidying it up***
} HAI L THiS NEW P~
FIRST RECORDED FOR A JOHN PEEL RADIO SESSION, THIS VERSIOli OF "NEV
PURITAh~ VAS LATER RELEA"SED 'BY PUBLIC DEMADD' AS PlRT OF A DOUBLE
S1NGLE, ALONG VITH THE MIGHTY FOOTBALL ARTHFN wKICKER CONSPIRACY",
THE AVESOXE wVIYGS", AND ANOI'HER EPIC PEEL SESSIOJ RECORDING OF
THE itiUSIC SCENE HAD BECOME VERT STALE Ab[D 'PUNR BY IIIUMBERS' CHANCERS
VERE APPEARING FROM A VELL VOBN OVERWORKED CODVEYOR VITH TIRING
FREQUE1CY, OFFEBIDG NO VALID ALTERNA'rlVE OR THE?EAT WHATSOEVER TO THE
VAPID DROSS CLOGGLDG UP TtiE AIRWAVES.
ONE MAli, JOHY PEEL, COSTRIBUTED UNTOLD RELIEF TO THOSE IN NEED OF
SONFrHlliG VITH GENUINE SUBbN'ANCE VIA HIS WEEKDAY 10Pli TO MlDNIGli'l'
SHIFT ON RADIO ONE,<THAT NATIONAL PUBVEYOR OF SO XUCH OF WHAT WAS
VRONG Vlt'L 'POPULAR MUSIC' OF THE IINE, AT ALL OTHER TlJtES).
I'D lLREADY SEEN THE FALL l.lVE A FEV TIMES, AND HAD AVIDLY SNAPI'ED
UP THE iR VlliYL OFFERINGS, BUT EVED THEJ I VAS UNPREPARED FOX TiiE
INTENSITY YITH VHICH THEY SET ABOUT THEIR TASK O1 THE DIGHT OF....
24TII SEPTE iBER 19130.
ONE TRACE li PARTICUI.AR KICKED lli VITH A TRIBAL DRUM BEAT AErN TO A
CALLINC Tn AR^S FOR THE DISENFRANCHISED, ADD THOSE VHO'D BECOltE
DISILI.USIODED YITH OTHER MUSiClL 'EliDEAVOURS' OF THE STAID AND lDEII-
Tl-£lT SO CALLED 'NEV VAVE'. THAT SONG VAS OF COURSE 'DEW PURII'AD".
VlilLE OTHEiM' FLOUnDEBED ON ROCKS OF TliEIR OWN LACK OF CREATIVl'l'Y, I
UITNESSED 'rllE FALL COMING OF AGE. _ L PBETENDERS WERE DOV l.EFr Lh THrE
VAK'E OF THE FALL'S PROGEES'S, AfiD I HONESTLY BELIEVE 1'§ DOT INDtlLGi."iG
lliTO REALMS OF FAliTASY AND AMBIGUITY VHEN I SAY THAT AFTER THiS POL6"f
IH THEIR DEVELOPitiENT NO ONE VOULD EVEN GET CLOSE EXOUGH TO HOI.D A
LIGHT TO THE FALL GBOUP EVER AGA i N. FOR Al.L ETERNITY THE FALL'S WORK
YILL iSEB:_ BE SURPASSED OR EltULATED, THEY ARE A ODE OFF, AND I FOR
ODE AM GRATEFUL OUR PATHS CROSSED.
BACK TO WNEV PURITAii", SKITH'S VOCAL DELIVERY ON THIS VOBK OF
COlCEPTUAL GENIUS EJiB(lDIED EVERY'l'lilNG l'HAT UAS LACKI§G FROiM OTHE'R SO
CALLED INNOVAi'lVE MUSIC. ID HIS E'EPO'i'OIRE WE HAYE AllGitST, SPITE, YIT
ADD VlitRIOl., GELLED l'OGETIIER VI'I'H AN Hl.ALTHY MZTURE OF SEI.F BELIEI;
aDD SHEER BLWDY NilNDED ARROGANCI-.. SAITII VLSEI.Y OPTED TO SIDES1'EP 1'HL
PlTFALl.S PBESENTED BY COti'l'RIVED CONFROIITATIOli AND SIIALWV SLOGAhS
(ULTIKATELY l'HE DOWNFALL OF SO KANY O1'HER LATE SEVEJTIES VOUI.I)
BE CONTEDDERS). HIS VAS AN ANGER CEAXNELED THROUGH CYNICISM A1D YRY &
DRr SOCIAL OBSERVATIONS, AND ID'l'kl.LIGLNT INSIGUT.
1'HE CBEA'I'IVE IXAGERY CO§JUUISD UP BY SH11'U'S LYRICS ID ZNEW PURI'I'AN",
AND 1DDEED XANY OTHER FALL STAUDARDS, HOCKED sPOTS OF Al.L UTHISR
l'RETENDERS, HIS FORKUl.A IS COXPl.ETEl.Y UNIQUE, ALODGSIDE KARE EDVARI)
SMITH ARE!~ ELSE COULD ON1.Y WEAR 1'11E CROVN OF 'KING SONGVRITER' IN A
MOST LOB-SIDED AND 0hWORTHY FASIIIOR.
TIINOUCUOUT SNEW PURITAD", TEE 'I'ENSE S]NEVY GUITAR RIFFS TEASE AND TAUh'l',
COUNTER-PU0CH3G A1D (.ASCADlhG Al'OUNI) TflE SOLID AhD HYPhOTIC HACEBOliE
OF TlEE SONG WHICH IS .SrEVE IIANT.EY'S 1'WNDERING BASS- LllES AND THE
UNRELE1Tl0(, DRUM l'ATl'liXN (VlilCII AlNS SSll.L PREVALLEN1' ID SOFR (]F THEIR
FINEST YONE 'i'O lhis DAr)~ 1NIE R(IFS l'EAK A1D SVOOY TlfBOUGHOUT, TVINlhG
VITH l'llE RY'l'H:"N SE(.1'IOD AND YE'I' Slll)O'i'lhG OFF A1' 'I'AYGEh'l'S TEROl)GHtlJ'I'. A
JiOl.LERCOA<i'rEI? RIDIS 'I'lll?OUGIf '^USIC FOR l'l.l'.ASURE' flF 'I'IIE MOSt PRLMAL 11.X.
"HEY pUxlrAhw l'; A 13EAUTlF11i.1.Y ';lil?UCl'URl-:D SODG ,I'S IOUNDSn El.]7NENl'S Ol
~INIERAPISU'TIC tN'l'ENSl'l'Y INTO 'I IIE PSYCII1- Ol- TIIE Ll','lENER, lH t.OsNtPEl,[.lS(,
hEASURES. illiAR 11' HOV!
IN LUKE RHiNEiiAR1''s CU1.T NOVkl. 'rilE' I)ICE HAH' ('I'HE SUBJE(.'I' OF ANO'r(lER
EARLY FAI.L Cl.AS'SIC), THE REAI)171? IS GRISE'rEI) VITH THE YOllDS MTHIS BOOK
COULD STII.I. CHANGE YOUF l.lFE". I DON-r XN(1V IF wNEV PIIRITAD" ACTIIAI.LY
CWANGED Nr LIFE JN AYY VAY, NAYBE I'D S'l'll.L BE AVtDLY AYAITINC EVERY
REV FALL REI.EASE, AND PEEI. SESSION, AS I Ai.t TO THIS VERY DAY, VITHOU'I'
TEE EXISTENCE OF 1'HIS SONG. HOYEVER I KNOV I CAN SAY CATEI?GORICALLY,
THAT zNEV PURITAh" tT)'rALLY CHAiiGED l'HE VAY I PERCIEVE AhD LlSrEN TO
XUSIC. IT VAS A TURN'iNG POIR'I', ANI) BECAtJSE OF THE DIRECTION I FOU 1D
XYSELF RE-ROtJTED IN, IT ItU.ir BE SAID, THE CORTENT OF MY 'LOtJSY RECORD
COLLECTIOY" HAS BENEFITTEI) hO ENI) HAII.!
THE FALL HOTEL GUIDE
1. Hotel Bloedel: Outside Nuremberg, a long way south, to a reasonable smell of death.
2. NWRA Hotel: On his hotel wall, a hooded friar on a tractor
3. Who Makes The Nazis Hotel: Hotels like pre-split-level mirages.
4. Hotel Aggro: The Classical, Poleaxe, one of the millennium of conspiracy.
5. Hotel Amnesia: I had to go there. Where it is, I can't remember.
6. Hotel in Notting Hill Gate: Abject, Married, 2 kids.
7. A miserable Scottish hotel: Resembles a Genesis or Marillion, 1973 LP cover. All the hotel staff have been dismissed.
8. Hit the North Hotels: Computers infest the hotels. Cops can't catch criminals. But what the heck, they're not too bad.
9. Leave the Capitol Hotel: Maids smile in unison. Exit this Roman Shell.
10. Get A Hotel: Today. Before the idea slips away.
Mark E Smith's INS and OUTS from... 198? ...have a guess
Sliced white bread with additives
The Seeds' disastrous blues LP
The Seeds' disastrous 'March of the Flower Children' LP
Jewish guys in new cars with their shirts open and long hair
Groups that shave and wash regularly
Ultra-flash black people
Asian pop groups
Hippyless German groups
Mancunian rap groups
Granada Video Hire
Bikers who work with cement and ladders
Gene Vincent's backing vocalists
The Mothers of Invention
Brown bread with bits in
All Sunday papers
White training shoes
All US record labels
Mature guys with ponytails
Scotch pop groups featuring pseudo intellectuals
The Cure's one record
All Welsh groups
All new American groups
All Dutch groups
Anything connected with New Model Army
England's idea of Mexican food
Hoddle and Waddle
Embassy No 1
Royal Air Force
British science fiction
All new American and British cartoons
Popstars in new silver cars
Rock on television
Plastic grebos in Doctor Marten boots (You'd never get a real biker to wear them.)
Live To Air In Melbourne 82: 78 minutes of pure brilliance
"This is for all you people who want to live free: Hell's Angels, hitch-hikers, fans of James Dean..."
Yet more Fall CDs! It's turning into an expensive habit. However, Live To Air in Melbourne '82 is better than most. A fiery show from around the time of the In A Hole album, it boasts an essential, prime-era Fall performance with many treasurable gems.
There's an early attempt at I Feel Voxish, ranting swagger not yet fully realized, a storming Solicitor In The Studio (sic), and a long, menacing Tempo House with harmonica squeals, Steve Hanley's bass impressively to the fore (as it should be), and massive waves of keyboard noise flooding the mix. There's a brilliantly chaotic version of The Classical, a manic, funky Marquis Cha Cha (with bonus M.E.S. dedication on the intro), and an exhilarating Deer Park, driven by sci-fi keyboards and that lunatic energy unique to this band. There's even a funny bit at the end of this song, wherein Mark says, "Well, we'd like to thank everybody for coming here tonight, especially the TV and radio people, and those, er, radio and TV people..." Finally, we hear him ask, "Shall we do a quick Hip Priest, yeah?" before launching into a 6 minute version of this still-creepy masterpiece.
Whilst the Fall-reissue situation is definitely improving, it's a shame to have to note a few shoddy errors. The "Special Limited Edition EP" contains six tracks instead of three. No bad thing, of course, except these tracks are listed as being on the main CD. Likewise, the stunning Totally Wired is labelled on the disc as Totally Twisted, and Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot has become Hexen Strife whilst Deer Park is titled Knot Deer Park. In fact, the Strife Knot section isn't even played. These are minor problems when the music is so wonderful, but don't The Fall deserve better presentation?
On the plus side, the cover artwork is excellent and the sleevenotes by Al Spicer offer a bit of context instead of the usual mistakes and cliches. Ultimately, this is a great album, well worth the 16-year wait!
Let's hope the next archive CD chronicles a show from 1981, when every concert was an outburst of scorching genius. Or, even better, how about a compilation rounding up unreleased live classics like Session Musician, Dresden Dolls, My Condition, Surrogate Mirage, Hey! Fascist, Hey! Marc Riley and so on? Perhaps fans could send in possible tracklist suggestions, lists of favourite performances, etc. Who knows what classics are still lurking out there in the bootleg wilderness?
Unless you're reading this on some kind of dog-eared fourth-generation print-out, which you're not, you can check out the Discography of the Fall
ARTFUL press release: Mark E Smith
The Post Nearly Man
Artful CD14: 503111000129
Release date: 24.08.98
Label: Artful records
'It may have been acknowledged that the Fall began Indie, but they also began Acid House. In fact they began Modern Music' [sic] The Times, 4.10.97
"And now it is here. The spoken word album by Mark E Smith. Spoken Word will never be the same after this CD has done its work.
Mark will be acclaimed as the genius he is. For the first time he will be truly heard: the question is: will his work be truly understood?
There will be the same promotion for this relase as there was for the Levitate album, which to date has sold over 12000 units. On the last album there were interviews in Loaded, FHM, GQ, Select, the Times, Guardian, the Independent, Sunday Times, Observer, Melody Maker, and Vox, and wonderful reviews in Loaded, FHM, GQ, Select, the Times, Guardian, the Independent, Sunday Times, Observer, Melody Maker, Vox, NME.
There will be marketing support by way of ads in Times, Guardian, Independent, Private Eye, NME & Mojo.
On top of this Mark has finally agreed to do TV & radio promotion for this album and could include appearances on South Bank Show, Later, a possible Omnibus and BBC Radio 3 & 4."
[Don't hold your breath.]
TBLY thought for the day:
Quote from a Receiver Records spokesman "While people keep buying them [the compilations], we'll keep releasing them."