Photo by Valerio Berdini. This article was originally published in March to celebrate Mark E. I am fairly sure that on the afternoon late in when John and I first put together the idea of what The Quietus would become on a few bits of paper, we had The Fall on in the background.
Indeed, perhaps that flash of inspiration occurred when, psychically-refreshed, we leapt around to 'Hit The North' in the pub at ATP in December Even today, after a day of weary mithering at the rubbish music that turns up in the postbag claiming ディープ - 赤痢* - Naked Sekiri is extraordinary, we have Perverted By Language on in the background. We've written so much on The Group over the years that for a while we had a section devoted to them to keep things simpler.
So to celebrate the 60th birthday of Back In The U.S.S.R. - Bongoes / Bongoes 62 - Back To The Sixties great Mark E. Smith this weekend we decided to ask our writers, friends and favourite musicians to pick their favourite Fall songs and write about them. But when did The Fall begin? I've long nurtured a theory that Mark E Smith's militant approach to the group is not to do with his own ego or control freak psychology but because in its earliest years he spotted the magical potential of what it could be: Mark E Smith has always served The Fall, the hip priest for a greater power.
So read on as we celebrate four decades of invention and reinvention, and six of the life of the great Back In The U.S.S.R. - Bongoes / Bongoes 62 - Back To The Sixties himself. Luke Turner. The former is the most straightforward of the band's releases, an mph punk album with nary a hint of 'post' to be found across its 17 tracks.
The latter sees them slowing down, swapping the aggression of original guitarist Martin Bramah for ex-bassist Marc Riley's more patient approach and settling on the more foreboding sound they've largely stuck to since. Steve Hanley's bass-line battles Riley's atonal guitar over the scraps of the devil's interval.
Meanwhile Mark E. Smith lays out the band's mission statement - "I must create a new regime, Or live by another man's", a Back In The U.S.S.R. - Bongoes / Bongoes 62 - Back To The Sixties The Fall adhere to to this day. Josh Gray. I'm always drawn to the quieter moments of albums, the tender, introspective slow jams, but of course there's not a lot of them in The Fall catalogue. But that just makes 'Bill Is Dead' all the more surprising and significant: it's an extremely rare case of Mark E Smith dropping his guard for a few minutes, not just being warm but actually, genuinely romantic.
It's a tranquil, beautiful moment in a career of mostly noise and chaos, recorded at a time when The Fall almost went mainstream.
They never really did bother the charts, but I remember John Peel announcing that his listeners had voted this number one in his Festive Fifty and he was so overjoyed that he might have even cried. Beyond the shock of Smith writing a love song and singing about orgasms, the music and production's gorgeous too — from the opening guitar intro to the lush organ and sexy rhythm, it's as close to an audio hug as I've ever heard.
Aidan Moffat. There is a fire and a hardness to MES that is all his own. He comes wrapped in his own weather. He is separate from the forces around him. We're used to hearing his meteoric imagination plugged into that inimitable voice, wrestling with the terror and hilarity of life out there in the raw sprawl of the city, thorns and all.
We know he comes out fighting. We know he won't back down. But there is a devastating sentience to this song, a sense of resigned reflection that makes it a rarity amongst his general back catalogue. But sometimes it has to be done, because sometimes you get homesick for the place you are already in. Austin Collings. Unlike almost any other band, The Fall are ever-evolving Imagination - Bob Dylan - Triplicate, and my favourite song at any one time is usually whichever sounds best at the shows.
At the moment, I'd say that is '9 Out Back In The U.S.S.R. - Bongoes / Bongoes 62 - Back To The Sixties 10', but it'll probably be a different song by the next time I see them. But my all-time favourite Fall song has to be 'Blindness'.
For a long time it seems to have been replaced by 'Autochip ' now Stay This Way - Kylie* - Confide In Me - The Irresistible Kylie, its inclusion in a set automatically transformed a good show into a great one.
It's futile to try and analyze exactly what makes it so strong the bass-line? Matt Thorne. Blindness from the final Peel Session is the shout for me. A brilliant, powerful track, but vitally the final song I bought having heard it on Peely's show. Before we lost him. Pat Nevin Former Chelsea and Everton footballer. Smith's word plays. I wasn't quite sure who or what Smith Cash On The Barrelhead - The Dreadful Snakes - Snakes Alive ! directing his wrath at with his distorted intro but I knew they deserved it.
This was The Fall at their menacing best and as that bass line pounded through the speakers of my Sharp ghetto blaster in my bedroom in The Midlands I was hooked.
Andy Thomas. Poor Brix. It's Her marriage to Mark is over. But she's back in the band while Mark's going through one of his difficult patches. She's contributed a rather pretty, folksy ballad. And her former beau has speeded it up, slathered it in all manner of electronic distortion and used it as a backdrop for some hilariously deadpan musings on the lameness of festival culture - "Would all people who want vegetarian burgers go on the left?
And those who want meat burgers on the right? Car parking is available at Glastonbury Phoenix…" Mancunian snark meets Californian hippiedom: everyone wins. Philip Harrison. It just goes on and on and on. I could listen to this track forever, imagining myself striding down a street, elbows out, like a hyper-surreal cartoon character in 陽のあたる坂道 - Do As Infinity - Do As Infinity -Final- bowler hat off to the bank on the verge of a breakdown, coughing to myself about the balance of payments.
It's just so savagely choppy, Smith's voice hacking down in time with the drums, bass and noise. The Fall are always at their best when they do not relent. I was only really there for The Fall who were to play live on the night but within seconds of Clark stepping on stage I was mesmerised.
One of the greatest documents of London's gay post punk counter culture, the film includes a surreal agitated dance from Clark and his company to the music of 'Copped It'.
If ever I need inspiration I turn to this. Four minutes of post-punk perfection. Pavement must have been taking notes, but never got close. Neil Kulkarni. A song from the Brix era when The Fall flirted with the charts and popularity. It's got a great riff, repeated and repeated and Mark E Smith's typically scornful lyrics. It's not his best writing but the song stays with me for some reason, though my favourites change all the time. Krishnan Guru-Murthy Channel 4 News.
From the patchy yet thrilling The Unutterable the lead track sets heights the rest of the album struggles to reach — one of the most massively danceable tracks the Fall ever Love In Detroit - Love In Detroit, arcs of art-rock noise and dubbed-out texture riding the best rattling-rails groove since Beefheart's 'Click Clack'.
If you're a DJ, thee Fall track to play out. The Light User Syndrome is a curiously under-regarded Fall record, perhaps because it emerged at the peak of Britpop and coincided with a spectacularly chaotic phase in their operation, with Smith drinking heavily, Brix leaving and so on.
It is patchy as hell but contains some absolute bangers, and much of the record makes me think of Can being chased by the infernal creatures escaped from a cyborg petting zoo.
From what I can recall this was one of the first The Fall tracks that really struck with me, a really terrific pop melody hiding under the all the distortion and squelch. I always loved the "conceptually a la Bowie" bit for some reason.
A greasy groove; a big ol' greasy Back In The U.S.S.R. - Bongoes / Bongoes 62 - Back To The Sixties . The power and the glory of late period Fall stumbling out of that Function One? It just works. And what pills is Smith talking about here anyway?
And who, perchance, is the doctor? Harry Sword. As soon as the dirty rhythm starts up I'm gone… into The Fall pit, captivated by the unrelenting groove, the wonderful melding of such great sounds made all the more irresistible by Mark's slurred delivery.
Me and Chris used to always play it when we DJ'd and it went down a storm. Cosey Fanni Tuti. The Unutterable captures The Fall entering the new millennium with an accelerated charge, one lit with a sense of experimentation in which the group feel progressively potent and vital.
As displayed on this song, It's an experiment that works, the brooding, bass-heavy electronic rumblings drag the song along as it unfurls with an almost malevolent yet infectiously groovy skip. It's a sonic template that was made for The Fall and it's slightly maddening they haven't returned to it more often; the groggy, almost industrial, gargle of the music is the perfect speed for Smith's lyrics to unfurl and wrap themselves around, the pace is less II Allegro Di Molto - Haydn*, The Academy Of Ancient Music, Christopher Hogwood - Symphonies Volume guitar gusto and more groggy whiskey slur.
Lyrically Smith is in fine form in a song that appears to interweave a tale of a collapsed friendship and benefit fraud: he's wickedly humorous, his words sharp, precise and cutting but there's almost a regretful and sorrowful tone; his admission of missing someone after a fall-out feels like a rare revelation, even if the vocal is almost intentionally distorted to disguise the use of the God Of The Cold White Silence - 3 Inches Of Blood - Fire Up The Blades and it remains unclear whether Smith himself is a primary subject in the song although there is a Dr LJ Buck registered as Tibilli - Michel Polnareff - Tibilli GP in Salford.
As the song ends in a gloriously unpredictable sidestep with Smith reading a list of DJ Pete Tong's essential items from a magazine, the music's rhythm locks in perfectly as Smith's venomous mocking is driven by a snarl and bite in the music that growls beautifully. As Smith lets out the closing line "I was in the realm of the essence of Tong" the beat seems to gain a further crunch and intensity in its final moments.
The track works so brilliantly because it not only captures The Fall at their most progressive, with their eyes locked firmly on the horizon, but they do this with such intensity and success that tracks like 'Dr. Bucks' Letter', a whopping 24 years into their career, make you reassess who The Fall are as a band altogether.
Daniel Dylan Wray. The greatest gig I ever saw The Fall play was at Hammersmith Palais, 1st April - the last gig to take place there. It was a brilliant desecration of nostalgia for a terrible venue and a glorious offence to the legacy of The Clash that royally upset half of the audience present.
The power of the night came from the band line-up, an Anglo-American, twin-bass attack that brought the best out of the groove-led later period Fall tracks. This was a particular highlight, a fast-paced version of a self-referential track that feels like a marching command or shot in the arm for The Fall.
You can imagine Smith prowling behind the musicians, lyrics as Back In The U.S.S.R. - Bongoes / Bongoes 62 - Back To The Sixties revolver in hand, firing at those who falter in the face of enemy fire: "I've seen POWs less hysterical than you", and so on.
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