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The Fall

+ {Mark E. Smith}

As a result of the exploding punk scene of ’76/’77, frontman Mark E. Smith formed The FALL (alongside guitarist Martin Bramah and bassist Tony Friel) in and around Manchester’s Salford area. Completing the line-up with Una Baines (electric piano) and Karl Burns (drums), this unique punk band completed a 1977 session for Radio One’s John Peel, before signing to Mark Perry’s indie outlet, Step Forward. June 1978 saw the release of their debut EP, `Bingo-Masters Break-Out!’, the singer’s sardonic nature and Northern manifesto already finding solace with estranged youth. Sharp-witted right from the outset, the shrieking Mark E traversed the minefield of punk stereotypes, closing cut `Repetition’, a slow teaser to the EP’s other quick-fire numbers, `Psycho Mafia’ and `Bingo-Master’.
The first of many personnel changes was to occur soon afterwards, Marc Riley and Yvonne Pawlett coming in for the departing Friel and Baines respectively; the former joined The PASSAGE and The latter The BLUE ORCHIDS. A weird but not so wonderful follow-up, `It’s The New Thing’, filled in time before the delivery of their glorious Bob Sergeant-produced debut album.
Kicking off 1979 with a bang and recorded in only 48 hours, LIVE AT THE WITCH TRIALS {*9}, was unleashed to an ever-evolving post-punk audience (who were now more than likely – like Smith himself a few years previously! – holding down office jobs, recalling days of yore pogoing on the dance-floor!?), the studio set packed a cynical, lyrical punch not heard since the days of the VELVET UNDERGROUND (one of Mark E’s inspirators). Quirky, deadpan punk tracks such as `Futures And Pasts’ and `Rebellious Jukebox’, fitted in nicely with longer excursions into experimentation like `Frightened’ and `Music Scene’ – never easy-listening but worthy of wider listener appreciation.
SMITH was now in complete control (albeit alongside manager/partner Kay Carroll) after remaining founding musicians, Bramah and Burns took flight; the aforementioned BLUE ORCHIDS and The PASSAGE had two new Fall defectors in place. With Steve Hanley (bass) and Mike Leigh (drums) setting up stall, the punk-a-billy rock genius of single, `Rowche Rumble’, ditched conventional rhythms in mind-blowing style. However, even more personnel diversions took place when Pawlett was replaced by guitarist Craig Scanlon.
DRAGNET (1979) {*8} was a darker, even more lyrically twisted affair, Mark E’s garbled tales of life’s stranger characters were summed up best on tracks such as `Muzorewi’s Daughter’, `A Figure Walks’, `Choc-Stock’, `Before The Moon Falls’, `Spectre Vs. Rector’ and his return to “rockabilly”: `Psykick Dancehall’.
The FALL kick-started the 80s in fine fettle via another non-LP, punk-a-billy classic, `Fiery Jack’, an ever better version appearing on their Rough Trade Records debut, THE FALL LIVE – TOTALE’S TURNS (IT’S NOW OR NEVER) (1980) {*6}. While versions of `Rowche Rumble’ stood out from the pack, other memorable bits and pieces, included `No Xmas For John Quay’ & `Spectre… 2′. On reflection, too early for a live set.
With Steve’s brother Paul Hanley subsequently taking over the vacant drum stool (left by Leigh), Smith and Co delivered two further classic 45s, `How I Wrote Elastic Man’ and `Totally Wired’. The FALL’s third studio set, GROTESQUE (AFTER THE GRAMME) (1980) {*8}, was an impressive if not brilliant album, featuring as it did such acidic, “Manc-abilly” screechers, `Container Drivers’, `Pay Your Rates’ and `New Face In Hell’; the kazoo backing was provided via the aforementioned Kay Carroll. Smith’s lyrical abandon on epic closer, `The N.W.R.A.’ – aka “The North Will Rise Again”, showed the man rallying against Thatcher’s newly-elected government and just society in general.
Next up was another unusual concept, the 10″ mini-set SLATES (1981) {*6}, a patchy affair that nevertheless featured at least two other gems, `An Older Lover Etc’ and `Leave The Capitol’. With founder member Karl Burns (now second drummer! and extra keyboard player) back in tow, The FALL signed to the independent Kamera Records, delivering double-header, `Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul’ / `Fantastic Life’, as their first offering.
The FALL finally found some degree of commercial success when HEX ENDUCTION HOUR (1982) {*7} squeezed into the UK Top 75. Recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, the LP was sixty minutes of lyrical abandon, highlights arriving in the shape of `The Classical’, `Who Makes The Nazis?’, `Hip Priest’ and their most accessible tune to-date, `Jaw-Bone And The Air-Rifle’.
ROOM TO LIVE (1982) {*6}, was a more self-indulgent delivery from Smith, an album that slightly disappointed their growing college/uni fanbase. Only tracks such as opener, `Joker Hysterical Face’, `Marquee Cha Cha’ and the title track, saving the album from musical mediocrity.
In 1983, The FALL lost the talents of Riley (who formed his own outfit, Marc Riley & The Creepers), while on/off girlfriend Kay split – not for the first time! – with the grumpy one. Returning to `Rough Trade’ records, The FALL excelled once more with two splendid 45s, `The Man Whose Head Expanded’ and `Kicker Conspiracy’, before Mark E’s new Californian girlfriend, Brix, came into the fold.
She immediately made her mark, augmenting on vocals, playing guitar and co-writing a few numbers on The FALL’s next album, PERVERTED BY LANGUAGE (1983) {*7}. This set was another to whet the appetite of the Fall faithful, Smith’s mental pop-rock workouts surfacing on the likes of `Eat Y’self Fitter’, `Garden’ and `Tempo House’, while his new wife’s golden contributions came via `Hotel Bloedel’ and `Hexen Definitive’ – a bizarre bunch indeed.
Advancing to semi-major imprint, Beggars Banquet records, the Smith’s and Co delivered a couple of playful pop singles in the shape of `Oh! Brother’ and `C.R.E.E.P.’. two items left out on their John Leckie-produced eighth LP, THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING WORLD OF… (1984) {*8}. The band’s buoyant rockabilly was back in full flow on two opening cues, `Lay Of The Land’ (who can forget The FALL and the bare-cheeked ballet-dancer Michael Clark on the OGWT) and `2 x 4′. Worth also checking out were the dirge-driven `Slang King’ and `Elves’. Undoubtedly on form once again, the (6-strong) band were again a tight unit, augmented on two numbers (`Copped It’ & `Stephen Song’) by guest vocalist Gavin Friday. The man from the Virgin Prunes also turned up on their subsequent 12″ EP, `Call For Escape Route’ (featuring `No Bulbs’), however, this was their last with Paul Hanley, who was superseded by the numerous talents of Simon Rogers (he of Peruvian panpipes aficionados, Incantation). Note, that the CD version of the album comprised all of the aforementioned tracks of this era.
With Steve Hanley on summer vacation in 1985, the band released the slightly low-key `Couldn’t Get Ahead’ single, significant for its flipside which contained their first ever cover version, GENE VINCENT’s `Rollin Dany’. The guitarist was back in time to record their tilt at the mainstream, THIS NATION’S SAVING GRACE (1985) {*9}. Regarded as their best work since their debut, the UK Top 60 album featured the excellent `Paintwork’, `My New House’ and `I Am Damo Suzuki’, the latter Mark E’s tribute to CAN’s enigmatic singer. Brix and hubby scared the life out of their “rock” competitors via tracks like `Bombast’, `Spoilt Victorian Child’ and `Gut Of The Quantifier’.
Long-time FALL man, Burns, jumped ship (to form Thirst) after the obligatory set of singles; drummer Simon Wolstencroft subsequently took his place for the FALL’s first UK hit (well, No.75), a rendition of the Other Half’s amphetamine-ridden, `Mr. Pharmacist’. This seemed to pay off commercially, especially when the two-minute song accompanied – for once! – parent album, BEND SINISTER (1986) {*7}, which reached the dizzy heights of the UK Top 40. Not a particular fave with fans, the dark and distorted were in full parade on diverse ditties such as `Dktr. Faustus’, `US 80’s-90’s’ and `Bournemouth Runner’.
Another minor hit, `Hey! Luciani’ (from Mark E’s play based on Pope John Paul I), preceded a somewhat embarrassing cover of R. Dean Taylor’s `There’s A Ghost In My House’, which gathered enough pop support to gain entry into the UK Top 30. 1987 also saw Brix E roping in her former Banda Dratsing buddy, Marcia Schofield, the keyboard player arriving in time for two more oddball 45s, `Hit The North’ and `Victoria’ (the latter stemming from Ray Davies and The KINKS).
Now without Rogers, who stayed on as their producer, Mark E and The FALL again charted – Top 20! – via THE FRENZ EXPERIMENT (1988) {*6}, a part solo-penned/part group-penned set that nevertheless contained at least one standout song, `Carry Bag Man’. Others such as opener, `Frenz’, plus `Athlete Cured’, `Bremen Nacht’ and group song `Get A Hotel’, saved it from a critical lambasting.
Having also befriended the aforementioned avant-garde ballet dancer, Michael Clark (and company: Leigh Bowery included) & the FALL combined resources on an ambitious conceptual performance/set, I AM KURIOUS, ORANJ (1988) {*7}. It was indeed, curious, although the album did have its moments, especially in `Cab It Up!’ and a tongue-in-cheek rendition of William Blake’s `Jerusalem’ (segued with Mark’s E’s `Dog Is Life’ poem). Outlandish to say the least, the unique album opened & closed with versions of `New Big Prinz’ & `Big New Priest’ respectively, while Mark E turned up his thematic diatribe to eleven by way of `Kurious Oranj’, `Wrong Place, Right Time’ and the techno-fied `C.D. Win Fall 2088 AD’.
Part studio outtakes set/part concert set, SEMINAL LIVE (1989) {*5}, filled in time during which Mark and Brix split up, the blonde (who’d also initiated her own band, Adult Net) eventually becoming the sweetheart of (delete as appropriate) posh/cockney classical violinist and one-time FALL guest, Nigel Kennedy; she stunned many FALL aficionados by appearing on TV show, This Is Your Life, which looked back over Nigel’s overnight rise to fame.
Original guitarist Martin Bramah was now back in the fold, enrolling in time for The FALL’s umpteenth long-player, EXTRICATE (1990) {*9}, their first album jointly controlled by Mark E’s new imprint, Cog Sinister and overseen by Fontana records. Highlighted by a hit version of a former Coldcut number – with altered title – `Telephone Thing’, the cynical but accessible set featured other acidic attacks, `Sing! Harpy’, `The Littlest Rebel’ and the very “Love Will Tear Us Apart”-esque `Bill Is Dead’, side by side with two more obscure covers, `Popcorn Double Feature’ and `Black Monk Theme’ (stuttering in parts one & two), by way of 60s acts the SEARCHERS and the Monks respectively. Co-produced alongside Craig Leon and dub-meister Adrian Sherwood, other star tracks came courtesy of the rockabilly-ish `And Therein…’, the pop-fuelled `Hilary’ and the funky `British People In Hot Weather’.
SMITH proceeded to trim the band down to a quartet, retaining only Craig, Steve and Simon to record an excellent Sid Vicious-esque version of the Big Bopper’s `White Lightning’. Both this minor hit and an uncharacteristic flop, `High Tension Line’, appeared on follow-up album, SHIFT-WORK (1991) {*8}, a record which upgraded one-time violinist Kenny Brady into the fold. Split into two titled sides (“Earth’s Impossible Day” and “Notebooks Out Plagiarists”), the Top 20 set was driven by two more excellent pieces of wordplay, the sad and reflective `Edinburgh Man’ (penned like most – with Scanlon) and Mark E’s solo rockabilly contribution, `A Lot Of Wind’. Cool and stuck inside Smith’s frenetic mind-set, other songs to exude passion included `Pittsville Direkt’, `You Haven’t Found It Yet’, `The Book Of Lies’, `Rose’ and the high-pitched title track (all augmented by Cassell Webb on backing vox).
Brady was subsequently let go, David Bush coming in as a more permanent fixture for their next set, CODE: SELFISH (1992) {*7}. Still messing with punk ideals and other musical flights of fancy, the long-player drew in many new fans (it reached the UK Top 10), although some FALL aficionados were less than impressed, its re-working of Hank Williams’ `Just Waiting’ not the caustic Mark E of old. The single, `Free Range’ (about the Balkan wars), impressed the NME and their like, while Smith tested new ground via the technoid `Birmingham School Of Business School’ and `Married, 2 Kids’; `Everything Hurtz’ was also noteworthy.
Moving to Permanent Records (not the most appropriate label title for the band), Mark and the lads released their biggest seller to date, THE INFOTAINMENT SCAN (1993) {*8}, which went Top 10. Short of a classic Mark E speciality, it was highlighted by a trio of covers, this time in the shape of Sister Sledge’s disco-gem `Lost In Music’, Stephen Bent’s `I’m Going To Spain’ (featured on TV show “New Faces” c.1974) and Lee Perry’s dub-reggae number `Why Are People Grudgeful?’ (also a Top 50 hit). Meanwhile, Smith and Co’s choice cuts came courtesy of `It’s A Curse’, `Glam-Racket’ and `The League Of Bald-Headed Men’.
Early in ’94, Mark E side-lined with The INSPIRAL CARPETS on their excellent `I Want You’ hit single, the mainman subsequently being invited to do similar things for other acts (notably Coldcut and D.O.S.E.). The patchy MIDDLE CLASS REVOLT (1994) {*6} – although reaching the Top 50 – saw the FALL receive their worst reviews ever, only the usual triumvirate of obscure covers: the Groundhogs’ `Junk Man’, the Monks’ `Shut Up!’ and Henry Cow’s `War!’, saved it from a right good bashing. Alongside singles `15 Ways’ and `Behind The Counter’, tracks such as `M5′, `City Dweller’ and deep from their early vaults `Hey! Student’ (formerly known as `Hey! Fascist’) were above par.
With ex-missus Brix and drummer Karl back in tow, the bittersweet CEREBRAL CAUSTIC (1995) {*5}, did little to rectify the down-flow in The FALL’s commercial climate. The brash, snide-y and confrontational Mark E was at times, still at his best (example `Feeling Numb’, `Life Just Bounces’ & a cover of FRANK ZAPPA’s `I’m Not Satisfied’), while Brix got her two-penn’orth in via some noisy vocals on `Don’t Call Me Darling’ and `Bonkers In Phoenix’.
With 28(!) tracks on board the good ship FALL in concert, THE “TWENTY-SEVEN POINTS” (1995) {*6} – recorded in Prague, Tel-Aviv, London, Glasgow, N.Y.C., etc. – was another in the “why-for-art-thou” series of Mark E recordings. Centred mainly within songs from the previous decade, the unusual cuts stemming from the joker antics of modern-day crooner, Smith. Studio cue, `Cloud Of Black’, makes an appearance, while fresh-faced cover comes by way of the Sonics’ `Strychnine’.
Now without Bush and the long-serving Scanlon (who both resigned after `The Chisellers’ single), the group signed to `Jet’ records. Adding Julia Nagle (keyboards & guitar) and a few guest vocalists (Mike Bennett & Lucy Rimmer) to the fold, their next effort THE LIGHT USER SYNDROME (1996) {*6}, gained some critical respect once again – as well as brief chart action. With references to Enniskillen and a prediction about the Manchester bombing by the IRA, the song in question `Powder Keg’ saw “I’m a fuckin’ psychic” Mark E with more than a little egg on his face. Obviously, gaining some outside reports by space-cadets/aliens somewhere out there, suspicions were shuffled to the bottom of the pack. Meanwhile, the set did fire in more than a few grandiose pieces of paranoia via `Das Vulture Ans Ein Nutter-Wain’, `Oxymoron’, `Cheetham Hill’, `The Coliseum’, Johnny Paycheck’s `Stay Away (Old White Train)’ and a Gene Pitney hit, `Last Chance To Turn Around’ (aka `Last Exit To Brooklyn’).
The myriad of revolving door personnel changes continued unabated with Brix, Simon and Karl all leaving Mark, Steve and Julia at the helm (Karl returned in May ’97). Signing to `Artful’ records, LEVITATE (1997) {*7}, split both critics and fanbase, whether co-writer Nagle and her electronic noodling (example her `Jap Kid’) was the cause, the jury was out. Of the obligatory revamps, only Hank Mizell’s `Jungle Rock’ was known to the pop public; folk-based tracks `I’m A Mummy’ (or/er, `The Mummy’ by Bob McFadden & Rod McKuen) and the traditional tune `I Come And Stand At Your/”Every” Door’ (a poem by Nazim Hikmet and once performed by Pete Seeger) were the other two. Smith had progressed his wayward vision into diverse and abstract cultures, although the breakbeat jungle mix on the album’s opener `Ten Houses Of Eve’ took all the biscuits. Belatedly released the following February after Mark E was presented the “Godlike Genius” award by the NME, `Masquerade’ kept up some chart momentum; new guitarists Tommy Crooks and Andy Hackett complemented the set.
Subsequent stage friction on a U.S. tour between Burns and Smith (and Crooks and Smith) led to his arrest, the most disastrous year in the FALL’s history culminating with an alleged drunken domestic attack on his “employee” girlfriend Julia Nagle. Pleading not guilty, he underwent anger management and counselling for alcohol abuse, however it was too late to save all the band walking out, citing Mark as “impossible to work with”. Unperturbed, MARK E. SMITH issued a spoken-word album, THE POST NEARLY MAN (1998) {*2} backed by snippets of previous FALL tapes, while the D.O.S.E. track, `Inch’ (a No.7 in John Peel’s 1997 Festive 50), finally hit the shops early in ’99. He was not the next HENRY ROLLINS.
The FALL (Mk. whatever) were back, Nagle standing by her man, while newcomers Neville Wilding (guitar), Tom Head (drums) and Adam Helal (who replaced Karen Latham) virtually “fell” into place. Two years in the making, the band’s umpteenth set, THE MARSHALL SUITE (1999) {*7}, was finally dispatched to the shops. Reverting to a more primeval and punk-a-billy sound, incorporating shades of techno/jungle and the odd noodle, the album was said to be part-conceptual, hence the track `Crying Marshall’ (remixed and re-produced by Steven Hitchcock of Filthy Three). Alongside latter day classic, `Touch Sensitive’ (edited for a Vauxhall Corsa TV ad!), two tracks stemmed from other artists: `F-‘Oldin’ Money’ (Tommy Blake) and `This Perfect Day’ (the Saints).
Never far from the music biz tabloids, Mark E appeared (as a janitor!) in the low-budget movie, `Glow Boys’, while he collaborated with the Clint Boon Experience (ex-INSPIRAL CARPETS man) on the track, `I Wanna Be Your Dog’. The millennium finally kicked off for The FALL in November 2000 via studio set, THE UNUTTERABLE {*7}. Synth-riddled, sharp-lyrically and positively beaming with chaotic rhythms, the set delivered some distorted ramblings such as `Dr. Buck’s Letter’ (a sort of mock tribute to pensmith Charles Bukowski), opener `Cyber Insekt’ and the detached `Ketamine Sun’. Produced by Grant Showbiz and released on `Eagle’ records (known for its “elephant’s graveyard” kind of signings), the 15 original songs – albeit blueprints of past FALL – were out there with the best.
A year on and returning to their own Cog Sinister imprint, Mark E and some new “classmates” (guitarists Ed Blaney, Brian Fanning and Ben Pritchard, plus Jim Watts on bass and Spencer Birtwistle on drums) issued their most unhinged album to date, ARE YOU ARE MISSING WINNER (2001) {*5}. A winner it was certainly not, from the difficult nine and a half minutes of `Ibis-Afro Man’ (trailing in after a half-decent cover of R. Dean Taylor’s `Gotta See Jane’), the record failed to register even among the once mighty FALL’s loyal fanbase. An update of something verging on West-Coast, `Crop-Dust’, the LEADBELLY-sampled `Bourgois Town’ and the venomous `My Ex-Classmates’ Kids’, were diamonds in the proverbial rust, although Mark E had “lost it”.
To make matters worse, Mark E/the FALL issued a rather disappointing and “official” album of studio outtakes and nine live tracks, mostly culled from the band’s 2001 US tour. 2G+2 (2002) {*4} suffered from bad quality and even worse “live” musicianship, whilst the studio tracks seemed like the same old regurgitated garage riffs over the frontman’s stammering/strained vocals. SMITH, meanwhile, released a second solo, spoken-word set, PANDER! PANDA! PANZER! (2002) {*3} – enough said!
Lack of direction, ambition and tradition, the FALL were at their lowest ebb, and by the time of `The Fall Vs 2003′ (an EP featuring `Susan Vs. Youthclub’), the band’s momentum was badly leaking. With only one guitarist retained (Pritchard) and the addition of drummer/keyboard-player Dave Milner, bassist Simon `Ding’ Archer (who superseded Watts) and new wifey Elana Smith (ne Eleni Poulou), the grumpy one and Co delivered their umpteenth studio set, THE REAL NEW FALL LP (FORMERLY `COUNTRY ON THE CLICK’) (2003) {*7} – delivered confusingly enough at a time when a series of FALL exploitation CDs were on the go. With producer Grant Showbiz at the controls once again, The FALL even managed a love song of sorts, `Green Eyed Loco-Man’, while Smith’s CAN throwbacks came via `Last Commands Of Xyralothep Via M.E.S.’. Intelligent and jocular with the usual tense commentary by the FALL’s wry commander, other tracks that stick in the mind – rather than stuck in the mud – are `Mountain Energei’, `Sparta 2XX’ and a Lee Hazlewood cover, `Loop41 `Houston’.
And just when you thought it was safe to get back into FALL waters (and while Smith recovered from a broken leg – and hip!), they delivered the appropriately-titled and muddily-recorded live/rehearsal set, INTERIM (2004) {*4}. Lacklustre to the nth degree, the only saving grace (for this nation at least!) were new songs `Blindness’, `All Clasp Hands’ and `What About Us?’.
Steven Trafford (guitar) had by now replaced the returning Watts, while studio set FALL HEADS ROLL (2005) {*6} found the band returning to form. The three aforementioned tracks were carried over from INTERIM, albeit in a more “polished” form side by side with another inimitable choice of cover, The MOVE’s `I Can Hear The Grass Grow’, sung in slurred E. Smith-ese. Manc-a-billy shone again from tracks such as the meandering `Bo Demmick’, the cod-reggae country cue `Ride Away’ and the hook-line, synch-er of `Pacifying Joint’.
All but his wife Eleni were subsequently dumped by Mark E in the middle of an America tour, [update here] new members, etc. also the 2007 studio meeting with Mouse On Mars via VON SUDENFED trio album; `Tromatic Reflexxions’. Spring 2008 saw an autobiography, Renegade: The Life And Tales Of Mark E. Smith, and a fresh album WAX IMPERIAL SOLVENT {*7}. At times freewheeling and explosive (the 11-minute `50 Year Old Man’ its cynical centrepiece), the snide Smith oozes guts ’n’ grime wherever he can fit in his lyrical patter. The diverse `Wolf Kidult Man’, a version of The GROUNDHOGS’ `Strange Town’ and Eleni’s barcode blast `Taurig’ (she also sang the anthemic `I’ve Been Duped’) entrap one and all hook, line and sinker.
Love him or loathe him, Smith is arguably punk music’s last ambassador since a certain butter-loving John Lydon was discovered spreading his wares in a celebrity jungle. For studio album number 30-something (or thereabouts), YOUR FUTURE OUR CLUTTER (2010) {*7}, the sprawling singer has managed to retain his previous line-up – a feat hardly ever achieved – while he’s signed on the dotted line for Domino Records. Never lyrically shy to slag or name-check the odd place, pop group or TV programme (Bury, Mexico, Chicory Tip, Murder She Wrote, etc. all come in for ridicule here), Mark E delivered his unique slurring banter on Fall-by-numbers such as `Cowboy George’, `Funnel Of Love’ and `Hot Cake’. Grumpy old man Mark E’s not so much a “hideous replica”, more of a “hip priest” of our time.
Now on some anniversary or other, Cherry Red Records were behind 2011’s umpteenth FALL delivery, ERSATZ GB {*6}, the third with the same line-up. 35 years and counting, the sound here is that of controlled chaos and experimental punk-a-billy via `Mask Search’. Once again, wife Eleni is let loose on a song, the twee, NICO-like `Happi Song’, while drunken metal best describes `Nate Will Not Return’. A set that might take more than two or three listens, one should make time for opener `Cosmos 7’, the growling and grizzly `Monocard’ (all 8 minutes of it) and a rare FALL single nowadays in `Laptop Dog’.
Fast forward to 2013 and the stability of The FALL looked almost frightening for album number whatever, RE-MIT {*6}, a surprise Top 40 entry. The weird and wonderful lyrical spittoons of their 50-something year-old man, Mark E. Smith belies a snide-y, skinny punk still at war with everything… and everything. But that’s why we love him – don’t we? Typical FALL for disciples of Mark’s cryptic patter, fans can hook-line or stinker between the good, the bad and the downright ugly, “missing winners” arriving in the shape of `Hittite Man’, `Irish’ and `Jetplane’ – what no covers!?
Sanity restored within a steadfast line-up that have remained intact for several years (adding a second drummer Daren Garratt), the growling Mark E and The FALL’s “slurry” of relative inactivity was over with SUB-LINGUAL TABLET (2015) {*7}. Aaarrgghh… if only the shortest hook on board, `Black Roof’, was the longest and, if the 10-minute `Auto Chip 2014-2016’ was trimmed in proportion… well, that’s for FALL fans to quibble. Bookenders `Venice With The Girls’ and `Quit iPhone’ added er… meaning and purpose to those willing to decipher mercurial Mark’s “Code: Selfish”-ness. A tirade of snarling rants and gargling phlegm compound a few monstrous minutes, but in `Junger Cloth’ and `Stout Man’ (a re-working of IGGY & THE STOOGES’ `Cock In My Pocket’), The FALL save this nation’s grace once again.
Some 35 years past, The FALL released a mini-set “Slates” for Rough Trade, and now it was Cherry Red’s chance to grant the Mark E de sad the right to extend his rather large CV by way of WISE OL’ MAN (2016) {*6} – to many just a 12-inch EP of fresh and regurgitated “Sub-Lingual” material. Whether wise or indeed foolish, it marked 40 years as an ever-evolving group (second drummer Daren now absent). A couple of attempts at the title track (one of them instrumental) and `All Leave Cancelled’, plus an excuse to fit in a version of `No Xmas For John Quay’ (segued with `Face Book Troll’), FALL fans would be wondering if the abrasive Mark would again commit to a full set.
That answer was loud and clear on what was to be The FALL’s final foray: the Top 40 entering NEW FACTS EMERGE (2017) {*7}. Minus Poulou, who’d fled the nest the previous year, Mark E and Co belted out several sturdy stoner-meets-garage cuts of snarling, razor-sharp cuts; `Brillo De Facto’, `Fol De Rol’ and the lengthy `Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30s’, testing FALL fans young and old more sincerely than the rock-a-silly antics of `Second House Now’ and `Groundsboy’.
Ill for years and not exactly growing old gracefully, it was no shock when the music press announced the passing (aged 60) of Mark E. Smith on 24th January 2018 – a legend to his plethora of long-serving disciples, including MCS.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD // rev-up MCS May2012-Jan2018

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