Saturday, February 17, 2018

Rebellious Jukebox: The Music of The Fall & Show # 709

Article Written by Adam Peltier & Dave Konstantino

“Always different, always the same” - John Peel on The Fall

“It could be worse; you could be the singer of The Fall” - Tony Wilson on Mark E. Smith

“People only need me when they’re down and gone to seed” - Mark E. Smith, “Hip Priest”

Mark E. Smith was one of post-punk’s great deconstructionist agitators. In his forty year career with The Fall, Smith didn’t so much act as a band leader as much as a sonic provoker. While The Fall has literally hundreds of tracks to its name, the compositions arranged by Mark E. Smith and his ever-rotating roster of musical accomplices rarely felt like songs in the traditional sense. The angular and abrasive music made by the band, led by Smith’s idiosyncratic style of spoken/sung fractured rambling, felt more like odd aural experiments, strange tone poems, and at its most extremes, broadcasts from some alien radio station. Smith, while lazily attributed the status of rock-poet, hardly used language to elucidate or beautify. Smith’s strength was in demonstrating the malleability of language, fracturing familiar phrases, garbling syllables, and patch-working words to create a seemingly new variant of English. If anything, Smith showed the arbitrariness of spoken language, taking a piss of the idea of the songwriter/poet, while paradoxically demonstrating astonishing creativity in his heedlessly irreverent compositions. It makes sense he titled an album Perverted by Language. He saw conventional language as bondage, a form of restriction that he rallied against throughout his artistic career. To be blunt, Mark E. Smith was the great anti-poet of post-punk, holding more in common with the likes of William S. Burroughs and Thomas Pynchon, kindred souls who also saw language as bondage and art as an exercise of escaping these bonds.

The Fall’s career was an interesting one to say the least. The band’s first EP, Bingo Master’s Break-Out! was released in 1978 and featured three songs. Of these songs, “Bingo Master”, seemed like a character sketch out of some short story about a dejected bingo caller. “Psycho Mafia”, is a song that seems to reference the then rabid, audience of the late 70s punk scene, who also would spit on bands in a disgusting display of admiration and “Repetition” operates like a band ethos, as the lyrics attack the listener on a different level altogether. As stated earlier the lyrics of The Fall, played with language, but were also cryptic in some ways. Mark E. Smith never liked to discuss the meanings behind his songs or lyrics, he left it open to interpretation. Live At Witch Trials was The Fall’s full-length debut album. The debut featured an altered line up from their first EP. This is something that would happen often within The Fall, they would over the years have 66 different band members in the group with Mark E. Smith remaining the only constant member. Despite its title, Live At Witch Trials was not a live album. It displayed an energetic focus and was at the same time rough sounding. With songs such as “Rebellious Jukebox”, “No Xmas For John Quays” and “Industrial Estate”, The Fall set their own path. Lyrically and musically, The Fall seemed to come from a different place.

There are many different eras of The Fall that could be looked at. They released 31 studio albums in their lifetime. There were 32 live albums and that’s not counting singles and EPs. With the line up changes often came a change in sound. Going back to John Peel’s quote, they were “Always different, always the same”. Brix Smith was part the band from 1983-1989 and helped to shape the sound of The Fall during this time period. It should also be noted that bassist Steve Hanley played bass with The Fall from 1979-1998 and there are many other band members that were with the band for extended periods of time, but there are far too many to name. The sound during the Brix Smith era of The Fall adopted more of a conventional approach, often adding pop hooks to the Fall’s already established sound. A string of critically acclaimed albums and singles followed such as This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985), Bend Sinister (1986), The Frenz Experiment (1988) and I Am Kurious, Oranj (1988), which was the product of a collaboration of Smith and dancer Michael Clark, for the ballet. These are just some of the examples of music that was released from the band’s long career that even featured an album in 2017 called New Facts Emerge. It would prove to be The Fall’s last full-length album released during Mark E. Smith’s lifetime.

As admirable an artist that he was, Smith was far from a flawless human being. Smith endured a life of substance abuse, frayed friendships, and failing health. The Manchurian musician passed away too young, at the age of sixty, undoubtedly the suddenness of his passing exacerbated by the lifestyle he lived. While Smith was not a perfect man, he was one who forever changed the way a lot of us saw what music was and how it could be made. In a statement made by the musician’s ex-wife and former band member Brix Smith, she stated that “He never once many others can leave this life with such a singularity of vision?” It's hard to think of very few others. Nobody can say exactly what legacy the future will hold for Smith and The Fall, but perhaps it is much like the alienated young people who find solace in reading Naked Lunch or The Crying of Lot 49, that same type of person will find solace and inspiration in records like Perverted by Language, Hex Enduction Hour, and This Nation’s Saving Grace. For how he changed that way we listened to music and what we thought was possible for a singer to do, all we can say is thank you Mark E. Smith. RIP

The Fall Play List:

1. The Fall - Bingo Master (Bingo Master's Break-Out! - 1978)
2. The Fall - Industrial Estate (Peel Session - May 30, 1978) (The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 - 2005)
3. The Fall - Rebellious Jukebox (Live At Witch Trials - 1979)
4. The Fall - A Figure Walks (Dragnet - 1979)
5. The Fall - I Feel Voxish (Perverted By Language - 1983)
6. The Fall - Coach And Horses (Reformation Post TLC - 2007)
7. The Fall - Funnel Of Love (Your Future Our Clutter - 2010)
8. The Fall - Theme From Sparta F.C.#2 (The Real New Fall LP - 2003)
9. The Fall - There's A Ghost In My House (The Frenz Experiment - 1988)
10. The Fall - C.R.E.E.P. (C.R.E.E.P. Single - 1984)
11. The Fall - Kinder of Spine (Re-Mit - 2013)
12. The Fall - Fol De Rol (New Facts Emerge - 2017)
13. The Fall - Strychnine (Peel Session - February 28, 1993) (The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 - 2005)
14. The Fall - Victoria (The Frenz Experiment - 1988)
15. The Fall - Mr. Pharmacist (Bend Sinister - 1986)
16. The Fall - Cruisers Creek (This Nation's Saving Grace - 1985)
17. The Fall - New Big Prinz (I Am Kurious, Oranj - 1988)
18. The Fall - Hip Priest (Hex Enduction Hour - 1982)
19. The Fall - How I Wrote Elastic Man (Grotesque - 1980)
20. The Fall - Totally Wired (Totally Wired Single - 1980)
21. The Fall - What You Need (This Nation's Saving Grace - 1985)
22. The Fall - Stepping Out (Live) (77 - The Early Years - 79 - 1981)
23. The Fall - Psycho Mafia (Bingo Master's Break-Out! - 1978)
24. The Fall - Repetition (Bingo Master's Break-Out! - 1978)

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for February 17.

On February 10th, a previous episode of Revolution Rock aired due to weather conditions. That episode was a repeat of a Black History Month episode from 2017's theme month programming. That show can be downloaded here (Show # 708) and the play list can be found here.

No comments: