wherein the music speaks for itself. from beginning to...will it ever end?
samples of tracks from Amazon, eMusic and beyond. please buy the CDs if you want/need more.
Leave The Capitol
Yet another unhinged belter. I love the meandering images of broken showbiz sleaziness and screams to 'Exit this Roman shell!' accompanied by descending bass line and the way MES strains to be melodic at points. But the undoubted highlight for me is the nonsensical drunken Scot - 'I laughed at the great God Pan. I didnae, I didnae.' On the live London version there's a neat Hogarth allusion as well as a complimentary/snidey remark about the musicianship: 'Ah nice little cascade for that bit.' Altogether now, 'I didnae, I didnae.'
Prole Art Threat
Apparently originally written as a play, starring a man with a chip (on his shoulder?) and a gent in a 'safe-house', this chune exposes the hypocrisy in the wet liberal universe and its compliantly capitalist outlook. A masterful blurring of stereotypical political lines and another example of that '1984' effect and its inevitable accompanying paranoia. Here we revisit a similar scenario to that painted by 'New Face In Hell' as the masters get out their files on the latest recalcitrant proles. You know, stuff like that. That jaggy guitar doesn't half jar the nerves.
Slates, Slags, etc
For the most part, an incessant 2 chord riff piles through this litany of slating and slagging. Exactly what the slates and slags in question are is, naturally, anyone's guess. 'How would you describe the slates?' 'Well I can't give a definition.' Some kind of mish mash of male and female slatterns somehow connected to publishers' sons and plagiarists. There are tapes involved - another handy half rhyme. And when one knocks over your drink, there's the brilliant admonishment to 'Pay for correct amount spilt.' In the live Antipodean version, there's added slagging/slating of 'trite' and 'uptight' Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as well as a joke: 'As Quasimodo said when the apprentice bell ringer was dead - His face rings a bell.' Boom, boom.
An Older Lover, etc
Never trust your friendly agony aunt seems to be the message here. They're always ready with a stock response, hence the 'etc' and interchangeable 'older' or 'younger' lover. Beware of the older lover, though, who may ply you with rancid tales of carefree sex from back in the 60s. Plus, she'll 'shag you out on the table.' The screamed refrain' Doctor Annabel lies!' is a highlight here. Apart from wondering if there ever was an Agony Aunt called Dr Annabel, the last line is confoundingly enigmatic - 'the future autolytic enzyme son.' I know autolytic enzyme refers to self-digestion, but should 'son' be that great British red top, 'The Sun'? I only ask cos the Dr's face has French Fries on it, suggesting the paper/magazine she's in is being used to wrap chips in, traditional style.
A song of two halves, Brian. The second half has a right bouncy wee guitar line and fair bobs along. Allegedly about Marc Riley, though disputed by the wordSmith. There's even a Shakespearean turn of phrase, 'They are set at nought,' i.e. 'worthless.' Such ancient phraseology is another one of those endearing Fallisms, as are the improvised meanderings from the live London version - 'the son of Mike Parkinson, made from coal' and 'speed psychos from '78 - the ones who haven't got into Adam and the Ants.' The snippy. snidey remarks apparently cut through Riley whenever he played it. 'Vulturous in the aftermath' indeed.
Driven by a relentless and compelling riff, Grotesque's closing meisterwork, The North Will Rise Again, is an epic meander through a futurescape peopled by men with bees on sticks, drunken Highlanders in Soho seeking revenge for Culloden, a hooded friar on a tractor and many, many more. In other words, what a bleedin' shambles, if the North DID rise again. The American live version has a gloriously OTT MC intro - 'From the riot torn streets of Manchester, England to the scenic sewers of Chicago!' Plus kazoo! And at the end, 'Right, the keyboards have broke down so you're getting something unique. Anyone who wants 50 cents refund can send an air mail letter to the Outer Hebrides.' On the London version the future DJs 'Elaborating on nothing in praise of the track with words they could hardly pronounce, in telephone voices' play Totally Wired by the Radio 2 Orchestra. 'And you can stuff your aid!'
Something for the weekend sir? Certainly - a gramme of speed will do nicely. Self explanatory, really, but also a cheeky play on Robinson Crusoe and Man Friday, here represented as Robinson Speedo and Gramme Friday. There's also a reference to Dr Theodor Morell, Hitler's personal physician who prescribed him amphetamines. MES citing dictatorial precedent for his drug of choice, there. Musicwise, I just love that drum and plodding bass line after the 'kitchens and halls' bit.
W.M.C. Blob 59
The obligatory lo-fi lowlight of Grotesque wherein muffled home taping captures snippets of nothing much. Some say that WMC stands for Working Mens Clubs whilst others maintain the higher moral ground by insisting it stands for Womens Menstrual Cycle, hence qualifying the tasteful blob reference. There appears to be no scholarly thesis yet on the origin/significance of the number 59. The background singing sounds like an old traditional folk tune...or something, with words such as, 'As to who started this in the first place/I’m not the one to deny, it was I.' Those seeking poetic pearls may take succour from the phrase, 'We come with our hands open in fiendship.'
In The Park
Sex rears its ugly helmet in this fascinating tale of pre-dogging days (no relation to Temperance dogging - see below). The line, 'You thought it'd be great,' always reminds me now of that great line in the film Rita, Sue and Bob Too where he goes, 'I thought I were great!' Complete coincidence of course. Anyway, back to the sex. What kind of perverted gimpery is going on here? And who is this brown monk ghost forcing people into lust-rock and Huckleberry masks? Do we need to be told? I don't think so. It's not hard. Alright, matron, I'll stop now. 'It's just come and it's gone.'
Impression of J. Temperance
Horror story time again in this tale of a vet delivering a grotesque birth from a dog. Are we to take the dog breeder's activities literally? Twould appear so, as the puppy monster bears the impression of said breeder, Mr Temperance. Bypassing the significance or not of the breeder's name, we can gain some obtuse clue to the horrific goings on from MES on the 'In A Hole ' version, where he cites the god Tantalus who 'fed off his children's flesh. This is a bit like this except it has no style!' Make of that what you will, kids. Dig the military beat and 'this hideous replica' replicating it. As the man says on the live London version, 'this... finishes off the applause.'
C 'n' C - S Mithering
Well mental this one. All the versions have something different to offer. All bloody fantastic to boot. The original studio version starts acoustically and leisurely winds its way along, till the Mithering part with some class Lanc ranting including my all time favourite sneer, 'They say "See yer mate..Yeh...see yer mate."' The American version merges into a hysterical 'Stars on 45' sequence, while the 'In A Hole' version collapses into 'Black Night' where Richie Blackmore has his hair cut and animals box each other. Even more enjoyable is the Peel version which suddenly launches into a hilariously mutated 'Do the Hucklebuck' complete with 'shimmering buttocks' amongst many treasures. Comedy gold.
And so we come to multicultural Britain, where the proles are dying to say Auf Weidersen, Pet. Council schemes are always sneered at, especially by the middle classes, but also, of course by the working classes. Nobody escapes. In Embra we call them schemies. What larks, eh? This Falltastic jaunt through the English urban and other landscapes paints a broad picture of 'bad chests', 'bad dope', 'quaint streets' and 'toilet back gardens.' The disarmingly jolly musical structure ironically compliments the grim subject matter. 'If we was smart we'd emigrate.'
Pay Your Rates
Storming opening to Grotesque. I believe MES actually plays guitar on this track. Some sensible advice about rate paying too. If you don't like it, you can always 'write a snotty letter.' And just when you think it's going to be a straight ahead guitar twangabilly fest, along comes the slow bit to confound and delight you. Rollin', rollin', rollin' ...and relax. On the live version there's some fun with 'working class traitor' Warren Mitchell and Dexys Midnight Runners get a namecheck too. Nice.
'What a dynamic entrance!' Mish mash of other live bits, allegedly out takes from Totales Turns, mixed in with this, including The NWRA, Rowche Rumble and Cary Grant's Wedding, make this B-side of Totally Wired sound like a bit of a hastily assembled track flung out there at the last minute. There is nothing wrong with this. The actual song itself is no bad and not a little baffling. It appears to be constructed around overheard snatches of conversation, such as 'We had salmon on a bus.' Fair enough.
Again we have the music and vocals reflecting the title in this spiky little classic. The insistence and persistence of the narrator of his jagged state really encapsulates the mindset of a buzzing bore. Excellently offset by the weary backing, 'Can't you see?' You can imagine how this could really irritate non-Fallist types. Well, I don't have to imagine - I've played it to such poor fools before, only to be met with the response, 'That's irritating.' In the live American version, revel in the adlibbing MES going off on one: 'You don't have to be a died hair punk funk shit-hot fucked up tick-tock pad.' Or something. Video: Totally Wired
New Face in Hell
Whenever I'm asked what my favourite Fall song is, I almost always, after some demurring about how impossible it is to choose, come out with this one. I don't know if it's the chilling state sponsored murder story, the matter-of-fact rendering of the narrative, or just the brilliantly simple rolling riff powering it along. It's all of these and more, of course. The ultra high pitched shrieking of the title line and the kazoo are added bonuses. In the Peel version, I also love the squeaky falsetto intro, 'This is off our LP,' and, for some reason, 'They had some good chats,' is a great line.
Jawbone and the Air Rifle
Before it made it on to Hex Induction Hour, this one was featured live and on a Peel session. Hallucinogenic imagery abounds: 'Advertisements become carnivores/
The Container Drivers
Drives along like a bastard this one. Basically it's just a 12 bar blues with extra dynamite up its arse, but I just never want it to stop. Having just listened to 5 versions of it there, I would say the Peel version is probably the best with some phenomenal noises exploding within it. It's nice to see Fiery Jack making a reappearance in the lyrics too. A paean to an honest to goodness working class occupation. Simplicity itself. Energy exemplified. That sort of thing, you know. Best line - 'Communists are just part time workers' - sounds like just the kind of phrase a long distance lorry driver would use.
And now a foray into absurdist literature, as MES warbles on about little gremlins - not quite what you'd expect in the post punk era. Along the way, there are namechecks for playwright Alfred Jarry's most famous creation, Ibu Le Roi, from whence fellow pop absurdists, Pere Ubu, got their name. Catchy little guitar/bass line and almost melodic vocal phrasing at the 'Picadilly, Manchester' bit where resides the most charming imagery of the song - Queen Victoria as a large black slug. Plus, kazoos! Pretentious, eh?
How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'
A song about writing and, in particular, a song about someone writing something called 'Elastic Man' and how irksome it can be to be asked about the creative process. How terribly postmodern. It's all very self-referential, but not at all 'self-satisfied' or 'smug'. Fabulous riff which fairly rumbles along. Should have been a smash hit single really. The singing of 'Plastic Man' instead of 'Elastic Man' is supposed to be a comment on how fans and critics don't pay attention to words. Or, if you're technical, it could be that, because 'Plastic Man' was an actual ironic comic book character, direct reference to it in the title could have copyright issues. Discuss. Or not. And let's not forget it's very funny, too. The pronunciation of 'shoppes' as 'shoppies' cracks me up.
'What's it mean? What's it mean?' There's some fabulous little pieces of prosaic and acidic commentary going on here, like, 'Deep down inside you know everybody wants to like big companies/Bands send tapes to famous apes.' Great British observations too: 'In Britain the scream of electric pumps in a renovated pub...At 10:35 they play "Send in the Clowns" once.' The version from Totale's Turns is a home demo recording and is dramatically fleshed out on the Peel version. The simple little riff and haphazard thumps always threaten to break out into a simple beat but never do. This is a good thing. I love the mocking of pretentious music snob talk, 'Coffee table LPs never breathe.' As the mighty Half Man Half Biscuit once said, Irk The Purists. "It's only music, John." (Peel?)
Cary Grant's Wedding
Interesting choice of Holywood superstar, as Timothy Leary always insisted that the archetypal clean cut Cary was the one who introduced him to LSD. So, yet another fascinating entry to add to your 'obscure drug references in Fall songs' file. The tune itself is an enjoyable hotch-potch of dirge and rockabilly. The London version notably substitutes Mark E Smith for Stiff Little Fingers frontman, Jake Burns, in the lyrics. Also, as the gig was the day after John Lennon's murder, the following snippet is introduced: 'Yoko Ono stumbles out of the ruins/Save your anger for the publishing wolverines/Keep it for the K-Tel marines.' (Non Britischers note: K-Tel were cut-price novelty manufacturers who branched into the lucrative compilation LP market). In other news, 'Buster Keaton wasn't a woman.'
The clichéd chord sequence fools you into thinking this must be a cover version. But it ain't. The tune defiantly sticks in your head all day. Gawd, I even ended up whistling it just now. Sounds to me like a sarcastic jokey swipe at easy to write pop songs. Great fun, though. And today's lyric snatch of the day - 'sticky pants are ostracised.' Plus, it's not everyday Accrington gets a namecheck in pop songs. The Totale's version definitely sounds like a studio recording, rather than live, but who cares? The actual live version from the Chaos tapes sounds almost identical, with extra sermonising about sermonisers.
2nd Dark Age
Fiery Jack B-Side. Curious indeed. I see it as having something to do with the darker medieval mindset of the modern age. We are also introduced to Roman Totale XVII, 'the bastard offspring of Charles I and the Great God Pan,' who appeared on the sleeve credits on Dragnet, saying, "This master-tape is the result of experiments which took place in the remote Welsh hills one autumn...I have not long left now but I urge the finder of this ‘master-tape’ never to unleash it on humanity!” This was a reaction to the reluctance of The Fall's record label to release Dragnet due to its poor sound quality. The obscure Abba reference is fun, too: 'Miss Fjord and Benny.' I do like the T.Rexish Baby Strange riffage and that, but much of the lyrical twistiness leaves me floundering: 'The scooter cabbages' anyone?
The sound of frenzied rockabilly is never far from The Fall's armoury, and here is an excellent example of how they play around with it. The song itself sees MES attempting to 'get back at the ageist thing...the people in the pubs where I go are 48 or 50, but they've more guts than all these other preeners' (from Dave Thompson's Users Guide to The Fall). He's also quoted as saying, 'Fiery Jack is the sort of guy I can see myself as in 20 years.' There's an obvious Johnny Cash 'Ring of Fire' reference at work here too and another one of those 'ahead of its time' lyrical digs at nutrition and free trade.