The Best Of The Fall [1990-95]

During my time becoming an unhealthy obsessive of The Fall over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a distinct ‘turning off’ from followers during the early 90s. This probably owes to the move in sound to (allegedly) accommodate a more Madchester feel, and the fact that The Fall had perhaps become, dare I say it, ‘cool’ – #9 in the album chart isn’t to be snuffed at!

I think it’s also fair to contend that there was a ‘glossier’ production on the likes of Extricate and Middle Class Revolt, which caused an unsurprising departure from the Hex Enduction Enthusiasts.

However, I find myself with no alternative but to say that the years from I Am Kurious Oranj to Levitate are my favourite of The Fall’s innings. Granted, me looking back in total retrospect as opposed to being a follower of the band through their various incarnations removes any context of me ‘being there’, and I will wholeheartedly say that, in terms of objective quality, 1980-85 is much stronger. However there’s something so perverse and abnormal about their evolution throughout the 90s that I find myself utterly entranced to these years.

This is evidenced by my Last.fm, which tells me that my most listened to album of all-time is Code:Selfish (I’ll explain), my second-most Levitate, and my third-most Infotainment Scan. Light User, Shift Work and MCR are eight, ninth and tenth respectively, with Extricate and Cerebral at twelfth and thirteenth.

I should emphasise that these listening rankings are of all the albums by all the artists that I’ve listened to. This is the reality of my musical existence.

Anyway! We are focusing on ’90 to ’95 in this edition, a period which I feel is quite easily overlooked by many, and has some wonderful offerings. I imagine these selections will probably be the most contentious, and this has certainly been the most difficult to whittle down to twelve tracks…

I’m Frank (1990)

A cruiser that maintains a Fall-ness through its insistence on not changing in anyway whatsoever for its duration. One part of the production on Exrtricate I appreciate hugely is the power and emphasis given to Wolstencroft’s percussion, which really helps in establishing an anchoring force throughout the LP, and ‘I’m Frank’ is archetypal of this. Of course, it isn’t the most powerful song going, but for what it’s worth, ‘I’m Frank’ is an excellent groover.

Black Monk Theme Part 1 (1990)

On the topic of powerful songs, how’s this? A bluesy track full to the brim with authority and confidence. Again, there’s no specific destination musically, but it holds such a relentless punch that it’s impossible to resist nodding your head along, at the very least. And, of course, Mark’s ‘don’t you know I hate you’ opening gambit is utterly sublime.

Arms Control Poseur (1990)

How did this not make it onto the album? A number of real, real maturity. Wolstencroft takes charge again, and it’s an oddly understated number. Amongst the jangly discord of the early minutes Mark is extraordinarily restrained in his delivery, and the less forceful pace of the track allows a true appreciation of the soundscape presented to you. And then the chorus. It’s a flourishing wonder, a gentle lift from the (wonderful) disjointedness of the verse. Utterly stunning.

Idiot Joy Showland (1991)

Fast, somewhat chaotic and undeniably combative, ‘Idiot Joy’ sees Mark’s lyrics take a more biting, observational and humorous approach. There’s something refreshing about a track that slags the living daylights out of Madchester and Britpop, even for someone like myself who is a huge fan of the two. Some of the lines are such great put-downs and dismissals, I’ve always welcomed any chance to re-listen to the track. It certainly isn’t the most smoothly arranged, but it showcases its attributes through poetic, rather than musical, force.

Shiftwork (1991)

A really interesting and enticing track. The awkward collision of Scanlon’s gentle chords, Hanley’s more obvious bass and the abrasive keys of Dave Bush work an absolute treat, giving an unsettling darkness to the track. The beat is addictive and determined, while Mark’s ramblings of “I thought shift work would work / but it’s good as broken us apart” are oddly tender and add another dimension to the output of this time, alongside the likes of ‘Rose’ and the wonderful ‘The Mixer’.

Free Range (1992)

I said earlier about Code:Selfish being my most listened to album of all time, and that I would explain this most uncommon of phenomena. Old-time readers of the blog will know that ‘Birmingham School of Business School’ is my favourite track ever, and all Fall fans will know that with every listen of ‘Birmingham’, ‘Free Range’ follows on Code:Selfish in imperious fashion.

Of the 547 plays of Code:Selfish‘s tracks, ‘Birmingham’ and ‘Free Range’ make up 391 of these (188 and 203 respectively). For those who are interested, this equates to 2,068 minutes of just these two songs. It’s not repetition, it’s discipline.

That should be enough to illustrate my love, but I’ll discuss the song a tad. It’s just so rampant, hectic and unforgiving. As mentioned, the way it flies in straight after ‘B’ham’ is immense, and it simply doesn’t let up. Mark dictates proceedings with reverberating, all-encompassing commands, the highlight of his lyricisms being “This is the spring without end / This is the summer of malcontent / This is the winter of your mind“. Glorious.

The Knight, The Devil and Death (1992)

More of an elegant soundscape, this is a true display of the musical and textural depth The Fall could reach. Scanlon takes centre-stage in this – his guitar is triumphantly distorted and messy amongst the calm that surrounds, while his understated chords during the verse are an excellent feature that allow the fruition of the wider instrumentation to truly take hold. This is an absolute belter, and so unlike anything else released in any era of the group.

Paranoia Man In Cheap Shit Room (1993)

A darker and more sinister realisation of the sounds achieved on The Infotainment Scan. The demented rambles of Mark are utterly befitting of the song’s atmosphere, and a particularly apt accompaniment to the fuzzy riff provided by Scanlon. The song develops into a borderline-club vibe with Smith’s “Go down to the dance” segment, with Dave Bush utilising the opportunity to work in some intricate electronic bleep-bloops wherever he sees fit (I really love them, though the tone may not suggest it). A real highlight of the album.

The Reckoning (1994)

My second most listened to track of all time (last stat, I promise). To get to the point, this is one of the more beautiful moments in The Fall’s output. There is genuine anger and tenderness in Mark’s voice and so many wonderful lines scattered throughout, while the accompaniment is gently restrained without losing the urgency that characterises their sound. The best moment comes at around 2:!5, when a fuzzy distortion is introduced to Scanlon’s guitar and lifts the melancholic nature of the track even further. This song doesn’t get the credit it deserves, though I imagine many Fall fans are less partial to soppier sounds than other musos out there.

M5 #1 (1994)

A cacophonous throwing together of electronics and post-punk that results in something so independent and unique. In many ways it calls back to the jarring sounds of early 80s Fall – the electronic sounds are discordantly invasive and exuberant, while the repetitive nature of the track adds another layer of (good) inaccessibility.

Rainmaster (1995)

This track excels in its underproduced sparsity. Every aspect of the instrumentation seems so distant, but this allows a real hearing of each part. One side of the room holds the underpinning riff, while the other holds the jagged, muted chords. In one corner is Wolstencroft slamming the drums, and in the other is Mark, who seems not particularly bothered about his lack of lyrics to accommodate the track. Hanley seems to join them all about a minute or so late, but this subtle development and introduction of his sharp bassline is such an excellent feature of ‘Rainmaster’. This is a gem on an album which is easily dismissed by many.

Life Just Bounces (1995)

This song is the personification of exuberance. It’s got so much more going for it than it’s more stagnant original release. The lyrics are sung passionately and shamelessly, the pace is immense, and there is a genuine happiness exuding from this number. I nearly went for ‘wholesome’ in describing this, but perhaps that’s a slight stretch considering who we’re talking about here. Still, this is an absolute favourite and another track that is tarnished by its featuring on an album as marginalised as Cerebral Caustic.

Notable Omissions

There are so many in this edition. So, so many.

Extricate: Sing! Harpy, Bill is Dead, Telephone Thing, Hilary, Chicago Now, Littlest Rebel, And Therein…

Shift Work: So What About It?, Edinburgh Man, Book of Lies, War Against Intelligence, You Haven’t Found It Yet, The Mixer, Rose.

Code: Selfish: Return, Time Enough At Last, Everything Hurtz, Just Waiting.

Infotainment Scan: Ladybird, Lost In Music, Glam Racket, I’m Going To Spain, It’s A Curse, Service, Past Gone Mad.

Middle Class Revolt: Behind The Counter, Surmount All Obstacles, Middle Class Revolt, You’re Not Up To Much, Hey! Student, City Dweller.

Cerebral Caustic: The Joke, Don’t Call Me Darling, Pearl City, I’m Not Satisfied, The Aphid, One Day, North West Fashion Show.

The 27 Points: Return, Bill Is Dead (narrowly missed out on the 12),

Non-album: White Lightning, Blood Outta Stone, Don’t Take The Pizza, Arid Al’s Dream, Kimble (narrowly missed out on the 12), Noel’s Chemical Effluence, Why Are People Grudgeful?

It’s Monday Playlist [19/10/20]

Five songs to start the week! Follow the Spotify playlist here.

Mirrors – Rejjie Snow / Snoh Aalegra / Cam O’bi (2020)

A beautifully constructed track, ‘Mirrors’ intricately traverses realms of jazz and R&B to create a softly discordant atmosphere reminiscent of the complex rhythms of Thundercat. The vocals are soft recollections that are vitally understated, allowing the meticulous backing to gently flourish without overpowering the poetics. This is a song of enticing sparsity that displays an undeniable aptitude in arrangement and form.

Comet Face – King Krule (2020)

While King Krule’s output often relies on an individualistic approach to genre-mashing, ‘Comet Face’ comes straight out of the post-punk playbook. The bassline is dark and lurks behind the oppressive pace of the track, with unsettlingly ambiguous lyrics complimenting the unnerving nature of the soundscape (“Boy in the ground with his pants down / What happened to him in his past life?“). ‘Comet Face’ is a haunting number that doesn’t let its sinister intensity escape to become anything more digestible or smooth, and rightly so.

Frail – Crystal Castles (2015)

Leading with a deceptively ethereal opening, ‘Frail’ grows into a rambunctious club stomper with blissful spirit. This is arguably a somewhat simple track, with a heavy beat overseeing a backdrop of fuzzy, distorted synths. Though, it would be unfair to ignore its gloriously celestial being. It moves from dreamy interludes to divine and elegant fervor seamlessly, generously offering euphoria and emotion in equal quantities.

Don’t Breathe Out – Roots Manuva (2015)

Giving in both divinity and optimism, ‘Don’t Breathe Out’ is a gorgeous composition that explores spritiualism and self-reflection. Musically, the track grows subtly in emphasis while remaining beautifully restrained as Manuva inquires his own existential motivations (“Me and my God lead a pureness love / Known to be about what pureness does“). This is a sumptuously mellow and uplifting number, showcasing the lyrical and musical maturity of Manuva in graceful assuredness.

He War – Cat Power (2003)

A three minute hit of urgency, power and utter quality. Power’s vocals hold a jagged edge in their authoritative resonance while also being able to transform the exquisite gentleness from her more reserved work, a shift in tone readily deployed when necessary. Simply, ‘He War’ is an excellent song that thrives in its minimalism and confidence.

‘It’s Monday’ Playlist [12/10/20]

Five songs to start the week! Follow the Spotify playlist here for five new songs every Monday.

Upbeat Ritual – Thee Oh Sees/Osees (2020)

Anchored by a stunning groove, ‘Upbeat Ritual’ sees an expertly executed fusion of jazzy percussion with urgent alternative rock. There’s certainly a generous offering from it’s two-minute stint – ghostly, occultist lyrics (‘Conjuring a haunt with faceless science he has hidden in his spells‘), an understated yet commanding main hook, and a deranged electronic squeal complimenting every line. ‘Upbeat Ritual’ is a track that maintains an enticing urgency while holding an undeniable coolness in its stride.

24-7 – Nubiyan Twist & Ego Ella May (2020)

One of the easiest, most welcoming tracks of the year. ’24-7′ sees vocalist Ego Ella May’s mellow tones join the delicious support of jazz nine-piece (a ‘nonet’, for the experts) Nubiyan Twist. Understandably, this may be an over-indulgent track for some not especially partial to wild saxophone solos, though the hushed intricacies in every layer of the track make it difficult to refuse its flourishing nature.

Deep Red Bells – Neko Case (2002)

Despite its dark lyrical theme, ‘Deep Red Bells’ is a strutting number of elegant extravagance, gorgeous cultivating Americana, country and folk to realise a sublime and fearless outcome. Case’s vocals accommodate all emotions experienced throughout, effortlessly swinging from soft swoons to a more authoritative, all-encompassing intonation characterised by a unique initiative and intensity. Despite holding two distinct sections, the track avoids all feelings of disjointedness or ill-consideration and instead demonstrates a care-free aptitude and ease.

Pulsewidth – Aphex Twin (1992)

A tune as elusive in definitive mood as it is constructively sophisticated, ‘Pulsewidth’ oozes an aura of subtle danceability while sustaining a more melancholic undertone throughout. It is a somewhat arduous effort to categorise this track, not in terms of genre or style but more in terms of its general mood and personality. Arguably stemming from its lyrical absence and contrasting tones of club and consideration, ‘Pulsewidth’ is able to shake off generic labels and identify itself with an illusory and deceptive spirit.

Garden Song – Phoebe Bridgers (2020)

Showcasing a nostalgia of endearing pacifism, ‘Garden Song’ is a gently picked number that enforces itself with its enigmatic passivity and absorbing stillness. All resonance is hushed, with the track relying on its natural purity to guide the listener in its drifting dormancy. There’s something to be said in the assuredness of the track – it’s unashamedly soft and lingers in inertia without a trace of doubt or guilt, culminating in a wondrously understated transcendence.

The Best Of The Fall [1984-89]

It’s Brix era proper, and probably the most difficult period to pick out only twelve songs from. As mentioned in the previous Best Of article, there are omissions of songs due to both the process of selecting songs and the fact that I have written about tracks in the past.

However, the five years covered here have been on the end of my inconsequential ramblings more extensively than any other period of The Fall. I have fully reviewed The Wonderful and Frightening World in my first stint of the blog, as well as the Michael Clark/Fall appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test and the 7″ ‘Jerusalem’ single.

So, before any accusations of me missing out ‘Lay of the Land’, ‘Slang King’, ‘Disney’s Dream Debased’ etc., I am fully aware of their wonderful-ness and their absence. All notable omissions (songs that I enjoy but don’t make the twelve) will be detailed at the end of the article.

A final note – it was brought to my attention by Steve from The Fall in Fives that I’d reviewed eleven tracks in the 1978-83 piece despite promising twelve. Let it be known I have counted this article’s selection about a million times to ensure journalistic integrity and skill, as well as counting capability.

c.r.e.e.p.

Certainly a contentious inclusion for most Fall fans, I imagine, though I’ve always enjoyed it hugely. I’d definitely heard it somewhere before my first proper listen as I found myself semi-humming along to it, but I think there’s a lot to love in this. Brix’s ‘kick you around like homogenised milk’ opening monologue, the delicate texturing and layering of the track, and Mark E’s more understated and considered execution of poetics. Of course, it’s a soft track by Fall standards and has never really seen the acclaim its contemporaries receive, but it’s never tired on me.

Clear Off!

Now, I promise the usually less memorable singles and B-sides are not being included due to a lack of availability from TWAFW, but because of my adoration for them. ‘Clear Off!’ is another gentle track, a demented yet endearing waltz complimented further by Gavin Friday’s strained and mournful ad-libs. Lines like ‘Goes over the hill / Goes killer civil servant’ maintain a lyrical Fall-ness which shows their enduring ability to be introspective without compromising any idiosyncrasy.

Pat-trip Dispenser

A different kettle of fish compared to its predecessors, yet a resounding success for the same reasons. What may seem like a thrown up mess of scraggly guitars, authoritative percussion and general disorganisation actually revels in its assured completeness. There isn’t a single addition of random sound (be it spoken or played) that is wasted – it’s an overawing Goliath of a track that beats you up and then kicks you while you’re down for good measure.

Bombast

It came to my realisation before writing this article that I’d never written about This Nation’s Saving Grace in any capacity whatsoever. Not even a mention of any track from it. Almost sinful, isn’t it?

So, here we go. ‘Bombast’. The coolest Fall song ever, I’d argue. Stupefying bassline, all-out power, but enough about it to know not to overbear the listening experience. It’s a cruiser with everything a Fall fan would want from a track. Even cooler (and cruisier, if you will…) is their rendition on The Tube – they look utterly fantastic, and sound even better.

Barmy

Despite my waxing lyrical, ‘Bombast’ – somehow – passed me by in my early listenings of TNSG. What really grabbed me was ‘Barmy’. I don’t think I took ‘Barmy’ very seriously at first, another one of those Fall tracks that stick with you for their witticism rather than their musicality. Though, inevitably, the musicality takes centre stage. The track owes a lot to its unrelenting nature, with its slow building texture shining a light on the maturity of the development and production of the track. Another side of its appeal is its refusal to actually finish. Every time it slows, it jumps back into life with something new to entice you further in, be it clinking high-pitched piano or a sinister and prolonged hit on the keyboard. Wonderful.

My New House

A deceptively swaggering track. Nothing changes for its duration, yet its appeal is infinite. The beat is insistent, with the contrast between Scanlan and Smith’s guitars providing a brooding, dark and subtly disorderly undertone. Meanwhile, Mark E’s frequently squealed ‘Seeeeeeeeee’ also adds an extra bit of sardonic urgency to proceedings. A mildly chaotic affair, yet it never fails to impress.

Paintwork (obviously)

A dreamy and hazy masterpiece that offers so much to love. It’s rare to come across a song in the discography that is as beautiful as it is plentiful in Fall uniqueness. It’s also difficult to pin down this track to any earthly label; for me, it sits in neither camp of happy or sad, forceful or soft, insistent or disinterested. It floats elegantly, and you nod along to its intricacy and embrace. That’s the best I can do in describing the listening experience of it. And, naturally, you always adore it.

Gross Chapel – British Grenadiers

An intensely oppressive track, ‘Gross Chapel’ is another track that really passed me by in early listenings of Bend Sinister. Hanley’s gently distorted bass takes rule with unforgiving authority, guiding the track through every avenue of sinister destruction. Mark E jumps from a yowling, fuzzed background feature to a calm overseer of proceedings in the latter stages of the track, all amongst the combative ferocity percussive slams from Wolstencroft.

U.S. 80’s – 90’s

One of my first ever ‘favourite’ Fall songs. I loved the line ‘It’s time for me to get off this crapper’ (which, because I’m a weirdo/obsessive, I sometimes use in my general jargon) and the insistent pace of backing during the verse. I think Bend Sinister could’ve been so much more had, well, Mark not been such a disruption during recording, and ‘U.S.’ personifies this feeling of ‘what could’ve been’ hugely, for me.

Terry Waite Sez

Easy post-punk listening. I will whole-heartedly concede that it’s not a standout of their discography at all, but there’s something irresistibly punk about it for me. It shares a similar vibe to ‘L.A.’ – it’s pacey, brash, and utterly uncaring. Plus, Brix’s shout midway through is a thoroughly excellent addition.

Bremen Nacht Alternative

There was difficulty in choosing between this and ‘Athlete Cured’ as The Frenz Experiment is, ultimately, quite a drab and underwhelming affair with little offering. ‘Bremen’ was chosen mainly because it’s nine minutes long, it never slows, and has something so odd yet enticing running through it. This is a quintessential showcasing of The Fall making everything out of very, very little, with the only notable development being a gloriously unstable and distorted guitar riff across the sixth and seventh minutes. I could listen to this for days were I more willing to obliterate my eardrums.

Dog Is Life/Jerusalem

I’ve written about this track before for my old ‘For The Record’ series of articles. I own the 7″ single of Jerusalem, which is much shorter, much less bass-y, and more lyrically thrown together (re the ‘fault of the Government’ section). I never felt I did the version I actually like justice. So why not write about it again?

This is The Fall. In every way, shape and form. A poem about Mark hating dogs and dog owners, unrelenting pace, a quirky, sardonic take on ‘Britishness’, a storming Hanley bassline, and utterly, utterly perfect lyrics. The best part of 9 minutes with no change in tone, velocity or intent. I think that without the left field, counter-cultural turn taken with I Am Kurious Oranj, the late 80s would have been a serious blemish on the band’s record. Yet, tracks like this undeniably prove their unstoppable effortlessness in constructing tracks of total industry and depth.

Notable Omissions

On completing the twelve I realised that I have utterly neglected I Am Kurious Oranj. However, I should probably state here that, while it doesn’t hold the best individual songs across the five years, the album as a whole is absolutely exceptional. Thus, the whole album is a notable omission 🙂

TWAFW: Lay of The Land, 2 x 4, Copped It, Elves, Stephen Song, Slang King, Disney’s Dream.

TNSG: What You Need, L.A., Spoilt Victorian Child, I Am Damo Suzuki

Bend Sinister: R.O.D, Dktr Faustus, Mr Pharmacist, Living Too Late

Frenz Exp.: Frenz, Athlete Cured, Guest Informant

Kurious: All of it.

Seminal Live: Squid Law

Non-Album: Vixen, Petty (Thief) Lout, Cruiser’s Creek, Entitled (closest to making it into the 12 of all individual songs listed), Hit The North,

‘It’s Monday’ Playlist (05/10/20)

Five more songs to absorb! Follow the Spotify playlist here for a weekly update of tunes direct to your account.

Sad Cowboy – Goat Girl (2020)

A real statement of intent from the South London quartet. Clottie Cream’s vocals descend in graceful haziness over a rough rock sound effortlessly integrated with an undercurrent of dreamy synth reminiscent of post-Currents Tame Impala. Leading the charge towards the release of their second studio album On All Fours in January, ‘Sad Cowboy’ showcases a huge progression in maturity and musicality in Goat Girl’s repertoire that strides beyond the three-minute-hit spirit of their eponymous debut without compromising their punk credentials.

Jumbo – Underworld (1999)

Combining dancefloor urgency and psychedelic romanticism, ‘Jumbo’ is an emotional yet understated number that seamlessly drifts between otherworldly abstraction and earthly existentialism. The listener is taken on a surreal journey starting with a conversation between two southern Americans about ‘“A little sale on a vest at Walmart”‘, before eventually finding a conclusion with a final reappearance of the anchoring beat drowned in swirling, elusively beautiful harmonies. While ‘Jumbo’ may not share the powerfully direct aura of some of its club-night contemporaries, it stands alone in its atmospheric offering.

Repetition – David Bowie (1978)

Bleak realism haunts every corner of ‘Repetition’, which details the oppressive domesticity of a psychologically abusive relationship with vacant sentimentalism. Underpinning the desolate being of the track is Bowie’s deadpan vocal delivery simutaenously supported by a persistently wobbly two-note bassline, providing a stark representation of the often unspoken and ignored consequences of reluctant romantic entanglements.

Sex Drive – Tricky (1996)

A track of glorious destruction and distortion, ‘Sex Drive’ is a reckless culmination of punk, industrial dance and dark electronica executed for maximum disorder. Harnessing the track with determined dedication lies a rampantly urgent bassline in wonderful disharmony with a combative snare-led groove. Tricky’s nearly whispered delivery also opens up another layer of textural intrigue and interest, culminating in a shamelessly ramshackle composition.

Whole New Mess – Angel Olsen (2020)

Hushed melancholia takes centre-stage in the gentleness of ‘Whole New Mess’. Though not a track of any particular power or imposition, its drifting and directionless nature is what personifies and promotes the track. Without enforcing itself onto the listener it is able to uphold its vitality and attraction through its irresistible calm and grace, never fading into the backdrop. Though a straightforward creation in arrangement and formula, Olsen has cultivated an independence in sound through a unique softness and tranquility rarely showcased elsewhere.

‘It’s Monday’ Playlist [28/09/20]

Follow the It’s Monday playlist on Spotify here for five new tracks every week!

Changeling – DJ Shadow (1996)

Calling back to and combining early 90s sounds of The Orb and Portishead, DJ Shadow’s 1996 album ‘Endtroducing…..’ is personified by an eccentric introversion that is rarely accessed as ably and powerfully by other artists of the time.

‘Changeling’ is a track of unease and simmering tension that, while tapping into darker tones, maintains an addictive character thanks to it’s looseness in arrangement and sparsity in sound. It offers hypnotic captivation and ethereal liberation in equal quantities, with each second of its seven-minute stint as vital as the next.

Island Song – U.S. Girls (2011)

While known for more danceable compositions in recent times, Meg Remy’s solo project U.S. Girls displayed effortless capability in creating more unnervingly harmonious tracks a decade ago.

‘Island Song’ is a child of Berlin-era Bowie, transporting the arresting sounds of ‘Warszawa’ to the 21st Century. The subtle fusion of melodic vocals and understated percussion rejuvenates such soundscapes without comprimising the influence of her artistic forefathers.

Y/o Dragon – Cross Record (2019)

Led by an imposing and all-powerful percussive stomp, ‘Y/o Dragon’ is a track of defiance and fragility. Vocalist Emily Cross’ presence is delicately poised throughout; at first the reluctant spearhead, she becomes the elusive overseer of her territory who floats elegantly across the beautifully destructive disarray left in her trail.

The lyrics also provide an additionally resistant dimension (“Watch me drag in / The space to move ahead / And climb a mountain / Keep climbing ’til I’m dead“), evidencing further the emotional tension and brutal realism the track so effortlessly brings.

Offence – Little Simz (2019)

An imperious and swaggering number, ‘Offence’ blends influences of Zamrock, jazz and East Coast rap to devastating effect. It grooves without being pastiche, asserts itself without overpowering, and attacks without losing composure. Every aspect of this song has been intricately and carefully constructed to optimal power and delicacy – a truly brilliant track.

Pendulum – Broadcast (2003)

In ‘Pendulum’, Broadcast demostrate their ability to mould throwback sounds to more jagged and disorderly ends. Departing from their usually more ethereal and dreamy sound, they deliver a punchy, synth-laden post-punk stunner while maintaining their unmistakable distinctiveness.

While Trish Keenan’s vocals standout for their chilling restraint, the unrelenting percussion is the real leader in ‘Pendulum’. Distorted and compressed to the max, they sustain an attitude of meticulous ferocity throughout.

The Best of The Fall [1978-83]

The return of the blog has led to the inevitable return of me writing about The Fall in more extensive devotion and detail than any other artist could dream of. Of course, The Fall in Fives/YMGTA blogs have somewhat rendered attempting to write about The Fall in any comprehension a task now obsolete, but still! I have the excuse of being the youngest Fall fan I know by a couple of decades, so there’s my USP :-).

This series is simply going to be a list of my favourite songs for every five years of The Fall. There will be some omissions as I’ve written plenty in the past about particular songs, but luckily the discography is so huge there’s another (approximately) 480 songs for me to choose from.

Early-age Fall is extremely hit-and-miss for me, particularly the first two records. Witch Trials and Dragnet, while holding some standout tracks, are a couple of the more forgettable releases of the repertoire and I don’t find myself going back to listen to them at all. This re-visit may spark a renewed interest, but I think this is an unlikely occurrence.

More likely is a warm re-welcoming of Grotesque and Hex, the first two Fall albums I listened to around three years ago, and I have neglected for quite a while. Other than the obligatory introduction to The Fall via ‘Mr Pharmacist’ or ‘Totally Wired’, ‘Pay Your Rates’ was my real entry into the Fall-o-sphere, opening a new realm of post-punk wonder to me.

For my previous Fall related ramblings, you can find all I’ve written via the Artist Index, and you can also follow my ‘Fall for The Fall’ playlist on Spotify here. 181 songs, chronologically arranged, and all wonderful. Eagle-eyed readeras will see that seven of the eight tracks on Perverted By Language make it onto the playlist, making this whittling down of tracks an even more difficult task for this post.

The songs listed are not exhaustive, but having had a relisten of the albums and related singles, these are the tunes that have always stood out to me. Notable omissions can be found at the end of the post.

Psycho Mafia

Is Mark actually saying any words? It’s hard to tell. But the force behind each shouted drawl is brilliantly urgent above the simple riff. Even better is the production of the vocals themselves, the echo encapsulating the song providing an extra hit of demented-ness. Minimal effort is given to the backing of the song – simply a recipe of grab a catchy hook and stick with it – and ‘Pyscho Mafia’ executes the formula wonderfully. The ‘outro’ (high pitched guitar strums lasting around 10 seconds) is a little bit lacking in extravagance of any sort, but I’m sure that’s the point. An excellent two-minute punk hit.

Rebellious Jukebox

This is, for me, probably the most ‘complete’ song on Witch Trials. I think Witch Trials suffers from two main flaws – firstly, the overdoing of the drums, and secondly, Mark trying a little to hard to stamp his authority on the ‘-ah’ sound ending on every word. ‘Jukebox’ seems to avoid these shortcomings, and Mark’s tone seems more emotional and more fitting than others on the album (I know this might not go down well with some of LATWT’s more ardent fans; I can only apologise). The result is a song that offers a sort of darkness that doesn’t overbear the listener while also maintaining a solid pace and bounce.

Psykick Dancehall

A brilliant track all round. There’s a greater assuredness compared to Witch Trials on Dragnet, and ‘Psykick’ is a central exhibit of this. Smith sounds more confident and a lot less gimmicky with his vocal tone, while the developments of song are more thought-through and inventive.

Printhead

One comment to make about Dragnet is that the quality of recording is, at times, extremely shoddy. While The Fall are grafted and heralded for their artistic carelessness and wilingness to leave rough edges rough, I feel that the songs do suffer. ‘Printhead’ is an excellent track – fast, powerful and pacey punk. This was a track that really, really grabbed me in my early listenings. It didn’t try too hard to be something, it was just genuine and shameless. I just wish the recording and production was less muffly and the sound of each instrument was a little more pronounced. Still though, an absolute stormer.

English Scheme

Better quality recording, better quality lyrics, better quality Fall. ‘English Scheme’ was the first Fall song I loved for it’s ‘Fall-ness’. I loved the line “The clever ones tend to emigrate / Like your psychotic big brother who left home“, the cheap sounding keyboard that Marc Riley insisted on being included, and the new speak-sing tone of Smith. In all honesty, I just thought it was a really funny song. Yet it’s still got enough urgency to it to nod your head along to, and is a truly memorable track.

The Container Drivers

A bouncing rockabilly beauty. The start of it is abrupt, swiftly following on from the more conservatively paced ‘C ‘n’ C-S Mithering’ (also a great track) without any prior warning with a machine-gun drum roll before entering into a rough 12-bar-blues number. It’s simple but effective, and holds enough idiosyncracy to detach itself from any inkling of being a standard blues track.

Prole Art Threat

Talking about machine gun drum rolls, have this one for two minutes straight. It shouldn’t work as a track, it should be utterly unlistenable (well, The Fall are to most), but this is such a powerful track. The descent into the main section midway into the song which sees all instrumental sections join fully is a triumphant moment of early Fall. I wish it went on for a tad longer, but that is not to take away from the sheer authroity of this track at all. A stupendous composition.

Jawbone and The Air-Rifle

I had a huge phase in my early Fall ventures of just listening to ‘The Classical’ and ‘Jawbone’ over and over and over, leaving the rest of Hex utterly neglected. The speed of this song is relentless, yet I find the more restrained singing from Smith and co. an excellent contradiction in sound between themselves and the instrumentation. Furthering my appreciation for this song was that, when playing this around 3 years ago, my Mum informed me that she, though not a Fall fan to any degree, loved this song and remembered my uncle listening to it a lot growing up. I had every excuse to play it however many times I liked after that. Play it I did, and play it I still do.

Hip Priest

As if my Mum wasn’t cool enough, upon hearing this track around the same period as ‘Jawbone’ she told me about ‘Hip Priest’ featuring in The Silence of the Lambs, and also regarded this as one of her favourite Fall tracks growing up. It took me a long time to appreicate this track – I think I found it discomforting and a little dreary. Like any Fall track you have an issue with, however, you realise that the inaccessibility is the reason why you’re listening in the first place and the reason why you’ll inevitably fall in love with the track, no matter how long it takes.

It’s a creeping, lurking number, invading the space with a sinister disregard for any innocence. When you think it’s going to get you with a ‘Hip, hip, hip, hip’ it quickly hides again. Once it does get going, however, it’s inescapably brilliant. The guitars are gloriously ramshackle, and Hanley’s bass dances freely in the chaos. A quintessential number.

Neighbourhood of Infinity

An all-time favourite of mine, ‘Neighbourhood’ is made by the two-drummer line up, utilised with devastating effect for the duration of the track. On top of this lies Smith’s emotionless rambling, which moves in and out of the backing seamlessly. My one and only criticism of this song is that it doesn’t go on long enough at all, even with ‘Eat Y’self’ and ‘Garden’ on either side of the track listing.

I Feel Voxish

For me, this song is the most clear evidence of The Fall as a crusing, confident and careless band. Perverted By Language seems like a crystallisation of five years’ work in the studio to achieve the ‘Fall Sound’ (if you will) before Brix’s steering to new domains, and ‘I Feel Voxish’ is the centrepiece. The guitar riff is weird and ill-fitting for normal ears, but the way it works itself into place alongside the grooving bassline is magnificent, while the insistence of the drum track to not change *a bit* adds to the aforementioned carelessness of ’83 Fall. Solid.

Notable Omissions

This section will exist on every article of this series. Obviously, a selection of 12 songs over five years will not cater to everyone’s needs (including my own), but having written about many before and also liking too many to be able to mention properly, this section is the natural compromise.

Witch Trials: Frightened, Industrial Estate, Two Steps Back, Music Scene.

Dragnet: Your Heart Out, Spectre vs Rector

Grotesque: Pay Your Rates, New Face In Hell, C ‘n’ C-S, In The Park, NWRA.

Slates: Middle Mass, Fit and Working Again, Leave The Capitol.

Hex: Every other track.

Perverted By Language: Every other track. Best Fall album.

Non-album: Bingo Master, Repetition, Rowche Rumble, Fiery Jack, Elastic Man, Totally Wired, Fantastic Life, Wings, Ludd Gang, Kicker Conspiracy.

The It’s Monday Playlist [21/09/20]

The weekly It’s Monday playlist on Spotify can be accessed here. Follow it for 5 new tracks to start your week!

Good Fortune – PJ Harvey (2000)

Putting romance and post-punk in militant embrace with each other, ‘Good Fortune’ leads a line of cruising confidence. Chronicling Harvey’s amorous escapades across New York, it offers both a tender narrative and punk brashness in equal proportion.

Though, in isolation, the lyrics seem more at home in a sickly-sweet ballad (“I paint pictures / To remember / You’re too beautiful / To put into words”) Harvey is able to expertly mould them to fit her styling. The force put behind each iteration exudes the passion felt for both the song and her past infatuations, leaving behind a song of joyful reminiscence and infallible presence.

Man Out Of Time – Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1982)

Lust, despair and scandal headline in a powerful decrying of decadence and moral impunity. The lyrics are biting, (“He’s got a mind like a sewer and heart like a fridge / He stands to be insulted and he pays for the privilege”) and the air of grandeur of the story’s characters is juxtaposed effortlessly by the echoey nature of Costello’s croons, sounding as if he were recorded in a smoky late-night bar.

Man Out Of Time’ is a track of artistic maturity and astute observation, highlighting Costello’s skill in arrangement and pertinent lyricism.

pink diamond – Charli XCX (2020)

A antagonistic anthem for the lockdown age, ‘pink diamond’ laments the state of enforced inertia placed on the socialising masses in shameless brutality. Though the backing owes itself somewhat to the unforgiving percussion led sounds of the likes of Crystal Castles and Death Grips, XCX’s teenage tone opens an arrogant and urgent dimension for the song (“Lip gloss on and I’m lookin’ like a star / Got a tiny bag but I got a big heart”).

Certainly, ‘pink diamond’ may not cater to all experiences of isolation – or all musical tastes – but its powerfully sinister sparsity is undeniably invasive.

Enjoy – Björk (1995)

Despite being known more for exuberant quirkiness, ‘Enjoy’ showcases a darker and more unsettling side to Björk’s repertoire. The soundscape is disconcertingly gloomy, Björk’s usually innocent resonance is now a depressing echo, and her words speak of dysfunction and romantic complication (“I wish I only love you / I wish simplicity”).

The enduring appeal of ‘Enjoy’ comes from the masterfully crafted and textured electronica that fronts the act. Though not as destructive as ‘Army of Me’, the instrumentation of ‘Enjoy’ still holds a subtle authority throughout.

Surmount All Obstacles – The Fall (1994)

Littered with Mark E Smith’s ever-distinctive poetics (“His face is full of ex-ex-ex-ex-cruelty”) with added dives into experimentation of aural distortion and manipulation, ‘Surmount All Obstacles’ provides a curiously engrossing listening experience

Anchored by an infectious four note bassline, ‘Surmount’ exhibits one of The Fall’s more successful rock-dance crossovers within their 90s output. It’s a frantic number that doesn’t let up in its energetic delivery or tight production, and still maintains their consistent independence in sound.

The ‘It’s Monday’ Playlist [14/09/20]

As part of the promised diversification of content in my previous post, these weekly articles will document the songs and artists I’ve been listening to during my time away from the blog.

Despite a meticulous brainstorming session with my housemate as to what to call this series, I’ve taken the executive decision to disregard her suggestions (much better than mine) to name this series ‘It’s Monday’. Clever? Not really. Considered? Nope. But, a reference to David Bowie’s 1977 stormer ‘Joe The Lion’? Absolutely, so it will stay.

Published at the start of every week, these posts will provide five songs to discover (or re-discover) and indulge in. For those who’d like this on Spotify, a playlist is available to follow at the bottom.

Mad Tom of Bedlam – Jolie Holland

A free, bouncing percussion-led composition, ‘Mad Tom of Bedlam’ offers a unique exploration into aural sparsity and vulnerability. While Holland’s vocals provide little in straight and narrow-ness, they offer a simultaneously elegant and punchy follower to the captivating accompaniment.

Successfully executed experiments of this sort are difficult to find, yet Holland strikes an excellent balance of power between herself and the liberalism of her drumming accompaniment. Cultivating a sound not dissimilar to Fiona Apple’s 2020 LP Fetch The Bolt Cutters, ‘Mad Tom’ is a wonderful offering from an artist much more accustomed to somber and heartfelt blues than buoyant idiosyncrasy.

Just Like Arcadia – Psychic TV (1988)

Accessibility isn’t a term often thrown at Psychic TV, or their original incarnation Throbbing Gristle. Specialising in the creepy and unsettling, their songs can range from beautifully constructed structures of divinity to a child singing over a Casio keyboard for two minutes (not as successful a combination as Jolie Holland and her percussive friend).

Still, there are morsels of forgiveness across their discography, and ‘Just Like Arcadia’ is one of these. A peculiarly danceable ear worm directed by a catchy hand-clap and three note bass line, it’s hard to resist the impulse to tap or nod your head along. Genesis P-Orridge’s deadpan, single-toned expressionism offers an oddly fitting contradiction to the softness of the lyrics (“If you could understand / You would take my hand / and I would spread so far / Just like Arcadia”).

In ‘Just Like Arcadia’, Psychic TV demonstrate their ability in crafting easy, uplifting tunes alongside their more challenging output.

Alpha Venom – Sophie Hunger (2020)

Released only a couple of weeks ago, Sophie Hunger’s triumphantly defiant ‘Alpha Venom’ is a brilliantly powerful three minute hit of synth delirium. It’s an unrelenting powerhouse which seamlessly emancipates itself from fierce anger into rebellious delicacy from verse to chorus.

She stands her ground against a fierce adversary as she reminds them “Don’t forget who makes the music”, later becoming “I’m the one who makes the music” in the final throws of the song. Whatever war Hunger may be fighting, ‘Alpha Venom’ is the omnipotent weapon of choice. It devastates in its shameless confidence, and is never easily forgotten.

Wrong – Everything But The Girl (1996)

While Everything But The Girl (EBTG) were somewhat late in announcing themselves to the 90s club scene, they were certainly efficient in making up for lost time. ‘Wrong’, the lead single from their tenth album Walking Wounded, is essentially a simple track – dominant percussion ahead of a stylish riff, spearheaded expertly by the gentle vocals of lead singer Tracey Thorn.

However, ‘Wrong’ is a masterful coalescence of the lyrical themes of EBTG’s earlier releases and the infectious sounds of the club scene, without compromising either component. This track is a mover but is still an emotional tale, owing to its main lyrical hook, ‘Wherever you go I will follow you / Cos I was wrong’. This gives the song a vital, tragic romanticism, leading to a composition able to not only stand alone from the others, but also be utterly addictive.

The Belldog – Eno Moebius Roedelius (1978)

A swirling, directionless masterpiece, ‘The Belldog’ is an essential Brian Eno composition. Crafted alongside the duo Cluster, it holds a reminiscence to Eno’s earlier work ‘Another Green World’ in its lack of specific destination. Descending pianos amongst a fuzzy synthesiser riff create a soundscape of dreamy haziness, you could almost float in its magnificence.

Eno beautifully serenades his creation, setting the scene in industrial bleakness (‘Most of the day / We were at the machinery / In the dark sheds / That the seasons ignored’) before escaping into an irresistible back-drop of night (‘And the light disappears / As the world makes its circle through the sky’). The song is stunningly awe-inspiring, sounding decades ahead of 2020, let alone of 1978.

Oh! Blogger! – A (Re-)Introduction

For those new (and old) to the blog, I thought I’d give a brief summary of the blog, why I’ve returned to it, and what can be expected…

Triggered by an appetite to write, boredom and nerdiness, I started the blog in October 2018 with a mournful piece about The Fall that I’d written for a university magazine months earlier. The blog was active for about six months before my interest began to wane. University demands had started to grow and I was on the cusp of starting a full-time placement year, meaning an entry in to the tediously draining working world of the London Nine-to-Five.

I returned to writing in January for my blog 2019 Unwrapped, a response to my abject failure to seek out new music last year. While this afforded me new listening experiences, the posts were simply not being read, and motivation quickly dissipated for this too. I will concede, however, that it was extremely optimistic to expect readers of my previous punk-based blog to want to read a piece about Lana Del Rey or Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, for example.

And so, while discussing sharing writing online with my friend, I learnt that my posts on this blog from twenty months ago were still gaining more reads than anything I’d published on 2019 Unwrapped this year. A couple are on the brink of 200 reads this year, which, for a totally inactive blog, I felt was enough to justify the resurrection of Oh! Blogger!.

This blog had a particular focus on punk and post-punk which mainly centred around an unhealthy obsession for The Fall, the greatest band to ever exist. While I think future posts will continue more-or-less down this path, I am keen to diversify my output. I’ve ventured into previously unexplored listening territory over the last year, finding an affinity with the euphoric Underworld, the beauty of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock, and the growing wave of imperious female vocalists, led by Nadine Shah, Fiona Apple and Angel Olsen.

In a bid to properly start diversifying future articles, I’ll be posting a run-down of some of the music that has stuck with me over the period of inactivity. How it will be structured, ordered, executed (etc) I have no clue, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

For now, have a browse through the Artist Index page and check out some of my old articles. Activity is always appreciated hugely by myself, and I’m eager and excited to go down a new avenue with the blog!