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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,