Five songs to start the week! Follow the ‘It’s Monday Forever’ playlist here for all the tracks that have featured in the series so far, and updated with five new songs every week.
Summertime (The Gershwin Version) – Lana Del Rey (2020)
As covers go, not many can beat this. A rendition of George Gershwin’s 1935 original, there’s a turning up of class, smoothness and splendour, unsurprisingly led by the powerfully liberated vocals of Del Rey. She drifts between sweeping seduction and delicate dynamism seamlessly, letting herself loose of all inhibition gloriously while backed by a slowly flourishing backing that radiates with sumptuous romanticism.
Strange Dream – WITCH (1975)
One of the mot highly-regarded tracks of the Zamrock movement, ‘Strange Dream’ is a song that cruises elegantly through themes of romantic regret and desire. Though it isn’t exactly a number that rips apart the instrumental rule book, its pace, groove and utopian storytelling sets the scene on a world free from emotional anguish, replaced with mythical idealism.
Prayer Mat – Nadine Shah (2020)
Closing Shah’s excellent album Kitchen Sink, ‘Prayer Mat’ is a beautifully illustrious and trippy composition. The track excels in its restraint, allowing a gentle insistence to its near-hallucinatory being. Shah’s voice is confident in its calmness, allowing herself to encompass the instrumentation alluringly while telling tales of embattled camaraderie (“You the beginning of everything / You the calm in a storm“).
U.F.Orb – The Orb (1992)
What starts as a fuzzy recording of the Soviet Union’s inter-planetary explorations grows dreamily into a dance number of cosmic proportions. The beat is urgent and grabbing, complimented by a floating synth that further pushes the track into other-worldly realms. Reinforcements from over-dubbed percussive fills give the beat a grooving edge, culminating in a dance track of real independence.
Blood Money – Primal Scream (2000)
An instrumental of menacing divinity. Though Primal Scream’s acclaimed album XTRMNTR is noted more for its dark political prophecies, ‘Blood Money’ is an astounding reminder of the prowess of the musicians in absence of Bobby Gillespie’s social commentary. Mani’s bass rumbles ominously alongside the frantic genre-mashing grooves, while discordant tones, from compressed saxophone to eerie electronics are carelessly littered across the soundscape. An absolute behemoth.
Five songs to start the week! Follow the It’s Monday Forever playlist here for all the songs featured in the series so far.
Fucking Butter (Live at Vicar Street) – Girl Band (2020)
Nearly eight minutes of cacophonous, unhinged chaos. From their 2015 debut album Holding Hands With Jamie, this live version turns up the psychotic, restless nature of the track – the vocals are shouted and slurred, the drums devastating and the delivery utterly, utterly lethal. From the tense build-up, the middle’s discordance and the throbbing bass of the closing minutes, this is a delicious listen.
Skin and Bones – The Sundays (1990)
A track that can only be described as the absolute epitome of dreamy, hazy and nostalgic early-90s sounds. Held together by a gently understated rhythm section, the guitar flutters airily behind the ethereal, slow-dancing words of Harriet Wheeler in a wonderfully delicate composition. It’s incredible to witness how tracks such as this (and albums such as Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) are so often forgotten amidst their more anthemic contemporaries.
One Four Seven One – Arab Strap (1999)
On the flip side of early-90s exuberance lies this. Exuding an enticing yet depressingly sobering semblance, ‘One Four Seven One’ is one of Arab Strap’s darker and more introverted numbers that thrives in its sombre realism and soft percussive insistency. Aidan Moffat’s vocals drag in dreary lethargy while portraying an episode of romantic disloyalty (“I know it was just the once / But what if that’s enough?“), bringing together a bleak composition that lingers between the ears.
I Wished On The Moon – Billie Holiday (1956)
Though some bemoan Holiday’s depleting health and the subsequent loss in vibrancy in her voice, there is still so much to love in her later recordings. ‘I Wished On The Moon’ is a beautifully peaceful standard from 1956 LP Stay With Me that is gorgeously hushed and unhurried, wrapping its arms around the listener with softness and care.
Friday 13th – Gorillaz feat. Octavian (2020)
The fourth single from Gorillaz’s stunningly eclectic Song Machine, ‘Friday 13th’ is a reggae-twanged number that offers both buoyancy and restraint. Similar in mood to a slowed-down New Order, the choppy synths, guitar and piano backing provides an ordered disjointedness to Octavian’s introspective lyricisms. A pretty, mellow and hopeful track.
Back from a week-long University induced hiatus, here are five songs to start your week! Follow the ‘It’s Monday Forever’ playlist here for every track to have featured in the series.
Like a Lady – Pom Poko (2020)
Following on from their excellent debut LP Birthday last year, ‘Like a Lady’ sees Pom Poko borrow from the likes of Pixies and Throwing Muses to deliver a composition simultaneously offering gentleness and fuzz-heavy power. Complimented by Ragnhild Jamtveit’s falsetto tones, Pom Poko achieve a distinct separation in sound from may of today’s guitar-led groups.
Honeydew – Mr Scruff/Fi (1999)
While Mr Scruff is perhaps more renowned for quirky instrumentals with unique sampling, ‘Honeydew’ showcases a remarkably assured and subtle side to his repertoire. Led by a swirling melody and infectious beat, Fi’s vocals float in enticing romanticism amongst the more intense backing with utopian lyrical promise (“Find a place where you can be free / Where the dew tastes of honey / And the trees bear the fruits of love”).
Summer Madness – Khurangbin (2020)
Slow, soothing and seductive, ‘Summer Madness’ exudes a cool and unhindered serving of momentary bliss. Originally by Kool and The Gang, it excels in its simplicity and restraint. While the lead guitar is given permission to gorgeously flourish there’s no moment of explosive catharsis or heavy intensity, only a deliciously relaxed instrumental which, with repeated listens, becomes more and more irresistible.
Set Up – Au Pairs (1979)
A post-punk wonder which deserves so much more attention. Spearheaded by a brooding, rumbling bassline and frantic, choppy guitar, singer Lesley Woods tells a dark tale of romantic uncertainty, deviance and deceit (“She’s closing her eyes / To those possible lies / Keeping the doubts / Locked tight up inside“). Blending the jagged edges of punk and the grooves of funk, ‘Set Up’ is both an unsettling yet incredibly potent track.
Cactused – Wire (2019)
Though some yearn for the late-70s days of Pink Flag and 154, it’s worth noting that Wire’s output has suffered little, if any, decline in quality overtime. Released early this year, ‘Cactused’ is an uplifting number that is only a stone’s throw in sound from their releases of forty years ago. It’s urgent, vocally restrained and holds a powerful hook which should win over any nay-sayers to their newer material.
Similar to the previous post, this period of the band’s discography is a cesspit of polarisation for many. Smith’s live appearances grew more tumultuous, his vocals decayed into a clogged-up lung throw up, and the now-constantly revolving door of members became an easy source of derision for many, especially in comparison to the more relaxed first half of the decade.
However, it seems that this had little effect on the quality of output. Sure, the albums as complete works were incredibly patchy at times, but within them lay some absolutely astonishing compositions that are overlooked thanks to (in my opinion) their less successful company. I would argue that TheLight User Syndrome and Levitate are the furthest superior, but let it be known now that of those that will be selected these two records’ tracks will dominate. If only I’d chosen to do 18 instead of 12 per article…
I also think the millennium holds a very interesting, slightly sad, but ultimately redemptive period for Mark E. Obviously, there was the Brownies punch-up and subsequent arrest, the acrimonious 1996 departure of Brix, and the other acrimonious departure of the entire band in 1998, notably involving the Rhythm-Section-Commander-In-Chief Steve Hanley. But to come through it with a consistent canon of releases that are of above-average quality (and a Godlike Genius award, the defining honour of them all) is something to be said in itself.
Also eye-opening is the state Mark was in. Be it drink/drug related, I can’t comment. But this interview is an incredible watch for any Fall fan who indulges in this period of the band. Mark, who appears not be on any intoxicant, looks, for a 39 year old, utterly aged. There are glimpses of youth here and there, but the crows feet are truly ingrained on his face.
Though he is active and aware, and what starts as a somewhat combative, guarded interview glides gently into a cordial, engaging and truly refreshing conversation. My personal view is that Mark felt a little guilty for slating the young interviewer’s questions as ‘lazy journalism’ so early on. The following twenty minutes give a fascinating insight into the thoughts of Mark at the time, the democracy in recording of The Light User Syndrome, and even a discussion of lyrics on the record. The description of the video illustrates this further:
Strangely though, as one sees as the interview progresses, she does quite well and her lack of experience and knowledge becomes an asset. After questioning the interviewee’s inexperience, Smith seems to warm to her and drops his usual acidic guard revealing more than if she’d been a seasoned music hack. The latter stages appear more like a chat over a cup of tea than an interview, making it one of the more candid and open media exchanges given by Smith at the time. There’s lots of interesting topics in here; politics, recording albums, record companies, young fans, plagiarism, Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks reformation, Paul Weller, Paul McCartney, Pete Waterman and John Peel.
An excellent watch for all, in my eyes. On to the tunes, I should think…
D.I.Y. Meat (1996)
A grumbling, distorted bassline wonders behind a gunfire guitar and drum combo in utter divinity. Smith is in much healthier and determined form than in Cerebral Caustic and the attitude of the track holds in itself a fightback for the nay-sayers, the reviews that panned their previous effort in chortling fashion. The various shouts of ‘Ha ha ha!’ add to the carelessness, the sheer power. Two words: ‘ave it.
Das Vulture Ans Ein Nutter-Wain (1996)
Complete raucous absurdity. The keyboards make no effort to appear orderly, the rhythm section holds itself in incredibly high esteem, and Smith drifts in and out of cleanliness and distortion to deliver utter nonsensicals. Yet, obviously, it works, and to devastating effect.
He Pep! (1996)
My favourite song of this period by a country mile. The scratchy guitar littering the soundscape with gritty ugliness in combat with the insistency of the flanged keyboard is a glorious combination of aural violence, while Smith graciously provides you with a brutal vocal beating up. The yell of ‘AND’ at the start of the second verse, and his song that’s ‘Conceptually à la Bowie’ are wonderful compliments to the track. As complete a song as you can find.
Again, it’s heavy, guitar-y and completely enthralling. The contrast between Brix’s deliciously rough backing vocals amongst the more gentle ramblings of Mark is a delight, not to mention the two guitar parts side-by-side to bring optimum destruction to proceedings, or the borderline-endearing chorus. Brix’s repeated refrain of ‘You are my Spinetrak’ sounds ‘positive’ in some way, though I can’t quite find the word to articulate this. Still though – a great track.
Hurricane Edward (1998)
I neglected Levitate for a ridiculously long time. It seemed to me to be the band’s ultimate car crash, the temporary dissolution of any hope for musical goodness from the grooves. I distinctly remember hearing ‘Ten Houses of Eve’ and thinking to myself ‘No’. It sounded tinny, overly-abrasive, and as if there was a specific need to cling onto the coattails of dance scene of the time.
Well. I love Levitate now, both for it’s hit-and-miss nature but also for it’s bravery. ‘Hurricane’ is this bravery epitomised. It’s just a messy, disorderly junkyard of any sound that could be conjured up, be it studio or live, sandwiched together by a chugging keyboard/drum interlude and left in peace for all the world to hear. It can’t be explained or justified – I once sent this to my sister (who can appreciate the group to a surprising extent) and it wasn’t met with great sympathy. But, as a fully-paid up member of The Fall Fan Club, you couldn’t ask for much more, could you?
Quartet of Doc Shanley (1998)
This is the stuff you want from your years of investment of The Fall. Distorted to the point of pure fuzz basslines, unexplainable lyricisms and no change in the track’s trajectory whatsoever. It’s insistent, punchy and simple. What you need.
The sound of several musical genres each being battered relentlessly against a wall until they’re bloodied and semi-conscious then being bound together, crushed and crammed forcibly into a mixing desk.
I would add, however, that the mixing desk was then met with a sledgehammer, put back together with lego, the tape stamped upon and sellotaped together again before a final run back through the mixing desk again. Another utterly cacophonous mess that holds a bit more attitude and direction compared to ‘Hurricane Edward’, and always a rewarding listen.
The Crying Marshall (1999)
As mentioned earlier, the patchiness of late 90s output was often apparent in quality, though for The Marshall Suite, the inconsistency in sound and style is often a turn off for myself. However, this does give us undeniable gems such as this. This is a bass heavy stomper that displays an aptitude in composition and production of more typical (compared to Levitate) dance music that would take many by surprise. The final minutes contain a jangly guitar ‘solo’, backed by the driving beat that grows in monumental velocity and venom with every passing second. Glorious.
Birthday Song (1999)
A contentious one, but I felt that another positive review for ‘Touch Sensitive’ or ‘F-oldin’ Money’ could be done without. The main pull of this track are the surprisingly tender lyrics, which, to me, are utterly poetic.
I would definitely say that, being 21, I’ve grown up in an environment where soft, introspective and, frankly, soppy music is of an abundance and much to my favouring, so this song is probably more up my street than other Fall fans. The backing is certainly a little over-generous on the various keyboard/synth sounds, but lines like “While you, your fragrance drags/It conveys me to the country” and the entire second verse, to be honest, are wonderfully gentle and unique compared to anything the group have done. I’d say this track took me by surprise more than anything else, but it’s always been a firm favourite.
Two Librans (2000)
An excellent track, and an excellent introduction to The Fall for anyone nosy enough. It’s a simple enough number, but the contradicting sparseness of the verse against the more gritty and driven chorus further emphasises the amount of pure force put behind the track, and, of course, the bassline is a stunner.
There’s an oddly similar drum beat to ‘Life Just Bounces’ at times, and a definite call back to the four note riff found in the latter stages of ‘The Crying Marshall’. This is another chaotic track; an electronic drumbeat fights in epic hostility to a grubby, flattened synth that bounces across the track like a bullet. It takes its breaks, but after a while you find yourself begging for the return of the colossal power coursing through the track. An absolute destroyer.
Kick The Can (2001)
It was quite difficult choosing a track from AYAMW – I don’t hold the album up to the highest regards, and find a lot of the tracks on a similarly ‘good’ standard, but no real moments of emphatic enjoyment, such as what is held in the previous tracks.
This would be up amongst my favourites if they’d stuck to the flangey, retro garage sound established at the start of the track. There’s a subtle urgency and dark undercurrent to it which is truly infectious. However, maybe Mark found it a little too derivative of sounds of old, as it moves onto less abrasive fields of sound. It’s enjoyable, but I can’t help feeling there’s a masterpiece left unfinished. Still, the first couple of minutes are utterly wonderful and deserving of absolute acclaim.
Quite a few again this time round, especially, as Steve from The Fall in Fives mentioned a few times, due to Light User holding around four or five tracks too many. Without them, you have a sensational record. Plus, my neglect of other albums outside of LUS and Levitate has come back to bite.
LUS: Hostile, Stay Away (Old White Train), Interlude/Chilinism, Powder Keg, Oleano, Cheetham Hill, Oxymoron.
Levitate: Ten Houses of Eve, Masquerade, I’m A Mummy, Spencer Must Die, Jungle Rock, Ol’ Gang, Everybody But Myself.
Five songs to start the week! Follow this week’s playlist here, or follow the It’s Monday Forever playlist, with all songs featured throughout the series, here.
Don’t Play It – Kim Gordon (2019)
A refreshing aspect of Kim Gordon’s 2019 LP No Home Record was the variety of sounds throughout its duration, with Gordon unwilling to stick with the guitar-led sounds of Sonic Youth. ‘Don’t Play It’, archetypal of this artistic evolution, expertly dabbles in dance and industrial noise, culminating in a Death-Grips-meets-Throbbing- Gristle wonder. It’s an elusive, heavy number, with Gordon’s tough howls growing evermore violent and abrasive in the wake of a destructive, thumping beat.
(Surprisingly, there is no full version of the song on YouTube, only a short released by Kim’s label Matador. The full song can be found via the Spotify links above).
Look Over Your Shoulder – Busta Rhymes/Kendrick Lamar (2020)
Guided by a gentle bassline, ‘Look Over Your Shoulder’ follows Kendrick and Busta on a road of introspection and nostalgia. Combining stark reflections of youth and growth (“How bizarre, my battle scars at large would lace me”) with a soft Motown-esque backing leaves behind a track of blissful purity and emotion.
Disintegration – The Cure (1989)
An eight minute barrage of intoxicating romantic despair that traverses every realm of passionate dissolution. Smith is in top form, desperately yearning for what has been lost and what could have been, ranging from tenderly childish fascinations (“Oh I miss the kiss of treachery“) to stark and unforgiving emotional realities of decaying lust (“I leave you with photographs, pictures of trickery / Stains on the carpet and stains on the memory“). A truly, truly beautiful song.
two reverse – Adrianne Lenker (2020)
Dreamy acoustics take centre stage in the opener of Lenker’s fourth studio album Songs. There’s a mellow softness in its development that calls back to the soothing sounds of Nick Drake in its bittersweet delicacy, while Lenker’s words evoke an innocent yet forlorn narrative (“Tell me lies, I wanna see your eyes / Is it a crime to say I still need you?“).
Timber – Coldcut (1997)
What starts as a somewhat rough, inconsistent arrangement grows into a glorious flow of electronic trance. It bounces, and thrives thanks to the insistency of the beat and the flourishing nature of its offering. ‘Timber’ is a real uplifter, lavished with the infectious urban sounds of the night, club and dance floor.
Five songs to start the week! Follow the weekly Spotify playlist here, or a playlist of all the songs from the It’s Monday series here.
Crab Yars – The Upsetters (1978)
Another excellent track form the near-flawless canon of late ’70s Lee Scratch Perry produced dub, ‘Crab Yars’ ascends the usual parameters of its stylistic contemporaries via gentle discordance and heavy layering. Owing to the echoed bells floating in the background, there’s an oddly shimmering quality to this song, while the aforementioned texturing gives the track a feeling of being underwater, strangely similar to the sounds of Harold Budd’s collaborations with Brian Eno. As dub goes, it doesn’t get much more peculiar, or more satisfying, than this.
Corner of My Sky – Kelly Lee Owens/John Cale (2020)
Written about Owens’ and Cale’s Welsh roots, ‘Corner of My Sky’ is a claustrophobic yet enticing number that sees Cale become the storyteller of bleak naturalism amongst the flourishing resistance of Owens’ synths. Centring around the austere lines “The rain, the rain / Thank god, the rain”, ‘Corner of My Sky’ oozes with cathartic realism while portraying deeply ethereal and intoxicating promise.
I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep – Ghostpoet (2020)
Brooding post-punk provides a grooving backdrop to Ghostpoet’s existential lyricisms in a stunningly introspective composition. Key to the track’s quality is the freedom of the arrangement; a clear distance is established between each part, giving a distinctive eminence to all contributors. The stars of the show, however, are the combative, erratic and emotional guitars that grow in emancipated urgency and vibrancy throughout.
Intro/Keep It Healthy – Warpaint (2013)
An intensely rich and compelling creation. There’s a beautifully haunting aura that pervades the soundscape, complimented further by the ghostly vocals of Emily Kokal. Even better is the intricacy of the track’s composition, with complex timings, grooves and rhythms showcasing the dexterity and confidence of the group in the opener of only their second album.
I Believe In You – Talk Talk (1988)
Anchored by a hushed, gentle beat, Talk Talk bring together shattering emotional struggle with evanescent wonder to astounding results. Written about singer Mark Hollis’ brother’s heroin addiction (“Hear it in my spirit / I’ve seen heroin for myself / On the street so young laying wasted“), ‘I Believe in You is a slowly flourishing post-rock masterpiece that exudes a beauty rarely heard elsewhere.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.