Apologies for being late, I spent three hours attempting to write a review last night but got no further than this:
Its getting very late on a Friday night in Blighty and I’ve been sat cross legged up in my attic randomising a digital list of music for 90 minutes or so, trying to think of a fitting description of that brown firework that goes off in your nose when you collapse on your coccyx and hoping desperately for inspiration to visit until an inflated bladder necessitates a descent. My autistic daughter is politely asking to go swimming in her sleep as some repetitive House-music-piano oscillates interminably through the wall from next door, forced into an arranged marriage with the vague leakage of some clarinet and crooning from the front room downstairs.
I’m paralysed in the blackness of the bathroom bearing impotent witness to all this. Something about nighttime piss-trips always make me think about mortality. Naturally, when the necessity for bladder evacuations puncture my sleep I try and do as little thinking as possible for the duration of these nocturnal excursions in the hopes of retaining the fuzzy comfort of shut-down, but I can’t help but be drawn into the thinness of the silence, or rather the precipice of vastness that it expresses, and my imagination can’t help lightly snowing- in the blanks, primarily by wondering about the nothing that’s not going-on on the streets outside, and how these vacuous interludes will seem so precious when I don’t have any of them left.
Then I see through half-shut eyes and frosted glass a mosaic of windows intermittently occupied by light, and the shimmering of the city over there above it, where they keep all the stuff. Then I get an idea for the review, which I’m happy to say I can now present to you rather than pontificating on the aforementioned nonsense.
There have been a lot of great bands emerge from Manchester over the last 40 years…
…all of them have been The Fall.
Insouciance personified: Mark E. Smith nullifying your existence with a stony-faced obliviousness to your ant-like insignificance…sporting the hackneyed skin and description of an intellectual Gecko, haranguing a slew of personnel to play the part of burnt-out sparks along his comet’s tail, gluttons for the inevitable punishment of his revolving door policy: All are pushed, none of them Fall…that is of course unless you’re the sassy young lass behind the Keyboard, Elena Poulou a.k.a. Mrs Mark E. Smith…immovable for as long as she can continue to put up with him.
The previous band that are panned-away from at the start of the clip are Robert Plant’s. I feel embarrassed for him – he could have just played the best ‘Immigrant Song’ of his life, and The Fall would still make him look stupid by their being so extraordinarily normal. Look at the guitarist’s face at 12 seconds. Petrified. Smith’s intrinsic tyranny keeps an anxiety fizzing and popping away in the players that’s indispensable to the sound. Once they get too comfortable, they’re elbowed.
They say in London, you’re never more than 10 feet away from a rat, in Manchester, the same can be said for members of The Fall; The caretaker of the school down the road is Steve Hanley, The Fall’s longest serving guitarist from ’79 to ’98, my brother used to go out with the daughter of founder members Martin Bramah and Una Baines. Look at him up there, like a turned-to-the-Dark-Side Luke Skywalker. A terrifying specimen of a Mancunian – The bile simmering in his distended belly is prophesied in his chewing away at the inside of his face as he readies to spew his next torrent of vitriolic lyrics, chunky gold wrist bracelet tapping across a beer-soaked bar top, inadvertently gathering soggy crisp bits… Smith Beefheart’s bands into realising his vision via his mercurial wit and scarcely spared stick.
While perhaps not transcending divides of musical taste in the same sense as the genre-straddling, populace pleasing Stone Roses or Happy Mondays – the decades have succumbed to Smith’s constant onslaught. Plaudits of the highest caliber abound, they’re just relatively thin on the ground. A Market Street Poll would probably garner only the odd spot of praise based on the vague knowledge that they originate from Manchester – the same endemic bollocks-logic that sees certain Mancunians adopt anyone of note to have farted within the City limits before making it big.
“Always different, always the same…” is how the oft-paraphrased John Peel quote goes.
Like a City, whose citizens blister in-and-out of existence.
Imperial Wax Solvent isn’t regarded as one of the band’s seminal or classic albums, it was released in 2008 to little notice or fanfare, but its as good a place to start as any because I love it as much as the album that might well be released in the next five minutes, because The Fall are as semi reliable as buses and Mark E. Smith is like that old drunk guy that gets on board, shattering reality, that you suspect might actually have a better handle on it than everyone acting unable to see him.
Next week, a punctual Katie will take the reins, in the meantime prepare to enter the Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall.
Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.