Thursday, 10 March 2011

TSP's Beginners Guide to The Fall

To say The Fall are a hard band to get into would be the biggest musical understatment since the guy who said Paris Hilton's singing was "a bit shit". As of today, and be careful because another one is always just around the corner, Mark E Smith and his rotating cast of bandmates - and there have been plenty - have released 29 studio albums. I've not heard every track of all of them, I probably never will. He's been at it since 1976, I don't think I'll live long enough to hear the lot.

But as I was extolling the virtues of them today somebody said "where do I start?" and that's a bloody good question because not one of those 29 albums is, or is likely to, keep your interest the whole way through because the content on offer is so violently different from itself one track to the next. Even the Greatest Hits compilations are patchy and miss some crackers. So, for that person - and you know very well who you are - I present TSP's all-time top 20 Fall songs in chronological order.

1. Bingo Master's Break Out

1978 EP
In which a harassed bingo caller finally tips out at the pressure and tops himself.

2. No Xmas for John Quays

Live At The Witch Trials - 1979
Punky.. (feel free to sing it to the NZ PM if you see him)

3. Industrial Estate

Live At The Witch Trials - 1979
.. and punkier. For those who liked to be shouted at. If not you've come to the wrong place.

4. Music Scene

Live At The Witch Trials - 1979
This could be my favourite Fall track at the moment. Note the intense cynicism about the music industry that he's already got going two years in. If he'd known then that he'd still be kicking on in 30 years MES might have topped himself.

5. How I Wrote Elastic Man

Single - 1980
In which MES sings about the changes to his life that have been made by writing the song Elastic Man, despite the fact that he never actually wrote a song of that name. Later guest starred on an Elastica track off their shit second album called How I Wrote Elastica Man. Just because he could I suppose.

6. Prole Art Threat

Slates - 1981
Perversely made to be too short for the album charts, but too long to be considered as an EP for the singles charts. Song is 1.58, which is really all you need.

7. The Classical

Hex Enducation Hour - 1982
Legend has it they were on the verge of being signed by Motown Records (!?) before making the moderately poor choice of putting this on the record player during the initial meeting. By the time the lines "Where are the obligatory niggers? Hey there fuckface! Hey there fuckface!" had gotten an airing - right at the start of the song - the deal was off.

8. Hip Priest

Hex Enducation Hour - 1982
Scathing track about music journalists better known for being played in Silence Of The Lambs while all that unpleasant kidnap/murder business is going on.

9. I'm Into CB

B-Side - 1982
Go forward 19 years and change the lyrics a bit and he's effectively singing about Twitter.

10. Eat Y’Self Fitter

Perverted By Language - 1983
The song that asked the important question "What's a computer?" also features probably the cheapest, and therefore best, video ever made. 7.30 of glory.

11. Kicker Conspiracy

Single - 1983
The song that got me into the band in the first place. From the same article listing songs written about soccer football I also discovered Half Man, Half Biscuit who are also ace. Also the song that won MES his much vaunted reputation for saying "AH!" at the end of everything. Has any song ever nailed sports fan culture more accurately?

12. Spoilt Victorian Child

This Nation's Saving Grace - 1985
Rattling.

13. I Am Damo Suzuki

This Nation's Saving Grace - 1985
In which MES claims to be a member of Can which successful results.

14. US 80's-90's

Bend Sinister - 1986
A failed trip through US Customs in song. Top three all time for me with Music Scene and Kicker Conspiracy. I particular like "Tha copppppps, are toppppppps" and "I'm the big-shot original rapper. But it's time for me to get off this crapper".

15. Hey! Luciani

Single - 1986

16. Living Too Late

Single - 1986
Two tracks from Smith's play (!) about the death (!?) of Pope John Paul I (!!!?!why!?)

17. Hit The North Pt. 1

Single - 1987
Wait, another contender for my favourite track. A disrespectful look at Smith's north of England. Another classic video, worth it just for the video of The Band performing into front of a baffled audience of OAP's and the campest acting in music video history at 2.55.

One of the remixes on the other side starts with the line "My cat says ACK!"

18. Bill Is Dead

Extricate - 1990
A power ballad. The man can do nothing wrong.

19. Free Range

Code: Selfish - 1992
Where else do you get opening lines like;

In 2001
A Life code:
It pays to talk to no one.
Proliferating across the earth.
Also Sprach Zarathustra
Faction Europa
Free Range.

20. Touch Sensitive

The Marshall Suite - 1999
Smith always looks about twenty years older than he actually is. In this video it's about forty years.

Bonus tracks:

Mark E Smith reads out the football scores.


Inspiral Carpets featuring Mark. E Smith - I Want You


Shuttleworth featuring Mark E. Smith - England's Heartbeat

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