Sniffin Rock 1989. SR006A7
This is another magazine freebie 7″, but since this one (despite what it says on the label) plays at 45 and doesn’t have too much music crammed onto it, it sounds OK.
The music is great too. There’s an exuberant run-through of Guest Informant by The Fall recorded live in Vienna (Get the original on The Frenz Experiment which has recently been re-issued as part of a very good value 5 CD box). There’s an insane amount of Fall live material available now, most of which isn’t worth hearing, but this is an exception; it’s sharp and well recorded. Then there’s the excellent Shamen track, Christopher Mayhew Says which is the true story of a plummy sounding MP taking LSD as an experiment, complete with hilarious samples of the man himself. I don’t have the regular release of this, so I don’t know whether this version is different. I know nothing about Silver Chapter, but this is a great organ driven Rock N Roll track – perhaps I should have taken more of an interest in them.
Domino 2010. Rug 363
This is a Record Store Day release, and has two alternate versions of tracks from the Fall’s album Your Future Our Clutter. The cover and labels don’t agree on the track listing, but the A side is a variant of Bury!, the B side of Cowboy George.
It’s a storming single – both tracks really rock with great guitar riffs. Bury! is about the grim northern town of Bury, not the act of putting something in a hole in the ground. No idea what the B side is about though.
Cog Sinister 1992. SIN CD 9
Someone over at The Fall online was looking for a rip of this so I thought I’d oblige.
It’s a single from the Code Selfish era, although none of the tracks appear on that album (they’re all on the 2007 2CD version though). It’s not usually considered a classic Fall vintage, but I like it.
It’s an unusually easy listen. Nice tune, mellow delivery… is this really The Fall? The third track, The Knight The Devil And Death appears not to feature Mr Smith at all, and Free Ranger is a vastly inferior remix for Free Range from Code Selfish. Still, taken as a whole it’s worthwhile (although there’s not much Fall material I don’t like).
The only gripe I have is that the remix of Free Ranger is much inferior to the album version.
Further listening? Well their new album Re-Mit landed on my doormat this week and it is as Mark E Smith promised, and improvement on Erstaz GB, not that I thought that was too shabby.
Cherry Red 2012. Cherry501
Record Store Day has been going downhill recently; too many major labels clogging it up with pointless and overpriced re-issues of old music. This single from last year is what it’s supposed to be about – exclusive content to drag the punters kicking and screaming away from taxdodgers.com and back into record shops, although most copies of this single were bought by ebay vultures looking for a profit…
It’s best viewed as an appendix to last year’s Ersatz G.B., and in fact the original version of the live track on the B side is on that album. Victrola Time, the A side is unusual for the lack of guitar and the very weird vocals it starts with, but for me The Fall rarely put a foot wrong and this is no exception. Maybe it’s an out-take, but it’s still better than most bands manage in a career.
Just noticed that this is the 100th post. Berlimey.
Update: The Fall’s new album, Re-Mit has just arrived, and it includes Victrola Time. Not sure yet whether it’s the same version.
Grunt Grunt A Go Go Records 1985. GGAGG 1
In the 80s record shops groaned under the weight of indie compilation albums. This is a rather obscure one, but consistently strong. Most of the highlights are on side one – Marc Riley who used to be in The Fall, the always entertaining Yeah Yeah Noh with a different recording of Crimplene Seed Lifestyle (more from them another time), and what is for me is the best track English White Boy Engineer credited here to The Botha Boys who are actually The Three Johns. The name change is just to emphasise the anti-apartheid message of the lyrics. If you’re not up on South African history, PW Botha was the last apartheid prime minister. The Bomb Party track is lifted from The Ray Gun EP which I’ll post another time.
The best known name is probably Microdisney who for some reason completely passed me by.
There’s not much information out there about this complilation so I don’t know how many of the tracks are exclusives, but it’s a worthwhile listen regardless.
Play Hard Records 1987. DEC 7
This is a worthwhile compilation put together by Debris magazine with a surprising number of big names contributing exclusive tracks including The Fall, Big Black, King Of The Slums, The Railway Children and A House.
I particularly like The Fall’s contribution – often their live recordings are pointless, but this one sounds as though someone’s playing space invaders in the background which I quite like. It’s always good to find more Big Black – there just aren’t enough Big Black records for my liking. The studio version of this live track originally appeared on their debut Lungs EP.
Not surprisingly every artist here has produced better work on their own releases, but the stellar line-up makes it hard to resist.
Switchflicker, 2000. SWALF1
This is a rather mysterious 7″. Mark E Smith is of course the man behind The Fall, so not mysterious at all, but that seems to be all that’s straightforward about this release. Mild Man Jan appears on several V/VM albums, and is, I suspect, one of V/VM’s founder James Leyland Kirby’s aliases. According to Wikipedia he lives in Stockport, so there’s a distinct possibility they know each other.
The music is downtempo electronica, not the assault on the eardrums Kirby usually produces. Fistful Of Credits has, as expected MES on vocals, but the B side, Skin Deep which is credited to “My Mate Mark” isn’t, as you’d expect, MES again, but a woman who sounds very much like Martina Topley-Bird who sang on Tricky’s Black Steel, but it seems unlikely it really is her.
I can’t tell you much else. It’s on pink vinyl and is really very good, but that’s about it.
Postscript: Well, the knowledgeable people over at The Fall Online have filled me in on some of the background to this. It turns out Mild Man Jan is a guy called Spencer Marsden, and that the A side of this single is available on the Fall compilation A Past Gone Mad.
Goofin’ Records 1990. GOO 01
As promised, some more weird Fall covers, this time from Sonic Youth. This was a Peel session from 1989, and, as I recall at the time, The Fall’s Mark E Smith was so upset by it that he refused to sanction the release. It was immediately bootlegged, and this was the best sounding of them.
Mark E Smith’s reaction was an odd one, because Sonic Youth are huge Fall fans, and these are very respectful cover versions. Even Victoria, originally a Kinks track, is played as the Fall rather than The Kinks did, although it does sound a bit like a drunken singalong.
Despite all of this it has Sonic Youth’s signature guitar sound – their guitars were heavily modified and with weird tunings, although not being a guitarist, I wouldn’t know about such things.
Rumour has it that Sonic Youth themselves bootlegged this, presumably irritated by Mark E Smith’s reaction to it, which would explain the excellent sound quality. They would of course have had access to the master tapes.
STIM Records 1991. STIM002
Very few people cover Fall tracks, and with good reason; getting egg on your face is almost inevitable. However, doing something completely off the wall can work, and this is an example – Terry Edwards does jazz/ska versions of some of their early classics which work surprisingly well. They’re funny, funky and very unexpected. Despite deservedly positive reviews at the time, and not just in the music press, this didn’t sell at all.
Bingo Masters Breakout
The Dice Man
More strange Fall covers to follow….
Artful Records 1997. ARTFULCDX9
I posted the rare double six mix of Hit The North recently, and said I wouldn’t be posting much more Fall, because it’s mostly available. It turns out I was wrong about that – a surprising amount is out of print. This album is particularly difficult to find, especially in its original 2CD format because the label went bankrupt.
Frankly, it isn’t the place to start if you’re not already a fan. The usual dominance of guitar work is replaced by a lot of electronics, supplied by Mark E Smith’s then girlfriend, Julia Nagle who also appears a lot in the writing credits. There are also drum ‘n’ bass elements courtesy of D.O.S.E who Smith fell out with early on in the process. There’s less in the way of conventional songs and the thunderous bass lines which usually feature. The production is often bizarre and uncompromisingly lo-fi.
However, MES knows what he’s doing, and it’s usually a mistake to dismiss his work because it wasn’t what you were expecting. Of course he’s on ranting good form here as always – the lyrics are by turns funny, surreal and incomprehensible, but always entertaining. Standouts are the utterly manic 4½ Inch, the dirty bassline of The Quartet of Doc Shanley and the very obscure surf cover, I’m a Mummy.
That this album is a difficult listen is perhaps because The Fall were in a phase which was chaotic even by their standards; during the tour to promote this album, MES sacked the whole band. Persist with it though and it rewards your efforts.
So what Fall stuff should you buy? Well my preference is the earlier stuff. I’ll stick my neck out and say Perverted By Language is their best, but ask me tomorrow and I’ll have a different answer. After pushing 40 albums, most of which are excellent, it’s very difficult to pick out a favourite. Just be careful of the endless (and mostly pointless) live albums. If you want a career retrospective, 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong is a good one.
There’s an unofficial Fall web site which is a great source for more info about the band than you ever knew existed.