The Fall in Fives #039

  • Instrum One (aka ‘Rubber’)
  • Perverted By Language
  • The Usher
  • Choc-Stock
  • No Bulbs

An odd little collection, this one: another very short one (only just over 15 minutes) and not a highlight, it’s fair to say…

Instrum One (aka ‘Rubber’)
We start with a little curiosity: a 2000 out-take that made its way onto the 2008 reissue of Unutterable, but has also popped up online, on bootlegs, etc. It’s basically a three-chord riff that is clearly just a rough sketch that never got taken any further. It’s pleasant enough, in a Pixies-ish kind of way, but not really worth seeking out if you don’t own it. I have made a couple of vague attempts to make something out of it Atlanta Albania style, but it’s a bit tricky because of its fast pace. At just over two minutes, it made for an ok little instrumental opener to this set, but nothing to write home about. 4/10

Perverted By Language
Typically perverse (if you’ll pardon the pun) of the group to name an album after a track that didn’t make the cut. The only version I have is a (not very good quality) live recording that’s only around 90 seconds in length. There’s some nice double-drumming  (quite reminiscent of Hurricane Edward), but both Scanlon and Smith sound as though they’re rather half-heartedly making it up as they go along and the whole thing peters out before it has a chance to go anywhere. Another one for completists only. 4/10

The Usher
A pleasant enough but rather slight and underwhelming interlude from RPTLC. Like Coach and Horses, there’s quite a nice little blues-rock groove going on (which puts me in mind of LA Woman-era Doors) and MES is on pretty coherent form. It’s quite an engaging little Dr Buck– style list that he starts compiling (although surely only MES would follow A-F with 6) but lyrically and musically it’s another one that draws to a close when it’s only really just got started. I did quite enjoy it, however, although it may have been a little flattered by its company in this set. 6/10

Choc-Stock
To avoid provoking too much hate-mail from Dragnet fans, it’s probably best that I don’t say too much about this one. So, to sum up briefly: I’ve always hated this one and hearing it repeatedly has only reinforced my feelings; it’s awful, embarrassingly so, and I am just relieved that I hopefully won’t have to hear it for a long time. 2/10

No Bulbs
Rather the saviour of this little playlist, being both the best song but also the one that makes up over half of the running time. Bulbs wasn’t on my radar for quite a while, as my original copy on a C90 was of the original 9-track vinyl version. It chugs along nicely, and the extended run time allows for some really nice VU-style guitar work towards the end. Not so fussed on the chorus vocals, which have that ‘chanty’ quality (that as I’ve indicated on a few occasions, doesn’t really appeal to me) but it was nice to hear something expand and develop a little – in comparison to a couple of others in this batch. However, it can’t rescue this batch from having lowest average score (4.6) so far. Solidly good, if not spectacularly great. 7/10

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The Fall in Fives #038

There’s been a little bit of a gap between the last one and this, partly because I’ve been busy; but also because I thought that – especially as I am comfortably ahead of schedule – I could probably do with a little bit of a Fall-break. So, I have been mostly listening to Tom Waits and Autechre for the last couple of days (and doing a little bit of a remix for Caroline McKenzie). But I am now back on the Fall wagon…

  • Ten Houses of Eve
  • Inevitable
  • Paintwork
  • Interferance
  • Dice Man

Ten Houses of Eve
Levitate is a somewhat divisive album among Fall fans: some are utterly passionate in its defence; some see at as the very nadir of The Fall’s output (possibly only second to Cerebral Caustic in attracting vehement negativity). I tend towards the former camp, although I do recognise that it’s a difficult album, and one that does contain some pretty ropy material (some of which I have covered here already). Ten Houses, though, is an absolute high point for me.

Like all of the best bits of Levitate, there’s a slightly unhinged quality about it, with what seems like three or four different songs being launched into each other and exploding on collision. As I mentioned in the previous set, I do love a spot of drum & bass, but here The Fall take a D&B drum track and fling a multitude of other things at it. There’s a squelchy synth line, some twangy surf-rock guitar and a bit of industrial percussion going on; and that’s before we even get to the soft-rock-ballad interlude with tinkling piano where MES intones seriously about ‘you blue green and grey heart/bedecked in lace’. Smith’s vocal sounds quite disassociated from all that’s going on around it, but the contrast of his off-hand tone with the often frantic music is an absolute winner. Totally bonkers, but totally brilliant. 9.5/10

Inevitable
One of the more melancholy moments in The Fall’s back catalogue, and a rather overlooked one. The keyboard melody is plaintive and quite lovely and underpinned by a simple two-chord guitar part. MES’s performance is nicely understated and suits the song well. Another one where I have little idea what he’s on about, but it would seem I am in good company.

The other version that I have (from the XFM radio session which appears on one of the bonus discs of the 2011 reissue) is remarkable in that it bears very little resemblance to the final album track. In fact, if you knew the album but were hearing this version for the first time you quite possibly wouldn’t recognise that it was the same song. It’s interesting, with a particularly in your face bass line, but feels rather like an unfinished sketch for a song. 8/10

Paint Work
When pressed for my favourite Fall song, I am always stuck between BlindnessDr Buck and this one. Although I find it virtually impossible to separate the three, I tend to go for Paint Work: primarily, I think, because it was on the first Fall album I ever bought and I feel a sort of loyalty towards it. This is not to detract in any way from what is just an utterly sublime piece of music; one that I have listened to about a million times and simply never tire of.

The looping acoustic guitar, descending organ part and the ‘Hey Mark!’ refrain, combined with the occasional diversion into a grungy guitar riff would mark (pardon the pun) this out as a great song on its own. But add into this mix MES at his most wonderfully random and enigmatic (‘I read Paula Yates on Vision mopeds’, ‘Them continentals are little monkeys’, ‘As if I hadn’t done 10 months service in the USA on the big yachts’) then you have a truly great song. But then you also add in the peculiar excursions into ‘sounds MES accidentally recorded by sitting on the tape deck in his hotel’ that are spliced awkwardly yet brilliantly into the song and you have an absolutely sublime piece of wonder. And Brix’s backing vocals, for once, top things off to a tee. Just superb 10/10

Interferance
Not really a song in its own right; in fact it’s really just a snapshot of some of the synthesized noises from Hurricane Edward that’s appeared on a couple of compilation albums. Edward is great, but this doesn’t really stand up to listening on its own. Pretty pointless 3/10

Dice Man
One of the better moments, for me, from Dragnet – an album that I don’t always get on with terribly well. It’s a short, sharp Bo Diddley-esque blast that stumbles along engagingly enough. Not a particular favourite, but I was happy enough to listen to it several times. 6/10

 

The Fall in Fives #037

Back to car listening for this one, as I drove down to Cardiff this morning for what feels like the hundredth time this year already. Having discussed listening context in a few previous posts, it did strike me that it’s plausible that some songs might fare differently depending on whether they got the car or ‘at home’ treatment. The sets I listen to at home get a larger number of plays (sometimes the playlist is on pretty much throughout the working day and part of the evening as well) than those I do in the car. However, in the latter case, they get more concentrated listening as often I ‘drift’ in and out of the music when I’m at home depending on what else I’m doing.  I suspect (although I may well revisit this when I’m further through this endeavour) that the following might happen:

  • Songs I already really liked: in the car, my appreciation is enhanced by picking out details that I previously had missed/not paid much attention to.
  • Songs about which I was previously ambivalent/not fussed are more likely to stay the same judgement-wise when I’m at home; in the car it’s ‘make or break’ for them, as the concentrated repetition either helps me learn to love them or exacerbates whatever it was that stopped me really liking them in the first place.
  • Songs I previously disliked: I think it makes the least difference with this category; either way, I either start to get used to them or whatever irritating feature they have becomes emphasised.

As I said, this might be worth revisiting once I’m further down the line. Anyway, on with this batch…

  • A Past Gone Mad (Passable)
  • Two Librans
  • Outro (Reformation Post TLC)
  • Hey! Student
  • R.O.D.

A Past Gone Mad (Passable)
I’ve previously expressed misgivings about the electronic element of much of the Fall’s early 90s output. This is in no way because I’m firmly wedded to the world of guitar/bass/drums; far from it – various forms of what you might call ‘electronic’ music make up a fair proportion of my musical diet. The issue I have with The Fall in this period – as I’ve said a few times already, I know – is that it occasionally strays too far into the generic indie-rock-crossover sound that was so prevalent at the time. This one, although its backbone is made up of synths/sequencers, falls on the right side of the line for me. This is at least in part because it tends toward the drum & bass end of things, a genre of which I have always been quite fond.

There’s a nice mix of contrasting atmospheres: the synth and percussion side of things is quite full on and frantic; the solo guitar is sweeping and epic in a sort of western soundtrack kind of way; and MES’s lethargic drawl sits on top of it all very effectively.

I have three versions of this other than the album take. The Mark Goodier session version pushes the guitar part further forward and is slightly less frantic. The ‘alternate version’ (from a music magazine free CD) is more similar to the album version, but emphasises the dance/electronic elements over the vocals. ‘Passable’ (from The Twenty Seven Points) is a pretty decent (and reasonably well recorded) live stab at the track, although MES is guilty of some grimly tuneless ‘singing’ on a couple of occasions. I wouldn’t describe any of them as essential, but they’re worth hearing if you like the album version. 7.5/10

Two Librans
A whole shedload of things to love here. The grizzly, monstrous bassline, for a start. Secondly, the contrast between the understated, circumspect guitar line of the verse, which feels like it’s circling the vocals, waiting to pounce when they reach the chorus; and the distorted descending-chords thrash when they do get there. And then there’s a few more things chucked in towards the end for good measure: some horror-movie-soundtrack piano, a bit of up-the-neck string-bending guitar soloing and a spot of scuzzily treated Dr. Birch-like drums.

MES on top form as well. Just a trace of the 21st century growl, but sparingly and effectively used. And who knew about Oprah Winfrey’s interest in melittology? One to turn up loud. 9/10

Outro (on “Reformation Post TLC”)
You’d think it would be hard to find much to say about this one, being as it is just over half a minute of a plodding one-note synth/bass march. And yet in the ‘Fall Wooden Spoon’ cup that I ran on the Fall Online Forum last year, considerable energy was invested in establishing whether Outro ought to be a contender for the trophy. One school of thought was that it was so brief and pointless that it should be discounted; the other held that its brevity and pointlessness were reason enough to vote for it. I tend towards the former camp. It’s still rubbish though. 1/10

Hey! Student
This is an odd one for me, personally. I used to really really like it; in fact I may have named it top 20 Fall songs in the past. But [a] I don’t think I’ve actually listened to it in a long time and [b] it was hard to pinpoint today exactly what it was that I used to like about it so much. True, it has a certain rickety energy about it, but it sounds exactly what it is: The Fall re-hashing an old (very old by their standards) tune. MES has occasionally identified some pretty ‘soft targets’ (cf A Lot Of Wind) and this is very much a case in point. There’s not much to choose between the album and Peel versions, although the latter does contain the somewhat disturbing line about ‘masturbating with your Shaun Ryder face’. Overall, it’s okay, but it’s a rare ‘look-back’ tune and for that reason it just doesn’t sit comfortably. 6.5/10

R.O.D.
This is one of those that I know is generally held in high regard by Fall fans, but while I appreciate its positive features, it just doesn’t quite ‘click’ with me somehow. It has a fine, twangy guitar line and a strikingly dark and brooding atmosphere. In fact, I struggle to pinpoint much that’s actually wrong with it, other than the fact that (like much of Bend Sinister) the production gives it a slightly flat and thin sound. The Peel version is better: there’s much more vigour about it, and it’s suited by the slightly faster tempo. Don’t get me wrong: I do think it’s a good song; just not a great one. 7/10

The Fall in Fives #036

  • Hey! Fascist
  • Last Orders
  • Gibbus Gibson
  • Just Waiting
  • Overture from “I am Curious Orange”

A short selection, this one, clocking in at just a fraction over a quarter of an hour.

Hey! Fascist
Funnily enough, Hey! Student (as this was eventually released) is in the next batch. I’ll reserve most of my comments about the song itself for that one; the most notable thing for me with this track (which appears on Live 77) is what a bloody awful recording it is. It certainly has a lot of energy about it, with its battering drums and thunderous bass line, and you can definitely imagine how effective it might have been live. But it’s another one of those ‘microphone in a sock’ recordings which I always find pretty difficult to listen to. Of historical interest, but not exactly a pleasure to listen to repeatedly. 4/10

Last Orders
Another very early live recording, although distinctly better in quality than Fascist. It’s a pretty bog standard punk thrash, albeit with a mighty bass intro and that keyboard sound which marks it out unmistakably as late 70s Fall. The lyrics, however, are also disappointingly bog standard punk (‘The bastards all try to tell me what to do, man’ etc.), although according to The Annotated Fall, they weren’t for the most part written by MES anyway. Not exactly essential. 4.5/10

Gibbus Gibson
This, to be honest, was a welcome relief after the previous two. It’s also a moment of light relief on NFE, part of the second half that provides a bit of respite from the crushing riffery of the first half. (This isn’t a criticism of the first half, by the way, I really enjoy a spot of crushing riffery.) It revolves around Greenway’s lovely circular little riff which is (for me, anyway) totally infectious: this was my ‘earworm’ of this batch, finding me subconsciously ‘de-de-de-duh-dah-duh-dah-de-de-de’-ing (that’s what it sounds like to me, anyway) to myself around the house.

I also love MES’s gentle and playful vocals on this: the sort that will make your friends and relations exclaim exasperatedly, ‘but he just can’t sing’. And to round it off, there’s a highly unlikely 80s synth-led finale that only The Fall would ever tag onto the end of a song like this. I found this one consistently joyful. 8/10

Just Waiting
As will be clear to anyone who’s read a few of these, this one is from a Fall era that I generally don’t favour. However, I did rather enjoy this swinging country cover: it didn’t pall at all, although I never got particularly excited by it. The only real criticism I might make is that the middle eight (if that’s what it is) part does sound a bit awkward and stilted. However, there is also some nice understated guitar work around the two and a half minute mark that stops it getting too plodding. 6/10

Overture from “I am Curious Orange”
It has become a reasonably common thing in recent years for song-related ‘cup competitions’ to take place (I believe, for example, that Steve Lamacq has done a few on 6Music). Last year, I ran one of these on the Fall Online Forum last year, the twist being that it was devoted to finding the worst Fall album track. This one didn’t come particularly close to actually winning ‘The Fall Wooden Spoon’ (the ‘winner’ will come much, much later) but I was quite surprised by how many votes it attracted in the early stages. Not only did it attract votes, but a fair number of rather vitriolic comments were directed its way. I have to say that at the time I was somewhat taken aback by this; having listened to it several times over the last couple of days I’m still a bit perplexed as to why it attracted such vehemence.

To be fair, this doesn’t really sound like a Fall song (not that there’s such a thing as a typical Fall song) at all. Musically, it sounds more like REM than anything – like one of those throwaway instrumentals that they became increasingly fond of. Brix growls away in the background, but her vocal are pretty much buried under the guitars. It’s not unpleasant to these ears, if a little underwhelming, but passes the time satisfactorily enough. 6/10

 

The Fall in Fives #035

  • Jawbone & The Air Rifle
  • Don’t Call Me Darling
  • City Dweller
  • Nate Will Not Return
  • Glam-Racket

Another large-ish gap (by my standards thus far) as there have been children in the house, it being the Easter holidays. However, having done a bit of maths, I appear to be well ahead of schedule: this sees me a third of the way through, and we’re only just starting April…
Jawbone & The Air Rifle
This is probably one of the most familiar songs to non-fans, I would think, given that Frank Skinner used it as his theme tune at some point. Frank is probably only second to Stewart Lee in the ranks of famous Fall fans these days. I know that some (especially a few on the FoF) don’t have a lot of time for Frank; personally, I’m ambivalent, although this may just be because I don’t really watch TV and therefore have had little exposure to him. What I have seen I would describe as only moderately amusing, but I did like his comment about other bands seeming like ‘decaffeinated tea’ after listening to The Fall.

Like all the other Hex tracks that I’ve covered so far, Jawbone felt even more effective in this context than it has done previously when listening to the album as a whole. Once I have finished this endeavour, I do intend to revisit the albums, and I am intrigued as to how far having undertaken this project will influence my opinion of the albums overall. My feeling is that Hex will benefit particularly: whilst I’ve always found much to admire in it, in the past it’s felt a bit overlong and dense for me. I think the love I have found for most of the individual songs so far doing this will make it an even more rewarding listen overall.

Anyway, this is of course a great tune; a thundering juggernaut of a song. One of the most admirable things about it is the group’s deft control of tempo throughout. That’s not to say that it’s exactly slick or anything like that (I doubt many jazz-funk-fusion bands were queuing up to sign any of them), but the way they transition between the differing sections is marvellous (3:16 is an especially effective example). MES is on particularly fine form in the slower sections: as ever, I don’t have much of a clue as to what he’s on about, but who couldn’t love lines like Advertisements become carnivores or Suck on marrowbones and energy from the mainland? Much as I love the furious guitar, SH is again the star of the show musically, throbbing away mercilessly and underpinning the down-tempo parts masterfully. He also rounds things off with a wonderful volley of notes from right up the neck.

The Peel version is much more crisp and clear, although it doesn’t have quite the same relentless fury of the album track. Another one where you really just ought to own both. 10/10

Don’t Call Me Darling
Where Brix’s backing vocals work, it tends to be where she adds a bit of sweetness/tunefulness/lightness to contrast with MES being… well, the opposite of all those things. This track is an interesting one as there’s a bit of role-reversal: MES virtually croons his way through the song, while Brix is in full-on rasping shouty punk mode. For me, it works to some extent, simply because it’s a bit different. However, Brix’s part teeters on the verge of being irritating throughout, and in the end too large a proportion of the song is taken up by her screeching the title; after a few plays, I began to find it pretty irksome. Musically, it’s fine – I particularly like the scuzzy guitar tone – if not a particularly inspiring piece. Not flirting with relegation, but unlikely to claim a European place either. 6/10

City Dweller
Another one of those that’s always rather passed me by. Generally I enjoy much of the electronic extras that Dave Bush brought to The Fall sound, but this one borders dangerously on the generic indie-dance crossover sound that, as I’ve indicated previously, didn’t do much for me at the time and still doesn’t really float my boat. The ‘layering’ of MES’s vocals render everything a bit indistinct and muddy as well. Didn’t mind having it on at all, but it was one where my attention tended to wander. 6/10

Nate Will Not Return
I really liked this when EGB first came out, and I’m still fond of the general air of krautrockyness; Greenway also plays some mighty fine guitar throughout. However, MES’s rhyming dictionary lyrics, which I found quite amusing the first few times round, began to grate after only a couple of plays. What I’d really like to do is get a hold of the instrumental track and give it a bit of the ‘Atlanta Albania‘ treatment. There are worse things on the album, but that’s rather damning it with faint praise. 6/10

Glam-Racket
I appear to own (without having any live/bootlegs that include it) multiple versions of this tune. Like Jawbone, the Peel take is a bit crisper, but the album version has a fine fuzzy twang to it. They’re all worth owning, anyway: this is an infectious and joyful stomper of a tune, where Brix’s vocals play a far more effective role than Darling; didn’t tire of hearing this one repeated one little bit. It’s particularly amusing and ironic to be receiving dietary advice from MES (that part is most effectively delivered on the Peel version). Never has a song’s title more accurately captured its sound. 8/10

The Fall in Fives #034

  • Who Makes The Nazis?
  • Married, 2 Kids
  • Stepping Out
  • Latch Key Kid
  • (Jung Nev’s) Antidotes

Who Makes The Nazis?
She would never in a million years let me record her (so I haven’t even asked) but I wish you could all hear my daughter’s impression of MES singing the title line of this one, which is wickedly accurate and delivered in such a deadpan manner that it never fails to make me laugh. (While we’re on child-related anecdotes, my youngest misheard this as ‘Who bakes the pansies?’)

Anyway, moving on… This is instantly identifiable as Hex-era Fall; it’s more sparse than much of that album, but while it doesn’t have the dense, driven quality of many Hex tracks, it’s no less intense. It’s underpinned by a simple, repetitive bass line and almost tribal drums; it builds slowly, but – like Hip Priest – never breaks out into the predictable thrash/explosion that many artists might have deployed. There’s an ominous and sinister aspect to it, exacerbated by the frankly disturbing backing vocals (which sound as they might be from the same source as the opening to Fortress).

I’ve never really been sure what MES actually means in this one. I’ve always had a vague idea that it’s a swipe aimed at American culture, but I have to confess that that’s almost entirely based on the references to Longhorns and motels. The Annotated Fall, as ever, strives bravely (and interestingly) to garner meaning but without coming to any definite conclusions. Whatever it’s about, there are some great lines, my favourite being ‘Buffalo lips on toast, smiling.’

The Peel version is more primitive and basic, and gallops along at a much faster tempo. It’s more urgent, but doesn’t quite have the intensity of the album version. You should own both, anyway. 8.5/10

Married, 2 Kids
An unusual one for The Fall in terms of musical style: the swinging rhythm, slide guitar and R’n’R piano give it a barroom blues feel; you could almost imagine the Stones covering it. MES’s laid-back drawl suits both the musical feel of the song and the lyrical content. Smith’s little vignette of married life is cynical and depressing, as you might expect, but also laced with dark, wry humour: ‘aftershave like mustard’; ‘peculiar goatish smell’.

I do admire the efforts of The Annotated Fall to unravel meaning from Smith’s words, but this footnote did make me laugh out loud (although this might just be my peculiar sense of humour) –  ‘Got a porta-fax’ [I think this is a portable fascimile machine.] 

Always thought this one to be interesting without being outstanding, but it’s another that I warmed to over a few plays. 7.5/10

Stepping Out
A very early tune, this a fairly mundane early-Fall-by-numbers punk thrash. There’s nothing much actually wrong with it, but it’s far from being one of their more inspired moments. The most notable thing about it (i.e. the version on disc 1 of the 2004 LATWT reissue) is that it’s a 70s live track where the sound quality isn’t abysmal. In fact, I kept forgetting it was live until the applause at the end. The other live version (on disc 2) is of more familar quality, with MES and the bass looming confrontationally in the mix while the drums are virtually inaudible. 5/10

Latch Key Kid
Starts off promisingly: that’s a mighty fine fat, fuzzy bass line, followed by a simultaneously sinister and comical MES growl about enjoying tobacco and sugar (sugar? Oh, really?) But then it all gets a bit half-arsed and underwhelming: too reliant on a simplistic keyboard line and vocal melody and it just doesn’t go anywhere especially interesting. I was happy enough to listen to the grizzly bass underpinning everything else, but overall it just feels like a slightly throwaway stab at a half-formed idea. 5.5/10

(Jung Nev’s) Antidotes
A close relation, obviously, of Anecdotes + Antidotes In B#. I’ve read a few comments that compare it to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, and there is a certain flavour of John Bonham to the drum track as well as a similarly epic/portentous feel to the surging keyboards. However, the sustained guitar feedback part also puts me in mind of U2’s Bullet the Blue Sky (one of the very few songs by Bono & co that I can stomach to any extent).

Whoever it might sound like, it’s great: a big, sweeping, dramatic wave of noise that thunders along with great gusto and suits being played at high volume. 8/10

The Fall in Fives #033

Bit of a gap since the last one, as my mother has been visiting. She dismisses virtually all my music with her trademark comment, “Is that that dreadful Billy Bragg?” (Lord knows why she picked on poor Mr Bragg as her shorthand for ‘that awful music my son likes’) so Fall listening has been severely rationed recently…

  • Hot Runes
  • Hungry Freaks, Daddy
  • Two Face!
  • Leave the Capitol
  • Symbol of Mordgan

Hot Runes
I adore the guitar on this. The Fall have a long history of twangy/rockabilly guitar lines, but this is a particular cracker. I’m a bit of an amateur guitarist but one without any formal musical education, so I don’t know what sort of augmented/diminished/whatever chords those are at 0:12-0:22 but they’re an absolute delight; the two-note motif (e.g. at 0:27) is superb as well. And the distorted version that bursts in after the brief breakdown towards the end is also a joy.

The vocals aren’t the best ever (even if ‘hyper-bowl’ makes me laugh), straying perilously close to ‘everyone-chant-in-the-studio-chant-along’ territory, but this isn’t intrusive enough to detract significantly from the swinging swagger of the song. There’s not much to go on lyrically, but it’s presumably at least partly football-related, given the Alan Brazil reference (I am certainly old enough to remember the follically-challenged Mr Brazil appearing on Match of the Day).

My main criticism is that it’s far too brief, fading just when it’s getting going, which makes it feel rather more slight than it deserves to. 8/10

Hungry Freaks, Daddy
I can take or leave Zappa, to be honest. I find some of his stuff an occasionally entertaining diversion, but unlike many I consider him neither a god-like genius nor a purveyor of unlistenable nonsense. This a rather simplistic and bludgeoning cover (from Last Night at the Palais) of a ’66 Zappa track that basically consists of  a steam-roller repetition of the main riff accompanied by MES bellowing out the bits of the lyrics that he can remember. There are some reasonably engaging bits of wig-out soloing lurking here and there, and I did warm to it a little after several plays (I doubt I’d listened to it more than 2-3 times before this), but overall it’s a bit leaden and one-dimensional. File under: probably made more sense if you were there. 5/10

Two Face!
As I have already indicated, I’m not the hugest fan of the Shift-Work/Code:Selfish era. This one, stuck in the middle of the latter, has never really grabbed my attention – positively or negatively – up until now. Having listened to it repeatedly over the last couple of days, my opinion is now that it is… well, ok. It lopes along pleasantly enough (slightly reminiscent of James’ Sit Down) and mostly avoids the horribly dated indie-dance rock tropes that bedevil some of the group’s early 90s stuff. MES’s vocal is quite pleasingly laconic and it has a pretty catchy hook to it. That said, it’s nowhere near a strong enough idea to support its 6-minute length, and my attention did tend to wander towards the end each time. I mean, it’s The Fall, so it’s still good; but definitely the middle ground in the grand scheme of things. 6/10

Leave the Capitol
Much as I love Hot Runes, this blows the rest of this set out of the water. Whilst I have occasionally had mixed feelings about Slates over the years, there’s no doubt that this is an absolutely class tune.

The first band that sprang to mind whilst listening to this was REM (I’ve been surprised by how often I’ve referenced them already): there’s something about the arpeggios and the slightly off-kilter sound that puts me in mind of Chronic Town and Murmur (which are of course pretty much contemporary to Slates). But to an even greater extent, Leave The Capitol demonstrates where they got the idea for Pavement from. Smith was famously dismissive of Malkmus & co., but he was 3 years out – this is the Fall tune that Pavement seem to have been grasping for on their first couple of albums.

Influences/similarities aside, this is absolutely prime Fall. A far more traditional song structure and accessible sound than, for example, Prole Art Threat from the same EP (or LP or mini-LP or whatever you want to call it) but still has that unmistakable air of unique Fall-ness about it. Forceful but measured in terms of both the music and MES’s performance, it could have had another hundred spins and I wouldn’t have tired of it. 10/10

Symbol of Mordgan
Even as a general fan of the experimental/filler/p*ss-take end of the Fall’s output, I’ve always thought this one to be rather pointless and tiresome. It starts off acceptably enough, with some peculiar ‘flicking through the radio frequencies’ randomness. Thereafter, the majority of what we get is a faint and tinny rendition of some fairly mundane surf-rock style instrumental overlaid with a tedious football-related conversation between Craig Scanlon and John Peel. A few random cuts and reverse-play sections don’t really liven things up much. As a little segue of a minute or so’s length, I could have coped with it; at over three minutes it outstays its welcome by some distance. It’s not the worst thing they ever released, but it commits the cardinal sin of making John Peel seem boring. 3/10

[Perhaps unsurpisingly, Symbol itself isn’t on YouTube. However, whilst looking, I came across this very very bizarre video.]