Random selection number 5:
- Big New Priest/New Big Prinz
- Das Katerer
- Rude (All the time)
- In My Area
Big New Priest/New Big Prinz
This song brings back fond memories for me, as the ‘check the record’ refrain was used as the theme tune to a ‘Round Table’ type show on URY, the student radio station when I was at university. (This would probably be quite hard for the young folk today to get their head around, but back then URY were forbidden from broadcasting on FM because it might interfere with ‘official’ broadcasts. Hence it was on medium wave, with the inevitable shoddy sound quality, which was the main – if not the only – reason very few people actually listened to it.)
Whilst in the pub one afternoon in the summer of 1990, my friend John (who was deputy president of the SU at the time) suddenly remembered that he had been invited to be a guest panelist on that day’s show. Having nothing better to do, and fortified by an afternoon’s drinking, I joined him as an uninvited surprise guest. Much hilarity ensued (although I’m not sure the host was overly amused) and I do, somewhere, have a recording on cassette of the whole debacle. I haven’t dug it out for years, and possibly won’t do again for a while yet: I’m sure it’s a whole lot funnier in my memory than in actuality…
Anyway, the track itself (in both guises) manages the remarkable of feat of being simultaneously jaunty and sinister. The bass line (one of the simplest and most effective in The Fall’s history) and drums make the biggest contribution to the former, helping the song to bounce along energetically. Meanwhile, the abrasive, descending guitar line and MES’s distorted bark give the song a bit of menace.
Both versions are excellent, but I prefer the opener from Oranj, as the slightly heavy-handed echo/reverb effect on the other dulls its impact – but only a little. The only real shortcoming is that it ends too soon. On my ‘version’ of the album (I’ll come back to my ‘versions’ at some point) I glued the two together to make a bit of a 6-7 minute epic. I also appear to have a Big New Prinz on my hard drive, but this version from 458489 is exactly the same as New Big Prinz as far as I can tell. 9/10
I like a good ‘experimental’ Fall track as much as the next man (and probably much more, unless the next man happens to be J. Eric Smith). In fact, with the encouragement of said Mr. Smith, I once made a Fillers and P**-Takes mix – although I’m not sure that anyone other than he and I ever listened to it…
Even I don’t listen regularly to a collection of these interludes all together, but they do often make a positive contribution to the albums. Many add a welcome dose of variety, texture and humour – although they do occasionally outstay their welcome a little (but we’ll come to Das Boat later).
At just over two minutes, this one isn’t guilty of stretching things too far. It’s hard to argue with The Fall A-Z’s description: MES shouting various repetitive seemingly nonsensical phrases accompanied by various drum beats and other discordant sounds, often played on machines. Like Hurricane Edward, repeated listens enable you to pick up lots of new little details each time. It’s quite difficult to establish the origin of many of the sounds. Is that, for example, the sound of pigs rooting about for truffles at 0:11? Who’s tapping what on what at 1:34? God knows what MES is actually on about. Even the thorough and meticulous Annotated Fall admits defeat with this one: the lyrics most likely are uninterpretable.
I’m not claiming it’s a great work of art or anything, and it doesn’t really stand up as an individual track outside of the context of the album; but it does provide an entertaining and intriguing little diversion to wrap up The Marshall Suite (I never listen to On My Own if I can help it – although obviously at some point I’m going to have to). 6/10
I said in a previous post that I was sometimes guilty of ‘casual listening’, and here’s a prime example: how have I never heard those tweeting birds at 0:14 before?? I’m never sure why MES felt the need to include a fairly slight and unremarkable retread of Free Range on Unutterable (which is a great album, but could have stood being a little shorter). And, whilst there are a few random squiggles here and there, it doesn’t have the same level of playful and inventive electronic flourishes that make much of the album so enjoyable. The melody is a bit simplistic and repetitive, too.
Actually, I’m being far too harsh on Katerer here: whilst it’s not an essential part of the back catalogue, I found it pleasant enough, and it mixed quite effectively with the other four in this sample. 6/10
Rude (All the time)
If you were in your teens/early 20s, and a couple of mates presented you with a recording of this as ‘just an idea we’ve been playing around with’, you’d most likely think, Not bad: pleasant enough strumming and a reasonable basic idea for a melody. But as a Fall release, it’s not much more than a minor curiosity; the sort of thing that you don’t mind popping up on shuffle, but repeated listening isn’t terribly rewarding.
According to Discogs, copies of this go for about £80-100. I’ve never been a collector of anything, so I do find this a little baffling. I can think of a million better things to spend a hundred quid on. 4/10
In My Area
One thing that I’m starting to learn from this little project is that a lot of the early Fall stuff fares a lot better with me when listened to in isolation, i.e. not in the context of listening to the whole album. Both Rebellious Jukebox and Bingo-Master, for example, were far more enjoyable on repeated play that I might have expected judging by my previous experiences listening to the whole of, say, Witch Trials.
This proves to be the case once more with In My Area. I’ve never got on with Dragnet at all, and it has featured at the very bottom of the list when I’ve done a review/ranking of all the Fall albums in the past. (Before any smart alec rushes in to correct me, I know it wasn’t on the original album, but it’s on the reissue I own and it’s from that era anyway.) Area still has many of the features that are indicative of a Fall era/sound that isn’t really in my preferred style, but in the company of the rest of the songs in this batch, it provided a welcome change of pace.
It’s very angular and awkward: the band frequently sound like they’re going to lose track of each other entirely. The erratic fairground keyboards combined with MES’s repeated references to ‘madness’ add to the slightly deranged and wonky feel of the song. Not a classic by any means, but another pleasant surprise. 5.5/10