The Fall in Fives #070

  • Don’t take the Pizza
  • Oleano
  • The City Never Sleeps
  • Fall Sound
  • Mansion

I must confess that I had no idea that Australians in Europe was quite so loved! It’s certainly the review that’s provoked the most reaction thus far, a few people suggesting my faculties must be impaired, especially in light of giving Spencer full marks. I do understand why the latter is not many people’s idea of a 10/10 song; that said, I still love it unreservedly. Anyway, before putting playlist #070 on, I did give Australians a few extra listens this morning. And perhaps I was a little harsh. To return to the theme of context, it’s interesting how some songs that I’ve hitherto considered to be ‘middling’ or unremarkable have fared differently depending on the selection they find themselves in: some have fared poorly because the accompanying songs are much stronger and they therefore pale in comparison; others have been ‘pulled up’ by being part of a really enjoyable playlist. Australians seemed to suffer from being part of a somewhat dodgy batch in which, for me, it failed to make a case for being anything other than a middling effort.

That said, the extra listens this morning did convince me that I had erred on the side of negativity, so I’ve gone back and bumped it up to 6/10. I remain largely indifferent to its appeal though, so apologies to its fans. But I was never going to please all of the people etc. with this blog, was I?

Don’t take the Pizza
We start this selection with a bit of a curio; an often-overlooked track that appeared on the High Tension Line 12″, and hasn’t (in comparison to many similar songs) made its way onto many of the multitude of random compilations that have emerged over the years.

Its most notable feature is the bouncy bass line, which sounds rather like a sped-up version of Oh! Brother. There are also a couple of places where it reminds me of the never-released Ponto, for example ‘slumber’ at 0:26. There’s a nice scuzzy guitar dipping in and out, and a few pleasing bits of haunting, floaty keyboard hovering in the background; plus we get a brief burst of (rather hesitantly blown) harmonica right at the end (2:25).

MES sounds pretty sharp, enunciating even the more rapid sections relatively clearly. Some great lines too, such as ‘You dopey randy acid clone’. There are a few suggestions as to the song’s meaning on The Annotated Fall, but I’ll go with bzfgt’s verdict that it’s ‘well-nigh impenetrable’.

Enjoyed this more than I expected to, and it rather grew on me. Having said that, it does feel like it has ‘b-side’ written all over it. There’s just something slightly insubstantial about it. 6.5/10

Oleano
I have referred several times to the excellent 40-45 minute album lurking within the unfortunately bloated and overlong Light User Syndrome; this one would definitely be in that line-up alongside He Pep!, Hostile and Oxymoron. It’s frantic, melodramatic and urgent; driven by a trio of complementary guitars (an insistent, alarm-like chime, a choppy low-end rhythm and some fuzzy power chords), a simple, driving piano melody and a solid, reverberating bass part from SH. In addition, the way that the group launch into an extra-gusto passage at 2:13 is sublime (this also preceded by some lovely little controlled bursts of feedback from the ‘power-chord’ guitar).

There’s not much of a traditional song structure; in a sense it’s a three minute verse where the chorus never arrives. But it doesn’t need it: it’s perfectly paced and suits MES’s staccato interjections to a tee. (I’m very fond of his ‘ah-ha’ at 1:15 in particular.)  In fact, you can’t help feeling that there are a couple more minutes left in this one. And should you listen to the version from the Cheetham Hill compilation, you get exactly that – it featuring an extended instrumental passage with some intriguing Twilight Zone-style keyboards. Worth checking out (see the video below). As is the Peel version, which is a little more loose and spacey and less urgent (although Brix’s scream at 2:04 is a little alarming), but still very satisfying. 9/10

The City Never Sleeps
There are no two ways about it: this is bloody awful. It’s twee, flat-footed and features a salesman in a 1980s Dixons demonstrating all the features of their latest Casio keyboard. To say it doesn’t sound like The Fall is an understatement; but it doesn’t even sound like bad Fall, it just sounds bad. Bad like a Chumbawumba b-side. No offence intended to Lucy Rimmer, who can obviously sing (although not, on this evidence, in a style that’s much to my taste). The original is a saccharine piece of 60s kitsch that I find rather tiresome as well, but it’s not in the league of this unmitigated disaster. 0/10

Fall Sound
Back on track. A deep, fuzzy bass line (very much a relative of Reformation!) takes a relentless grip from the word go, and it’s admirably supported by a bluesy guitar part and some meandering synth oscillations. MES full of gusto here, and while there is a touch of that ‘disassociation’ that I’ve noted on other RPTLC tracks (you can easily imagine him recording the vocals totally separately from the group) he meshes well with the driving blues-rock groove. He’s full of snarl and defiance, right in your face; and there are some wonderful shouts, growls and… well, I’m not quite sure exactly how to describe the noise he makes at 0:23 (perhaps a mutated version of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman purr) but it all hangs together fabulously in a fashion that ought to make you want to hike the volume. 9/10

Mansion
Very much an introductory piece – although not a filler/p*ss-take in the style of Mollusc or Interferance – it’s quite hard to assess this one out of context. On its own, it’s not much more than a brief, twangy instrumental with some spooky/sci-fi overtones (and it was clearly lifted from this). That said, it holds fond memories for me, as it was the introduction to the first ‘proper’ Fall album I ever bought. Which, purely on a nostalgia basis, gains it an 8/10

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The Fall in Fives #069

  • Louie Louie
  • I’ve Been Duped
  • Session Musician
  • Bo Demmick
  • Australians in Europe

Louie Louie
I have to confess that I only actually listened to this one twice (I think trebling my total number of listens to date) – once was enough, really.

I’ve never had much time for the song, to be honest. There must be something about it, as so many people have covered it (Motorhead, Black Flag, Blondie, The Clash, to name but a tiny fraction), but it always puts me in mind of dumb American 70s comedy films. But The Fall’s version… Badly recorded doesn’t do it justice, and in places it sounds like MES is trying to swallow the microphone whole. It gets a mark for being of historical interest (it was Tony Friel’s last gig, as is made clear in the intro); but I have no intention of listening to it again. 1/10

I’ve Been Duped
I can’t say that I enjoyed this one a whole lot more. This has always been in my top (bottom?) ten least favourite Fall songs, and repeated listens did nothing to make the situation more positive. I’m a big fan of IWS, but Duped makes my toes curl. The music is dull, bland and predictable, but it’s the singing where the real problems lie. The just-back-from-the-pub-everyone-in-the-studio-shout-along vocals are horrible, and make Hurry Up Harry sound like Kate Bush in comparison. And, whilst I think that overall Eleni made an excellent contribution to the group’s 21st century output, her sub-Nico robotic vocals here are like nails down a blackboard. Better than Louie Louie is the best that I can say. 2/10

Session Musician
In which MES gives vent to his feelings about musicians, a theme he would certainly return to in many interviews over the years. It was never recorded in the studio, but there a few live versions from 1981 that are knocking about (there are three on Spotify alone).  None of them (that I’ve heard, anyway) are much cop in terms of sound quality.

This is clearly a bit better than the preceding two tracks; but, I’m afraid to say, it’s still not a particularly strong track to these ears. The lyrics, while obviously heartfelt, are a bit obvious – Say he was ripped off by publishing / And he’ll wish he did his own songs / And not cover versions of the Velvet Underground – and a long way from the incisive, creative and poetic lyrics characteristic of the period.

Musically,  it feels rather ‘ploddy’, and whilst there are changes of pace, it doesn’t offer enough variety or inventiveness to sustain its 8-9 minute length, paling in comparison to the other 7 minute plus epics of the era. 4/10

Bo Demmick
A bit more like it. Not perhaps the stand-out moment from FHR, but a vigorous stomp that came as rather a relief in the middle of this less than successful playlist. Based around an energetic, if slightly obvious Bo Diddley shuffle, it swings along enthusiastically and definitely causes a toe to tap. Nice to hear the return of ‘moderninity’ (a great word) too. Not earth-shattering, but a solid entry in the canon. The alternative version, Bo Doodak, is not vastly different, but is certainly worth a listen. 7.5/10

Australians in Europe
Another energetic one, and one of those that I haven’t really paid that much attention to over the years. It’s a little bit thin and shiny sounding, and the reverb on MES’s yelps in particular make it sound rather dated. The most positive feature is probably Smith’s Lydon-esque sustained notes. The Peel version is distinctly flimsy (where’s the bass?), and while there’s some pleasant enough squealing guitar towards the end, it outstays its welcome by a good couple of minutes. Northerns In Europ (from the Hit The North 12″) is an interesting little curiosity, featuring what sounds like the group having a chat whilst listening to the song on an AM radio. Overall, one for completists only, I think. 6/10

The Fall in Fives #068

  • Life Just Bounces
  • Impression of J. Temperance
  • Arid Al’s Dream
  • Spencer Must Die
  • Cyber Insekt

The highest average score so far…

Life Just Bounces
One of several songs from the early/mid-90s where there were a few different versions floating about, LJB was an excellent intro to this playlist. As The Story of the Fall site quite rightly points out, it really does bounce. Starting with some gentle strings-effect synth chords, followed by a little bit of ham-fisted (MES?) piano right at the top of the scale, it soon launches into a joyful stomp, with thunderous drums and a simple, infectious guitar line (basically a journey up and down the scale) that never fails to make me smile.

It manages the remarkable feat of being uptempo, vigorous and almost danceable (although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that any wedding DJs try to squeeze it in between Come On Eileen and Hi Ho Silver Lining) whilst still sounding quite laid-back and laconic – largely due to MES’s wonderfully distorted vocals. Favourite moment: his exclamation “rock group” at 2:41 (closely followed by the “And…” at 3:50). There’s also some lovely guitar: e.g the pairs of little ‘shrieks’ from 3:28 onwards and the extra layer of guitar thrash at 4:30.

I’ve been talking thus far about the album version; the much earlier original (from White Lightning/The Dredger EP) is fine, if a little sluggish in comparison. There are a couple of noteworthy live versions too. Bounces – Leeds (from The Twenty-Seven Points) is really only a two minute snippet of the tune, but features some intriguingly bonkers vocals (from Karl Burns, I think?) And many thanks to Cactus from the Fall Forum, who reminded me about the excellent version on the 2001 A World Bewitched compilation (originally featured on the In The City live album). You can listen to this here. And you should: not only is it a really good quality recording, but Smith and the group are on top form; plus, you get an extended thrashed-out guitar workout in the style of VU’s What Goes On or much of The Wedding Present’s early stuff. Nine minutes of bliss. I got a lot of joy from both this and the album version, so it’s a definite 10/10.

Impression of J. Temperance
One of the most dark and twisted tales in the group’s history: I’d almost forgotten how spooky this is. Everything about it is oppressive and sinister: the insistent, marching snare, the throbbing, snaking three-note bass line (which takes a dramatic and alarming trip right up the neck at 3:02-3:20), the stabs of aggressive, discordant freakshow keyboards, the skittering, shrieking guitar… And when the latter two meet in the ‘chorus’ (e.g at 0:51), the effect is as creepy as any horror film soundtrack I’ve ever heard.

And that’s before you even get to MES’s vocal. I can’t think of any song where he sounds more dark and malevolent than this, describing the bizarre and disturbing tale of a dog breeder’s grotesque experiments: The new born thing hard to describe/Like a rat that’s been trapped inside a warehouse base, near a city tide/Brown sockets, purple eyes/And fed with rubbish from disposal barges. I certainly couldn’t have much of a greater contrast from the opening uplift of Bounces. Disturbingly brilliant. 9.5/10

Arid Al’s Dream
A bit of an obscurity, originally appearing on a somewhat random 1992 compilation called Volume 4, although it also showed up on the 2007 reissue of Shift-Work. It’s one of those that’s largely passed me by in the past, and I had pretty much forgotten what it sounded like. It suffered from its company in this playlist, to be honest. Nothing in particular wrong with it, but in comparison to the two that preceded it in particular, it felt rather flimsy and inconsequential. The more uptempo sections (1:06-2:08 and 3:12 onwards), which feature some frantic violin, are more satisfying than the remainder of the song, which is bit mundane and lackadaisical. But overall, it’s an OK but less than memorable little oddity. 6/10

Spencer Must Die
Not one that’s generally high on many Fall fans’ top whatever lists, but I have always absolutely adored this one. For a start, I’ve been a sucker for a good drum track, and there’s just something I find inordinately pleasing about the one here: there’s something almost funky (not a word you often apply to The Fall) in it; it lopes along in a loose, head-bobbing fashion; an effortlessly engaging shuffle that I could just listen to for hours. SH also provides a fluid, sliding, oscillating rhythm that unobtrusively underpins everything (notwithstanding the little misstep at 1:19).

Lots of little details to love: the (admittedly slightly cheesy) descending synth line that adds a splash of colour; the little snippets of understated twangy guitar (e.g at 1:34 and 1:37); the distortion on the vocals at 0:28-0:31; the gentle guitar strum that appears at 2:06…

The Peel version features a horribly flatulent synth and bears little relation to the album version. If you haven’t heard it, I’d recommend you keep it that way.

But back to the proper version… It’s not even a ‘proper’ song as such; more of a skeleton of an idea with MES doing little more than mumble stuff about sunflowers and raspberries. Plus, it features a fade-out that’s abrupt even by The Fall’s standards. But, unashamedly, I love it wholeheartedly… 10/10

Cyber Insekt
A bit of shiny punk-skiffle from The Unutterable, this made a more than satisfactory conclusion to a strong playlist overall. The backing vocals are not entirely to my taste, but they work well enough here. The slightly discordant guitar line lurking in the background is a positive feature, and the slightly spaced-out interludes break thing up nicely, although I would say that that the synths overall could do with turning down a bit (and overall, the whole thing is a little tinny).  One of those ‘oops, I leaned over the mixing desk’ fade-outs too. However, it’s energetic and fun 7.5/10

The Fall in Fives #067

  • Exploding Chimney
  • White Lightning
  • Rose
  • Brillo De Facto
  • Victoria Train Station Massacre

Exploding Chimney
Always a pleasure to hear this. It starts with a throbbing, oscillating bass frequency low enough to be just audible to the human ear, which is then joined by a distinctly 70s prog distorted keyboard/guitar combo (is that a mellotron?) And when it kicks off properly at 0:17, it’s glorious: just listen to that shredded guitar fuzz. The frequent staccato sections (e.g. 1:19-1:24) break the song up very effectively and contribute further to the ‘proggy’ feel of the whole thing.

The whole thing has a wonderfully loud and raucous atmosphere, and you can’t help but listen to it at high volume. Greenway’s guitar is just magnificent throughout: the screech of fingers down the frets at 0:39; the strangled chords at 1:24-1:36; the shrieking runs at 2:07-08; the crackling distortion at the finale… just marvellous.

MES gives it some welly too: sneering and snarling at the top his game. I hadn’t considered bzfgt’s interpretation of what the “chimney” might represent (!!), but who cares when the music’s this good. The only criticism I have is that it’s at least a minute too short. 9.5/10 

White Lightning
I don’t mind this one, although I’ve never been a particularly huge fan either. A ramshackle, drunken collision between Chuck Berry and Status Quo, it’s kind of fun, if verging on end-of-a-long-night karaoke. I can see why it might have been wheeled out as an encore so often; I don’t suppose they spend a great deal of time rehearsing it. 7/10

Rose
The weak link in this playlist for me, I’m afraid. The jangly two-chord guitar part seems to hark back to C86 days, the wah-wah is hamfisted and incongruous and the flute-effect keyboard is twee and slightly irritating. MES in half-arsed mode as well. The whole thing sounds rather flat and unconvincing. 5/10

Brillo De Facto
Regular readers will know by now that I am a big New Facts Emerge fan, and this is one of the many belters from the final album. Very riff-based, as is much of the first half of the album, but it’s a great riff – somehow slightly awkward and fluid at the same time. And once more Dave Spurr – just as SH used to do once upon a time – underpins it all with a mighty, full-bodied snaking bass line. Some fine drumming from Keiron too: it’s far from a standard 4/4 beat (it sounds to these uneducated ears damn difficult to play), and manages to be a solid, unfussy foundation as well as a bit of rhythmic complexity. The transition (starting at 2:32) is a cracker as well; the group taking a brief breath before launching into a full-on garage punk crescendo, complete with epic, banging finale.

MES is at his most slurred and incoherent, but there’s just something about the contrast between his unfocused snarl and the controlled tightness of the band that does wonders for me. I love this album. 9.5/10

Victoria Train Station Massacre
I find it hard to review this one as a separate entity, as I consider it (as I explained in #010) as part of one song. The VTSM/NFE combination is an absolute winner; I did feel disappointed each time this cut out at the point where it should have burst forth into NFE‘s crunching riff. What it does have is a) MES holding a very ill-advised but entertainingly off-key note at 0:35 (for 6 seconds!) and b) a slightly inept but endearing backwards section (which I was slightly disappointed to find, when reversing it, is just the same lyrics as the rest of it backwards, rather than any sort of exhortation to worship Satan). Anyway, I’ve been cheating whilst typing this and playing it in conjunction with NFE. You should too; and turn it up a bit, obviously. 9.5/10

The Fall in Fives #066

  • I’m Into CB
  • Get A Summer Song Goin’
  • Pumpkin Head Escapes/Xscapes
  • Strange Town
  • Guest Informant

I’m Into CB
CB radio was a pretty ridiculous phenomenon, wasn’t it? I mean, I get how it made sense if you were an American trucker in the 70s, but in 1980s UK, it was a rather strange craze. Like many kids at the time, I nagged my parents for one and received a CB set for my 13th birthday (I had thought I might have – less embarrassingly – been a little younger, but Wikipedia tells me it wasn’t legalised until I was 12). And – like many of my era, I imagine – spent most of my time basically asking other users (all pretty much within a 5-mile radius) where they lived, how old they were and how strong my signal was. You could have gained more social interaction by simply riding your bike down to the park.

MES captures the mundanity and ridiculousness of early 80s teenage British life perfectly here: using a CB without owning a car or ever having ‘been near a lorry’; YTS schemes; the sister reading Smash Hits and listening to rubbish chart music; getting hammered in the park on martini or sherry or whatever you could get your hands on. (It was sherry for me the first time, pinched from my parents’ sideboard. After nearly 40 years I feel I ought to apologise to Mark Sanders, my partner in crime: Mark, wherever you are, every other swig I stuck my tongue in the end of the bottle so I didn’t actually drink any, so that you probably had about three-quarters of it; which explains why you were sick all over your parents’ lawn and I wasn’t. Sorry.)

The point of my rather self-indulgent digression is that MES really captures the spirit of the era here, in a way that I (and doubtless many others of my age) can really empathise with. Much of The Fall’s early stuff has a strong essence of Englishness about it, and this track is a perfect example. I should imagine that non-UK listeners find this track particularly baffling in places. And I hope bzfgt doesn’t mind me poking fun (as he knows I have much admiration for The Annotated Fall site), but this comment really made me chuckle: “Eating her tea”–is that something one would say, in England? Meaning eating whatever one would eat at tea time?

One final point about the lyrics (it’s very out of character, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, for me to get to a fourth paragraph without getting to the music) – the verse about his dad is quite touching. He may rarely talk to the protagonist, but he did provide the ‘wires and bits’ and is ‘not bad really’. It’s interesting, in light of Smith’s disapproval of attitudes to ‘modern’ fatherhood to note how affectionate (in his own particular way) that this sounds.

Musically, it’s simplicity itself: a two-chord guitar chime, Hanley pretty much sticking to one note and a cowbell. (I can’t, off the top of my head, think of another of the group’s songs with a prominent cowbell, but after the banjo debacle of #050 I’m wary of asserting this too forcefully.) The drums pick up pace at 4:47 and develop an almost Bo Diddley-esque shuffle, and Scanlon gets a little more free-form; but other than that, it’s classic early 80s Fall repetition.

On the Hex bonus disc, you can find the Stars on 45 version. (US readers may – I hope for their sake – be unfamiliar with the “Stars on 45” phenomenon; if this is true, and you’re feeling brave, you can witness the full horror here.) Here, the group mixes the song up with Psykick Dancehall. It’s fun, although the version played in Plymouth in 1981 (the review of which is quoted here) sounds even more fun: “The early atonal two note son of “Spoonful” version of “I’m into CB” is an unforgiving noisy thing and soon morphs into the riff medley which includes 2nd Dark Age, Fiery Jack, Container Drivers and extreme silliness on kazoos.” 9.5/10

Get A Summer Song Goin’
To return to the topic of context… I’ve never disliked this one (a vinyl-only track from YFOC) but following on from CB did make it sound a bit stilted, plodding and one-dimensional. Based around a fuzzed-up and phased/flanged 60s psychedelia guitar riff, it stomps along pleasantly if a little aimlessly. There are a few space invader type noises in the breakdown at 2:16-2:54 to add a little variety, but it doesn’t help that MES sounds rather disengaged with the whole thing. It’s also one of those ‘repeating the title to make up the chorus’ affairs which I’m rarely keen on. Never minded it being on particularly, but it failed to provoke much in the way of enthusiasm. 6/10

Pumpkin Head Escapes/Xscapes
Another one that, whilst not unpleasant, failed to muster much enthusiasm here, I’m afraid. A very uptempo (by the Fall’s standards) track, it suffers – for me – from that early-90s-indie-dance-crossover vibe that, as I’ve mentioned several times before, doesn’t really appeal to me. In particular, I’m not overly fond of the thin, tinny trying-to-be-funky choppy guitar work. It has its admirers (see this interesting and highly detailed review here) but for me it just has ‘throwaway-b-side’ written all over it. 5.5/10

Strange Town
Your first impression of this may well be that it’s just one of those bog standard Fall 60s/70s garage covers, and to a large extent that’s exactly what it is. However, there are a few odd elements that raise it (a little) above that. Firstly, there’s the ‘Wish You Were Here’-style radio tune-in intro and MES’s slightly creepy and disturbing sounding I like your plants, they are nice. Then there are some strange little ‘skips’ and/or clumsy edits that make it sound as though it’s a taped copy of a scratched record (e.g. at 0:23, 0:33, 1:46, 2:12 and throughout). Plus, there’s a range of very interesting background noise (e.g. what sounds like a broken-down air conditioner at 4:29-4:41). On top of all of that, MES is ludicrously high in the mix. The moment where MES seems to lose the plot and has to count himself back in (2:42-2:46) is also pretty priceless.

It’s hard to decide whether it’s extravagantly innovative or just an example of  MES taking the piss. As ever, the truth probably lies somewhere between the two. Not the group’s finest moment, by any means; but the sort of track that only The Fall could ever have released. 7/10

Guest Informant
Smith’s utter refusal to do anything that’s expected of him is one of the major reasons why many of us loved The Fall. That said, it’s still mystifying as to why only a 40-second snippet of this monumental track made it onto Frenz. (I know that the ‘proper’ version was on the cassette/CD, and that CD sales overtook vinyl in the year that Frenz came out; but my memory is that ‘indie’ artists/fans still considered the LP to be the ‘proper’ version in 1988.)

Anyway, the main/proper/full version is stomping, aggressive angular classic Fall; a sort of pop-industrial rockabilly. In fact, its rhythm is so insistent and hypnotic that it caused my better half to dance along with it whilst chopping vegetables in the kitchen this evening. (She has, however, asked me to point out that this “doesn’t mean that I like it”.)

I’m not going to attempt any in-depth analysis of the lyrics: firstly, I’ve exhausted myself in this regard with CB; secondly, it’s covered extensively on The Annotated Fall should you wish to peruse that. However, I will say that there’s no way it’s ‘Baghdad’; at least most of the time.

I would also say that, vocally, this is possibly Brix’s most effective contribution to a Fall song. MES is on top form too: the way he enunciates the track’s title is worth the price of admission alone. The Peel version is pretty tidy as well: a little cleaner and spacious in its production, the organ sound floating around is a positive addition and there’s some excellently fizzy and fuzzed-up guitar towards the end. Another case of you should definitely own both. 9.5/10

The Fall in Fives #065

  • Venice With The Girls
  • What About Us?
  • Second House Now
  • Town Called Crappy (aka Don’t Like Maggie)
  • M5

Venice With The Girls
A cracking opener for the playlist, just as it’s a stirring introduction to Sub-Lingual Tablet, Venice is a fizzing, snarling piece of garage rock that finds MES in remarkably coherent form for this era Fall (although that’s not to say that there isn’t some trademark 21st century growling and odd vocal effects at points). It’s also quite a straightforwardly-structured song for the group, verging on a traditional verse/chorus form. Spurr/Greenway/Melling are as tight, muscular and robust as ever; Greenway in particular is in fine form, with some excellent string-bending/tremolo work. There’s also a choice moment at 3:30-3.33, where the band drop out and smash back in again with impeccable timing.

The Annotated Fall spends some time (about 350 words) debating whether it’s ‘breadland’, ‘britland’ or even ‘inbredland’. I have to say it sounds like the first option to me; but, whatever the case, it would seem that MES was inspired by a travel insurance advert. And if you’re so inclined, you can actually see said advert here (although I would say that the delivery of the word ‘bunions’ at 0:15 is probably its most notable feature).

Venice With Girls, the alternative take on Wise Ol’ Man, isn’t much of a radical departure. It’s slightly more raw and trebly, and Eleni’s keyboards feature a little more prominently. 9/10

What About Us?
The three-chord riff, heavy, distorted guitar sound and general no-nonsense heads-down style make this pretty much instantly identifiable as a Fall Heads Roll song. Which, for some Fall fans, is enough to condemn it as one-dimensional and uninspiring. Not in this house, though: I wouldn’t by any means have wished The Fall to have sounded like this all the time; but sometimes a good loud blast of FHR ticks all the boxes most satisfactorily. Definitely one (like a few before) that would have seen me doing some vigorous steering-wheel dadrock-style drumming had I been listening in the car rather than just pottering around the house. Taking his lyrical inspiration from the Harold Shipman case (as well as the fall of the Berlin wall) certainly provides an interesting contrast to the origins of the previous lyric.

I enjoy the guitar work on the Peel version, which is a little looser – also more audible owing to the far less dense production – and makes for a more engaging introduction. However, in comparison to the album version, it feels a little plodding. The version on Interim is only of passing interest. 8.5/10

Second House Now
Unless my memory is seriously starting to deteriorate in my old age, I think that this was the first NFE track to emerge, via a play on 6Music. As I’ve said before, it took a while (probably five or six plays) for NFE to ‘click’ with me, and this was very much the case with this song. Like, I imagine, many people, my reaction to the first 45 seconds – some sort of lethargic rockabilly accompanied by some drunken-sounding warbling – was very much wtf? But then it kicks in… and once you’ve got your head around it, it’s amazing. The trio are as tight and punchy as ever, but there are also some lovely touches, such as the phasing (e.g. at 1:13-1:23) and the full-on string bending (2:18).

And yes, MES is a long way from the sharp, coherent poet of the early 80s; his vocal is all slur and distortion and randomness. But there’s something really rather moving about his voice on this, especially the slightly incongruous trad rock ‘n’ roll exhortation of ‘c’mon, c’mon’. I’m not one who generally gets terribly emotional over this kind of thing, but there’s just something about the way he sings this that I find quite touching. 9.5/10

Town Called Crappy (aka Don’t Like Maggie)
Only the very deluded would deny that The Fall were always the kings of the excellent song title. However, this one is the exception that proves the rule, whichever version you consider. It’s basically a throwaway 30 second intro to Solicitor in Studio, played only twice, and isn’t really worthy of consideration as something in its own right. 2/10

M5
I’ve always been a little unmoved by this one, and repeated plays neither made me dislike it nor led me to find any hitherto undiscovered positives. It’s a bit of a monolithic wall of noise and MES’s vocal is rather one-dimensional. The Peel version has a more distinct guitar line and features more keyboards; the version from the Behind The Counter single is a bit slower. Inoffensive but uninspiring. 5.5/10

The Fall in Fives #064

  • You Haven’t Found it Yet
  • I’m Not Satisfied
  • Way Round
  • Service
  • Slang King

You Haven’t Found it Yet
A pleasant enough, if not especially inspiring track; I can’t decide, after several listens whether I consider it to be pleasingly laid-back or a bit lackadaisical. Mid-tempo, with a solid beat and a melodic guitar line, it kind of drifted by me each time, although it never felt like a chore, to be fair. It made its live debut at the 1990 Reading Festival (when I was actually present – one of my two festival experiences) as a gentle instrumental intro – you can see it here.

MES’s performance fits the laid-back (I seem to have settled on that interpretation) atmosphere of the song; he even sounds quite light-hearted in places – there’s even a little chuckle at 1:44. Lyrically, it seems to based around an aimless journey across London (including “flashy Camden Town”), but there are some rather odd turns of phrase, such as “mental saw-down of your head”, which even Smith himself seems a bit perplexed by: “I got the record out to check the lyrics and I couldn’t f***ing work them out” (from Q magazine 1992, quoted on the Reformation A-Z page). Definitely a solid if not spectacular part of The Fall canon. 7/10

I’m Not Satisfied
A fairly ‘straight’ cover (by The Fall’s standards anyway: the original is here). Like several other songs on Cerebral Caustic, there’s a strangely sparse and brittle feeling to this one. The guitars feel very thin, the bass is buried a long way down in the mix and there’s something very detached and dismissive about the vocals. Despite all of this, I always find myself liking this one much more than I can really justify. There’s something weird, strung-out and almost desperate about it that rather appeals to me. 7.5/10

Way Round
The driving, twangy riff matched with an array of squelchy synth squiggles mark this out clearly as being from Unutterable. It has a driving, insistent quality that suited the middle of this otherwise rather mid-tempo playlist. The electronica is verging on being overdone and cheesy in places (a 60s sci-fi TV theme tune seems to appear in places, e.g. at 1:13) but it just about gets away with it. This is partly because MES’s sneering, sibilant vocal sits on top of it in an effective contrast. As ever, I have little idea as to what he’s on about, but once again there are some great lines: Leathered to 70’s shoeboxesI stumble into glass disco sweatboxes. Hard to improve on The Story of the Fall’s summaryIggy Pop meets Dr Who. 7.5/10

Service
Have never been a particular fan of this one: The Fall do slowed-down house. The piano riff and the keyboard stabs make it sound very dated. Again, the contrast between the laid-back music and MES’s drawl is a bit of a positive, but overall it’s just sluggish and uninspiring. It bears a passing resemblance to The Smith’s Oscillate Wildly in places , but that’s about the most interesting thing you can say about it. The Peel version is even more lethargic, and the ‘instrumental demo’ version (from the album’s bonus disc) is one of the more pointless things that I own. 5/10

Slang King
From the album (as I pointed out several times, I know) that formed my introduction to The Fall’s wonderful and frightening world… It’s hard to put myself back into my 15-year-old shoes and imagine just how strange and mysterious this sounded to me at the time. Then, it sounded to me like music from another planet; to be fair though, it does still sound other-worldly. The heavily phased/chorused guitar line squats toad-like over the song; an incongruous trilling organ ripples in from time to time; a selection of high-pitched, breathy backing vocals drift hither and thither – and MES is at once crisp and distorted, discussing ‘lime green receptionists’ and ‘triumphant processions down the road of quease’; also describing a scenario where some kids have insufficient funds to purchase a curly-wurly (which must be one of those many moments of lyrical confusion for non-UK listeners). Still strange and still wonderful: all here is ace. 9.5/10