The first random batch for the post-MES era:
- Wrong Place, Right Time
- I’m Frank
- The Book of Lies
- Deer Park
Wrong Place, Right Time
According to The Fall A-Z, MES claimed in 2015 that: “I do think that is one of my best songs – I wrote every note and every word of it.” Even though I found this one very enjoyable on another lengthy car journey to South Wales, I can’t say I entirely agree with MES’s assessment; as for the latter half of his comment, the same website does have a point when it suggests Smith might have been listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Gloomy when he came up with it.
I’m not, in general, a fan of songs where the melody closely mirrors the main riff/accompaniment: I find it tends to make the song a bit one-dimensional. However, there are honourable exceptions, such as The Pogue’s version of Dirty Old Town. This joyful stomper also falls into this category. You can certainly see why it had (by Fall standards) an extended setlist lifespan. MES sounds like he’s genuinely having fun here, and it’s infectious.
There’s a rather muffled and uninspiring version (called just Wrong Place) on Interim. However, the Peel Session version (which segues – very effectively – into I Can Hear The Grass Grow) is definitely worth owning: it’s slightly brighter, more sparse, and there’s a great fuzzy twang to the main guitar line. 8/10
Speaking of fuzzy guitar sounds, there’s a corker here, and it contrasts nicely with Extricate’s glossy production. The song itself is a bit slight, and you won’t like it if you’re prejudiced against the use of the flute, but I listened happily to this repeatedly in the car.
There is a rare sight of MES actually playing some guitar in this video clip of Frank. In an idle moment, I contributed to an online discussion regarding this video, and created a little sound file enhancing Smith’s somewhat primitive contribution. It’s here, should you be so inclined. 7/10
The Book of Lies
Three things. Firstly, The Fall created some works of absolute and incomparable genius, but they also put out some excruciating tosh. (One of the wonders of The Fall is that occasionally it can be hard to tell to which category some songs belong.)
Secondly, despite my emotional reaction to MES dying, I have no intention of looking at any of these songs through rose-tinted spectacles. We all know what Smith thought about nostalgia, and in the highly unlikely event that he’s looking down on my little blog from the afterlife, he’d consider me a tosser for doing so. (Actually, he’d probably consider me a tosser for writing it in the first place.) (Actually, he’d probably just consider me a tosser, full stop.)
Finally, Fall tracks that contain prominent vocal contributions from anyone other than MES tend to get short shrift from some sections of The Fall community. I don’t count myself among that group: I am, for example, very fond of Stephen Song.
Bearing all of that in mind, I consider Book of Lies to be one of the worst things The Fall ever released; and repeated listens only made hearing it increasingly painful. Generally, MES somehow gets away with being gratuitously off-key (well, most of the time), but the ‘other’ vocals here are teeth-grindingly tuneless to an incredibly irritating degree. The fact that they’re coupled with a bland, nonedescript poppy backing track, insipid lyrics and a woefully simplistic and repetitive melody makes this a real trial to get through once, let alone several times. 1/10
Another jaunty little number, this one bounces along quite happily although it feels a little slight and a bit casually tossed off. The somewhat predictable chord progression suddenly gets a bit more interesting toward the end, but it’s a rather short-lived feature. The Peel version, drenched in reverb and featuring some free-form jazzy piano is a mildly interesting, if slightly under-rehearsed sounding, diversion and has a bit more to offer than than the album version: it gains the song an extra half mark. 6.5/10
I am considered a bit of heretic by some on the Fall Online Forum because I don’t rate Hex as one of my favourite albums. It’s not that I don’t recognise its strengths, I just have always found it a bit heavy-going to listen to in its entirety, particularly because it feels to me as though many of the songs outstay their welcome. So, I was interested to see how the Hex songs would fare under this approach.
The answer, in this case at least, is extraordinarily well. Like Prole Art Threat, this is a relentless, aggressive assault of a tune, but it’s more expansive and makes incredibly effective use of repetition to drive you along on a wave of jagged noise and fury. A prime MES vocal as well: spitting, snarling and vehement. The Peel version is a little thinner in its sound, but is equally effective in a slightly more subtle way.
And then, there’s the live version. Tucked away toward the end of the Hex bonus disc, I’m ashamed to admit that I may not even have listened to this all the way through before. But what a beast this version is! For a start, the sound is far better balanced than the overwhelming majority of Fall live tracks; and the section around halfway through, driven by some sublime, overloaded feedback-drenched guitar is just absolutely astonishingly intense. I listened to this around five times on the trot in my hotel room on the night of the announcement of MES’s demise – very loud, on headphones, whilst toasting the great man’s memory with a large glass of red – which felt extremely fitting. 10/10