January 30, 2008


Brix Smith

I can't believe I haven't posted any Fall tracks yet. This blog's title is a reference to The Fall. The picture marked "Patron Saint" is of The Fall's lead singer Mark E. Smith. Here's a brief introduction to the band. Start with a semi-crazed frontman who doesn't really sing, he just speaks into the microphone. The stuff he says makes sense in an abstract way. Come to think of it, the whole band is pretty abstract - the songs are usually just four bars of some sort of primal rock groove played over and over, with only slight variations.

The backing musicians have always been treated as expendable commodities. The Fall has been around since 1977, and they've literally lost track of everyone who's played in the band, such is the frequency and flippancy with which musicians are dismissed. Not that MES cares much about his public perception. His most famous quote about the band runs: "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's a Fall gig."

The other often-cited quote about The Fall comes from John Peel, who described the band's sound as "always the same, always different." This just means that the band's songs are built around repetition. The Fall is ruthless when it comes to pounding out a rhythm over and over -- the songs only need to stop when Mark E. Smith is done talking. The band's gone through different styles over the years but the idea is always the same: "repetition repetition repetition," to quote a verse from early single "Repetition."

So here's my "desert island" Fall track. It's a version of "L.A." from a Peel Session, which means that it's a live in-studio performance. It has everything you could possibly want from a Fall song: a punishing rhythm section, nonsensical ramblings from MES, a guitar "solo" that I could probably learn to play in 2 minutes and vocals from Brix Smith, then-wife of MES. (Her run with the band, and Mark, pretty much translates to its peak in the 80s.) Song for song, I think the best Fall album is This Nation's Saving Grace. "L.A." is on that album, but this version is so much better that I usually skip it now.

The Fall - L.A. [The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 Box Set]

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