Wednesday, 8 September 2010



Grotesque was the first early Fall album I found myself exposed to (I dipped my toe into).  And I must concede that it was something of a culture shock.  To date everything I had heard was solid and nasty sounding, it had some kind of production value.  This in comparison was lo-fi to a fault, a record made for vinyl not digital.  Perhaps the transfer was the problem, the issue was not the scrappiness.

The third Fall album was released in November 1980.  By that point the band had moved onto Rough Trade which explains how/why Geoff Travis appears in the liner notes with a producer credit (amongst other odd and undeserving names).

Reckless and blunt theirs remained the sound of the grubby north.  Still punk in spirit and attitude but smarter in execution this was garage rock crashing against Krautrock with a man remaining agitated and amused at the helm.  Not necessarily linear in approach songs could be two minutes or ten, such was always their approach.  In other words: art for fucks sake.  Them and Joy Division.

The poetry of Mark E. Smith is as masked as ever, purposely vague and very obtuse.  You suspect a William Burroughs like cut-up motion was applied to the order of his mental extraction.  And all the way it houses a sense of anti-establishment.  Smith could even make the command of “pay your rates” sound rebellious.  With a better face he should have run for parliament (both the band and the body).

It was always “New Face In Hell” that stood out.  Having heard Pavement first this was plainly the inspiration for “Conduit For Sale!”  They however didn’t go to the ends of caking their music in kazoo performing self destruction possibly in an effort to mask the conspiracy theories attached.

The album artwork was drawn by Smith’s sister Suzanne.  Is everyone in Manchester related to someone called Suzanne?

Playing up the northern personality the abbreviations used are revealing as “The N.W.R.A.” declares “the north will rise again” while “W.M.C. – Blob 59” references working men’s clubs where such ideas were planned and “C’n’C-S Mithering” points at two specific cash and carries in Manchester for cut price supplies.

Inside the sleeve are notes, a “didactic disclosure from the shell of R. Totale”.  They ask the question: “is this LP sufficiently coffee table?”  With time it has become as last year I actually saw the album framed and hung on the way of a media employment agency just off Oxford Street London catering industry of the simpering variety.  You must wear a red hat.

“C’n’C-S Mithering” is the deserving centrepiece of the record.  Opening with acoustic strums and subtle atmospherics eventually drums sounding bashed on a biscuit tin disrupt the flow as Smith eventually drops in with a weird and wonderful rant about the music industry and landscape in general.  It’s a broken history lesson travelling from Lancashire to America ahead of ending up in Soho.  Garry Bushell is name checked being held up as an example.  In his delivery Smith isn’t so much singing in a band as more manning a public address system.  This is a lecture cum rally call.

With almost a sense of fear for losing the audience the rapid “The Container Drivers” promptly follows with a hardcore jangle and multiplied pace.  With this the album houses two more tracks clocking in at less than two minutes.  The fashion is frenetic.

Perhaps most musically satisfying is the gothic horror of “Impression Of J Temperance” which rumbles with a proper post-punk Hook/Wobble baseline.  From here a sawing keyboard revs like an engine as the occasional stab of a scratchy Oriental sounding guitar drops in while military drums add authority.  It sounds like nobody else.

At the death the record runs the risk of sounding coherent with “Gramme Friday” before the nine minute plus outro of “The N.W.R.A.” serves as the perfect way to close as Can like repetition carpets his final stream of consciousness as he takes on his latest threatening persona.  As all becomes lumpy, civic pride exudes as by the end it sounds like scaffolding.

This is not a record you reach for at the end of a tough day.

Thesaurus moment: misshapen.

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