The Fall – 1982 (Cherry Red)


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I’m not too fond of this new relatively new music format of compiling everything a band recorded in a single year into a multi-disc set. Seems like a crass way to corner fans into spending more on their old favorites. Perhaps after decades of free downloads and streaming services these kinds of fan-unfriendly releases are necessary to help keep the industry afloat. If that’s the case, then so be it. At least this six-disc set focuses on a great band, The Fall, at a high point in their career, 1982; so that should be good right? Well, yes and no.

The centerpiece of this collection is Hex Enduction Hour, on of The Fall’s greatest albums. Recording sessions were split between Iceland and an abandoned cinema in Hedfordshire, and the album marks a period when the band featured two drummers. Other than that, and a few more comparatively polished production touches, it’s business as usual for Mark E. Smith and crew as they rail against everything that was mundane and dreary in Thatcher’s Britain. “The Classical”, “Hip Priest” and “Who Makes The Nazis?” are the album’s most recognizable tracks, but the two versions of “Winter” and “Just Step S’ways” are lesser known treats that are well worth your time. I’m partial to Dragnet, but if you wanted to call this the Fall’s best album, I wouldn’t try to talk you out of it.

Hex Enducation Hour was enough of a success that it actually earned The Fall a spot on the UK album charts (#71) and increased interest in the band led to a tour of Australia and New Zealand (more on that later). Prior to embarking on that tour the band quickly convened in Cargo Studios in Rochdale to bash out what would be their follow up mini-album, Room To Live (Undeniable Slang Truth). The sessions, helmed by manager/auxiliary member Kay Carroll, were far rougher and more experimental than the ones that birthed Hex Enduction Hour. Smith pretty much turned everything that people liked about Hex Enduction Hour on its head, getting rid of the double drums, and having certain band members sit out on certain tracks. These seven tracks feature a few diamonds in the rough (“Joker Hysterical Face”, “Marquis Cha-Cha” and “Hard Life In The Country”) but “Detective Instinct” and the clattering “Papal Visit” probably haven’t been featured on anyone’s Best Of The Fall mixtapes. There are six bonus live tracks, but the sound quality is uniformly poor.

That’s it for the studio albums. There’s a hodge-podge disc that compiles a four-song Peel session from 1981, a two-song single (“Look, Know” and “I’m Into C.B.”), and another handful of concert tracks. The Peel Session and non-album single are both top notch, but The Fall’s charms have never translated well to live recordings and these (including a song from 1987??) are no different. Unfortunately, the remaining three discs are all concert recordings. There’s two discs of live material originally released in limited quantities as In A Hole and In A Hole +, mostly recorded in Auckland on their post-Hex Enduction Hour tour. The quality and the playing are dodgy, but at least, buried somewhere in the murk, you get to hear them cover Deep Purple’s “Black Night” for about 90 seconds. The final disc is a recording of a concert in Melbourne a few weeks prior to the Auckland date, given the unimaginative title of “Live To Air In Melbourne ’82. It’s a great setlist, covering most of the highlights from Hex Enduction Hour and Room to Live, but nothing here beats the studio versions.

The sixty-page booklet is great, with informative notes from Daryl Easlea, but unless you’re a Fall lifer who needs to hear it all, you’re probably best off buying Hex Enduction Hour and Room To Live separately and calling it a day.

The Fall – Re-Mit (Cherry Red Records)


Being a Fall fan has its ups and down. On the plus side you regularly get new material, with a relentless pace of almost an album a year since 1977 – and some of it’s pretty great. On the flipside, that huge discography has a lot of pretty bad albums too, and for every Fall classic like Live At The Witch Trials or Hex Enduction Hour, there’s a forgettable mess like Are You Are Missing Winner or The Twenty Seven Points. Re-Mit, the bands 30th album, falls into that latter category of Fall albums you’ll keep because they’re Fall albums, but won’t be likely to listen to very often. The songs, and I had to take a moment to decide whether I could call many of Re-Mit’s tracks songs, are more formless than your typical Fall album and Smith’s vocals are often an indecipherable series of grunts and parched growls. It starts off well enough, with a short intro and “Sir William Wray” which are reasonably close to the obtuse ragged kraut-abilly punk-prog sound of recent Fall albums. However, Re-Mit quickly nose-dives into nonsensical babble, with Mark E. Smith carelessly growling his way through “Kinder Of Spine” and “Noise”, both of which have performances so loose and tentative, I’m 10-20% sure sections were made up on the spot. Even on their best albums The Fall are a prickly thorn of a band whose good qualities are hard to describe to the unseasoned listener, but Re-Mit doesn’t offer up any new Fall songs, Fall sounds or Fall ideas rewarding enough for me to recommend anything other than avoidance.

The Fall- Ersatz G.B. (Cherry Red Records)


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Twenty-nine studio albums in and not only are The Fall still chugging along, but they’re actually becoming…gasp…a stable outfit. This is the third album in a row with the same line-up, something that has never happened before in the band’s history (for more on their revolving door lineups, read Dave Simpson’s genius book The Fallen). Could it be that Mark E. Smith has lightened up in his old age? Absolutely not. Ersatz G.B. is as prickly and misanthropic a record as anything The Fall has ever done. Smith spits his usual asides and polemics about a variety of topics, including the state of Britain, Snow Patrol (who Smith despises to the surprise of no one) and Gossip Girl. Yes, you read that right – the song “Nate Will Not Return” actually includes several references to Gossip Girl. Specific cultural references aside, Ersatz G.B. isn’t a huge departure for the group, but it does explore some new territory with the band getting extra heavy on “I’ve Seen Them Come” and “Greenway”, the latter of which borders on metal, and features an especially grizzled growl from a parched-sounding Mark. E. Smith. Somebody get that man a glass of water! The excursions into metal don’t work particularly well, meaning Ersatz G.B. isn’t among my favorite Fall records, but it’s more interesting than you would expect from a band this deep into their career.

Tracklisting:

  • “Cosmos 7” – 2:48
  • “Taking Off” – 4:01
  • “Nate Will Not Return” – 6:02
  • “Mask Search” – 2:41
  • “Greenway” – 4:13
  • “Happi Song” – 4:19
  • “Monocard” – 8:08
  • “Laptop Dog” – 4:01
  • “I’ve Seen Them Come” – 6:05
  • “Age of Chang” – 3:27