I was pondering the nature of what genuinely constitutes the avant garde. Encountered live on a good night (they weren't always good) outfits like Joy Division or the New York Dolls, would have had a considerable impact. But they still operated within the confines - sort of - of the rock'n'roll structure.
One wonders what the ordinary punter (ie, not a seeker of bonkers enlightenment) would have made of that extraordinary masterpiece, "Trout Mask Replica" much less "Sketches of Spain". However, here we have two recordings which well and truly fit the term avant garde.
First, to Eric Mingus, a man of considerable talent, who rarely seems to give interviews - probably because he keeps getting asked about his dad, Charlie (if you don't know who I mean, do some digging), which would miss the point: Eric is well and truly an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist and composer.
The Rise, The Fall and The Rise - Brix Smith Start (Faber)The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall - Steve Hanley and Olivia Piekarski (Route)You Can Drum But You Can't Hide - Simon Wolstencroft (Route)
Yep, You read the headline correctly. I'm serious. Cobain was such a fan of The Fall he tried to get on their tour bus and travel with them.
The Fall refused.
There's an absence in our culture. You may not have noticed. It's like some necessary abscess has been entirely excised from our cultural body. We needed that pain, that savagery, to tell us what we are, what we shouldn't be, and to remind us that we can be more than what we are.
This article is all about Mark E. Smith. Because his personality, his drive and charisma shoved a certain rock'n'roll band forward through barrier after barrier...
Have A Bleedin Guess. The Story of Hex Enduction Hour by Paul Hanley (Route Publishing)
Straight outta... Pontefract... comes Route's latest (rather brilliant) publication. For what I suspect is a small publisher, Route (est. 2000) punch above their weight. This is their 10th music book - the third to deal mostly with The Fall and - gulp - the second by a Fall drummer.
You can snaffle Simon Wollstencroft's “You Can Drum But You Can't Hide” and Steve Hanley's tour de force “The Big Midweek. Life Inside The Fall” at Route's website, and Paul Hanley's “Leave The Capital” (a history of Manchester music and liberation) as well.
My copy's pink with black writing, and signed. Though I'd like to think you'd see this one in Dymock's or JBHiFi, don't hold your breath. I ordered mine, yes from overseas, and it arrived in a timely fashion, and much better wrapped than most books you order from overseas.
Which is excellent; particularly since it anticipates Cherry Red's upcoming '"1982" Fall box, the latter of which I expect I'll get to in due course.
Now, unlike his brother Steve, Paul Hanley approaches “Hex Enduction Hour” in two minds. The bulk of the text follows the obvious pattern: what came before the album, how the songs were put together, the context of the band in their time and so on. He approaches the album as a music historian, but is also able to correct wrongly-held beliefs (such as the likely identity of King Shag Corpse) with restrained glee, while inserting footnotes which reveal the bloke you want to meet at the pub. Rather puts me in mind of Terry Edwards' book on Madness' first LP, written for the 33 1/3 series.
Speaking of which, in the foreword, Stewart Lee (no, no idea) tells his sad story of wanting to write a book on “Hex” for 33 1/3, only to be rebuffed with the old “ain't commercial enough”, a sad and common refrain to many an enthusiastic writer (if not fan).
Mark E. Smith - Barry Douglas photo
Seeing a band three nights in a row rather reminded me of when I used to see interstate bands like the Laughing Clowns play the Tivoli in Adelaide; how I afforded it I cannot really recall, but I never had enough to buy any drinks…
The Thursday night would usually be fairly sparse, the Friday a bigger crowd, and the Saturday the joint would be full to bursting. The Thursday and Friday I could usually dance without biffing into people, the Saturday night it would be too crowded up the front, which I spose is is why I think that anyone dancing extravagantly at a packed front of the stage is just rude (as it forces other folk away). Call me Mr Polite, then, go on.
Never was an LP title more prophetic: “The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall” was the band’s seventh album, released in 1984. Thirty years ago, The Fall looked like being about to “cross over” but … nope, after numerous minor hits, Mark E. Smith and his band has never had one in the Top 10. Perhaps that’s partly Mark’s idiosyncratic approach to recording, singing in a manner which either causes confusion or a swift twiddle of the knob.
R.I.P. Mark E. Smith, 1957-2018
"New Facts Emerge" came out in late July last year; the singles box (Seven discs! Eight hours!) came out four months later; they're my Christmas present from me to me.
"New Facts Emerge" - it merits seven bottles, if not eight. Bludgeoning, bruising, then it takes you on a short cruise: bloody hell this is good. It also grows on you with repeat listenings. However - and this is critical - while many long-term Fall fans seem contemptuous of the band's turn to powerful cranking rock, most Fall fans would find it difficult to come up with a Top 10 of the band's best 10 songs - you won't have that problem much with Judas Priest, or Alice Cooper, will you?
Photo of Mark E Smith: Irish Times
It has been brought to my attention that, in my last article on The Fall, I got a lyric wrong; it's not “this is the three hours”, but “this is the three 'r's.
As Jimi once said, “s’cuse me while I kiss this guy”.
Mis-hearing lyrics is one of the joys of music. Having too much information too easily available can destroy the mystique. It took ages to work out Pete Shelley's line “who do you think you're trying to arouse/ Get your hand out of my trousers” by playing the disc over and over (uh, back in the 70s), and that was kind of the point.
Louder than War gives this album from Ed Blaney, the onetime latter-day member of The Fall, a rating of nine-out-of-ten, but sod that, it's a seven bottler out of five if I ever heard one.
Sass, bounce, beat, humour (of the kind that warms those mysterious cockles on a winter's night), well-crafted songs somewhere between pop, rock and wiggle yer butt, all the while dragging your sorry ageing carcass onto the dancefloor. Except for a couple of quiet ones, but you'll be listening hard to those. Sucked in? Deep inside!
Right, let me get my breath back. You don't hear much of the kind of pop made in “the ‘60s” anymore, do you? Well, alright, it's not the ‘60s anymore, that's one reason. And another is... the music industry lost its innocence long, long ago, but found it again in the '60s, or appeared to.
You may recall I reviewed Blaney's most recent album, "The Severance" (pay attention at the back, you) and I have no qualms about not changing my seven bottle verdict.
"Urban Nature" is Blaney's third LP featuring Mark E Smith; I don't have the other two, ("Smith And Blaney" and "The Train Part 3"), both on the (defunct?) Voiceprint label.
No, me neither. but on the strength of "Urban Nature" I've ordered both. One wonders aloud whether there's a definitive collection of Smith/Blaney in the works; if not, there should be. Why?