It’s fair to say that the late arrival into our home of the 2004 released “50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong” compilation has caused something of a divide. The other night my wife came into the kitchen. The look on her face told me that this was a serious talk. I turned down “Kicker Conspiracy” to a level suitable for adult conversation.
“I’ve got a problem” she said.
“Yes. Who is that?” she asked, indicating the CD player.
“What, that singing? That’s Mark E Smith. It’s The Fall.”
“That’s it,” she said. “That’s the problem.”
“The Fall is the problem. I’ve had to put up with that …. noise for the past three nights now. What’s it supposed to be?”
It was a fair question. I’d asked it myself one cold December night in the late eighties when I’d moved into an attic flat in one of the less salubrious parts of Hull. The landlady, by way of a moving in present, had left me a bottle of cider and a pile of Fall albums. I drank the cider and listened to the vinyl. I was aware of The Fall, largely through Peel and the music press, but I’d never actually sat down and listened to one of their albums all the way through before. It sounded mad. It sounded astonishing. It sounded like a fight had broken out between a Youth Club band while they’d been moving their gear down a flight of stairs. And over this tumbling cacophony of toy-town riffs and shambolic batterings was a voice sneering familiar English language into new and unfamiliar shapes. “Our kid got back from Munich, he didn’t like it much …. You don’t need three cosmic boots! … My butterfly stomach growls!” I tried to pay close attention, cos whatever this fellow was on about was clearing bothering him deeply. There were words like “lathe” and “cretin” yelped over ramshackle Northern Soul rhythms. Tales of wireless enthusiasts meeting sticky ends over hypnotic Velvet Underground riffs. One song that sounded like the theme from Trumpton played by an insomniac. Another one sounded like a drunken bingo-caller. After a bit, the flat downstairs battered on the ceiling and I admitted defeat, turned the records off and went for a lie down. I had a headache as well.
But I kept going back to these piles of vinyl with their nightmare cartoon sleeves and handwritten sleeve notes. It was rather like picking at a satisfying scab. Visitors to my attic flat would be installed in the armchair facing towards the speakers and then the needle would hit the vinyl.
“What’s that? Is it a joke?”
Twenty years later my little girl is brushing her teeth and her mother is downstairs, a claw hammer hovering over my Fall CD’s.
“What’s a computer?” I ask my daughter as she’s tucking up in bed. She smiles in recognition, snuggles her head into the pillow and raises a sleepy fist.
“Eat y’self fitter!” she whispers.
The kid’s know where it’s at.