If there is one thing I can’t stomach, its all that retrospective shite.” Mark E Smith, 2003.
Sat at home? Bored? Under the age of twenty? Thinking, “wow all my friends are into all the modern bands which I really aren’t into. At all. Whatsoever. Nil point.I do wish there were another British band I could get my teeth stuck into.”
Have faith. The British 80s alternative music scene was a cynosure of culture and talent, the likes of which have not been repeated. Search beneath the obvious choices. The Smiths’ CD’s are worn out. Roxy Music remind you of your dad, synth pop was never your thing and the drummer of the Housemartins went to jail for firebombing the house of a business associate and, according to Paul Heaton, "hitting the guy straight on the head with an axe.”
You say, “I want something British, gritty, raw and standoffish but with intelligent lyrics. Surely there isn’t a band left for me to explore, I think I’ve exhausted all angles. “
This is where you are wrong.
For now is an excellent time for you, my sceptical friend, to get into The Fall. For coming up to 40 years Mark E. Smith and co have been writing what essentially are anti-songs: impervious to change, style, genre or norms. The Fall have been rattling against the cage of musical conformity since the 70’s. Get into them, they’re great.
Since being a younger man. I am well aware of bigger, better, older more accomplished writers than myself who have gone to write reams and reams of excellent prose on how good The Fall are and to them I owe my gratitude. But for now, from my own listening experiences this is a nice sort of starter kit for anyone who has never heard them before.
Eat Y’rself Fitter
This is the best music video I have ever seen. The best. Number one. A classic. Numero Uno. I can’t think of a better promotional video for a piece of music. Screw 'Thriller', Sigur Ros’ '“”' and Bjork’s lesbian robot thing. This is the apex. It’s seven minutes long. Filmed in the Hacienda. Charmingly low-fi. A mish-mash of interconnecting scenes supposedly relating to the song that end up making no sense. It contains horrible scenes of giant flies. Facial lesions. Masked ghouls. It’s all done in a very light-hearted manor however. At the very end a human statue of a man recites Mark E Smith’s lyrics/poetry. Its bizarre. It’s brilliant. It’s the best. It is also John Peel’s favourite song by The Fall, which he revealed when it came to his turn on Desert Island discs. 'Eat Y’rself Fitter.' Eat Y’rself Fitter indeed.
Often cited as The Fall’s best song on forum websites and among the musical taste intelligencia elite. It’s hard to argue with our aspirational friends as well. This is one of the most impressive songs I have ever listened to. From the VERY questionable opening rallying cry to the double drum line up, it all adds to The Fall’s legendary innovative sound and tendencies. The opener to Hex Education Hour (Stewart Lee’s favourite album) you’ll do hardly wrong starting here.
When electronic music came sweeping through the 80s, Simon Rodgers jumped onto working with The Fall and helped in creating a seminal gothic pop album, Bend Sinister. This is one of the standout tracks from a truly great period in The Fall's time line.
Nasty. Menacing. Villainous. The opener to the B-side of Perverted By Language. Arguably the best song on the entire album (in close contest with ‘EYF’). This is Mark E Smith at his most contemptuous. Their performance in 1983 for The Tube is an incredible watch. Suddenly even before Jools Holland has finished announcing the act. The room dims. In atmosphere of course. Who are on stage they ask? Is this music? What are they wearing? Who are these people? Nobody dances. Everybody looks at the camera with questioning vacant faces. It’s sublime.
Prole Art Threat
Ever the social critic and commenter of modern times. Mark E Smith wrote this slandering hatchet job of a song against the (as he saw it) “soft left” which included -in his list of targets -Rough Trade,the label they were signed to at the time.
Rough Trade and The Fall parted ways soon after.