God knows why I decided to cram the first thirty Fall albums into a couple of days’ listening earlier this year. It certainly wasn’t with a view to writing a blog about it – that idea followed a little time later (and I’m glad it did) – but it was a hugely enjoyable time. I have loved writing this blog and, although I publicise it and encourage people to read it, I have been writing it mainly for my own pleasure. I want to continue blogging but this seems a natural end for this particular sequence as this album was the final album in my listening sequence. There are other things I could blog about and I will settle on something.
You might assume that I have more insight into The Fall than I had previously and that I now consider myself to be an expert on the band. Not at all: they are still a mystery to me (but a wonderful and enjoyable mystery) and if you go on fallonline you will find people with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the band which dwarfs my own. You will also find far more loyal and avid fans of the band than me there too. They are my favourite band but I also love other music passionately. I am not musically monogamous. They do mean the world to me, though. I can be very defensive when others criticise. For me it’s like when someone joins in when you are dissing your partner. That doesn’t feel right because she/he is your partner to slate not theirs; they are just meant to listen. I can say bad things about The Fall but anyone who wants to join in had better have put in some time at the coalface (Fallface).
I have a mental list of artists whose passing would result in me having to take a day off work in order to compose myself. Bowie is on the list; Dylan is on the list; Neil Young is on the list; Scott Walker is on the list and at the very top of the list is Mark E. Smith. I’d be sadder about MES because he, to me, is the easiest to relate to. A working class maverick. He’s like a great 1970s footballer: infinitely more talented but not immensely wealthy and out of touch. He walks the same streets as the rest of us. They are all geniuses but MES has been more loyal to his unorthodox muse than anyone else. Even The Fall’s most commercial recordings have been tinted with eccentricities and nonconformist flourishes.
You have to trust me on this but when The Fall are over their audience will be far larger and their influence will reach further than any band currently in existence. I don’t know next week’s Lotto numbers but I know that.
What an album to go out on! Re-Mit is another Fall album to add to the good pile. There are too many fab Fall albums to listen to them with any regularity so you tend to know the first ten you heard really well and the rest less so. Re-Mit still seems very recent to me but I know it’s a one that will stick. I had many reservations about the RNFLP/FHR era in that, yes I liked the music a lot, but I feared that they might become an identikit Fall-by-numbers form of the Mancabilly version of the band with the odd leftfield quirk. This album showcases the Mancabilly elements but the additional experimental components feel natural and unforced. As well as this the live sound of this line up is captured in the studio – although there is a greater sense of danger and impending implosion onstage.
No Respects (Intro) sets the tone with a short bit of riffing and rhythm before Sir William Wray leaps into view with a cyclical guitar riff and keyboard intrusions dominated by Smith’s impressionistic yelping and unique vocal phrasing. This is one of those Fall albums that are of a piece and the songs, like Scooby and Shaggy, belong together. The album works as a whole without obviously standout tracks. That is not faint praise because there is no consensus as to what the standout tracks on Hex, Grotesque and TSNG are – not to my knowledge anyway. Not that I’m comparing this album to those undisputed classics. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful addition to the band’s body of work. My favourites here are Hittite Man, a tweaky revisit to the early 2000s Fall sound that is perfected here, and Loadstones, which bridges the Mancabilly/leftfield divide beautifully: chanty refrain and growly vocals over a guitar riff that could have come from almost any Fall era.
And that song seems the perfect one to end on.
Re-Mit is not the best Fall album but it is a more than impressive piece of work. I can name more than two dozen critically acclaimed bands who have not produced one album as good as this one: the thirtieth album by a Manchester band in their umpteenth year together working on a smallish budget.
Bravo Mark et al.