Saturday, May 08, 2010

Fall Heads Roll (Again)

I first discovered the
when I was in col-
lege. They'd already been
around for seven years,
but I'd never heard of
them. That said, I took
a seminar on Albert Cam-
us around the same time,
and that's when I also
discovered The Fall.

I enjoyed The Stranger
and The Plague, but The
was where the Fren-
ch-Algerian absurdist
really kicked in for me. I ended up reading it twice, because I found the narrator so persuasive that I missed the fact that he was completely unreliable. I'd imagine that was also one of the attrac-
tions for Mark E. Smith, who took the band's name from the book.

I'm pretty sure goth-garage extravaganza "Lay of the Land,"
which kicks off 1984's The Wonderful and Frightening World
, was the first Fall song I heard. I remember thinking,
"Well, that's weird," but not in a way I found off-putting.

In fact, I was intrigued by all those strange voices whispering
and shouting, "What's the lay of the land! My song!" The more
I listened, the more captivated I became. The track contains
multitudes, and remains one of the most exciting entries in a
crazy-quilt career filled with epithets, fisticuffs, romantic
strife, stylistic zigs and zags, an endless array of players,
and enough drama to fuel a BBC series for years on end.

Naturally, quality control has gotten away from the mumbly
Mancunian on more than one occasion, but he's never really sold
out, however you choose to define that term. A television ad em-
erged five years ago that borrowed an instrumental intro from
Fall Heads Roll
, but I wouldn't call it a sell-out move (the All Mu-
sic Guide also mentions the use of 1999's "Touch Sensitive" in an
automobile advert). Heads Roll is the last Fall album I bought.

Here's what I wrote, for KEXP, about 2007's lackluster follow-
Reformation Post T.L.C. , "The line-up continues to change,
but the sound remains much the same. Possibly more driving
than before, but also a little less distinctive. For an offbeat cov-
er, try their version of Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever."
Not a complete waste of time, but they've done better.

Which brings us to their 28th long-player, Your Future Our
, said to be one of their best (crap cover aside). I haven't
heard the whole thing, so I'm in no position to say, but the video
for "Bury Pts. 2 + 4," has me convinced I need to pick up a copy.

I've been describing it as "a buncha youngsters and one ol' geezer,"
and director ThirtyTwo's style really emphasizes Smith's increas-
ingly decrepit age in contrast with the youth and vigor of his rela-
tively new band mates (and also reminds me of Jonathan Glazer's
stately freeze-frame clip for Radiohead's "Karma Police"). And yet,
it doesn't seem exploitative; the eternally Hip Priest appears to
revel in his image as a cranky old man. Long may he kvetch.

Endnote: I'm also rather fond of Peter Whitehead's quasi-doc-
umentary The Fall, but haven't yet seen Tarsem's narrative fea-
ture of the same name. Thanks to Jason Gross for alerting me to
this video, which I've been posting everywhere I can (Facebook,
Twitter, etc.). The Fall poster image from unklerupert's knee.

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