A Future in Noise: Starter Guide: The Fall

Originally posted on A Future in Noise

Photo Credit: © Kevin Cummins http://www.kevincummins.co.uk/

The Fall are a band that inexplicably escaped my attention for far too long. I only became aware after someone posted an mp3 of “Dead Beat Descendant” at the Killlers Network in spring of ‘05. I liked the song, it quickly became a mix CD staple, and I recalled that I had read somewhere about LCD Soundsystem having been influenced by them, but it wasn’t until a year later that I went any further, when I somehow happened upon the YouTube videos for “Telephone Thing” and “Cruiser’s Creek”… and was completely hooked in. The acerbic wit! Stream-of-consciousness-style, poetic lyrics! The oddly charming “-uh” suffix attached to certain words! The…oh dear, how am I supposed to decide what album to listen to, the discography is immense!

Where to begin…?

With the only constant member being frontman Mark E. Smith through the group’s 27 studio albums, the first being Live at the Witch Trials (1979) and the latest Imperial Wax Solvent (one of my top album picks for 2008), and numerous changes in band members and style of music, delving into the world of the Fall could be quite a task without 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats, my first Fall-related purchase, and stand-by recommendation for anyone’s introduction to the Fall.

50,000… is a compilation documenting the group’s stylistic transitions, with the first disc representing the jangle-punk of late 70’s tracks like “Repetition” and “Industrial Estate” to the deepening of the unique Fall sound through the 80’s with the classic “Totally Wired” and “Hip Priest”, and onto the introduction of Mark E. Smith’s then-wife Brix Smith as guitarist for 1983 album Perverted By Language through ’85 single “Cruiser’s Creek”, the catchiest and most borderline-commercial single the Fall had released up to that point. Disc 2 explores the late 80’s and 90’s Fall singles, including some curious, re-inventive covers: “Mr. Pharmacist” (originally by the Other Half), “There’s a Ghost in My House” (R. Dean Taylor), and “Victoria” (the Kinks), up to “Green-Eyed Loco Man” from 2003 release The Real New Fall LP.

Key Albums:
Live at the Witch Trials (1979) Despite the title, this is a studio album, though the freewheeling delivery of Mark E. Smith and relentless pace of the band throughout gives the impression of a live set.
Hex Enduction Hour (1982) Hailed as a classic amongst a great many Fall fans, Hex is perhaps the Fall’s most difficult album, leaning towards their complex, art rock side, and containing one of the longest tracks in the whole discography, “And This Day”, clocking in at 10:22.
This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985) My personal favourite and the first Fall LP I had heard in full, this album is one of their most simultaneously cohesive and varied, reeling from the spooky (opener “Mansion” and “I Am Damo Suzuki”, tribute to the Can vocalist; it’s worth noting that John Lydon, frequent point of comparison to Mark E. Smith is also a Can fan) to the simply cool (“Bombast” and “L. A.”).
The Infotainment Scan (1993) The Fall’s biggest foray into the electronic in their catalog, and even offering up a Sister Sledge cover (“Lost in Music”), every track is glorious, with Mark E. Smith’s tone and lyrics sharper then ever, particularly on “Glam Racket” and “It’s a Curse”.
The Real New Fall LP (2003) Aside from the recent release Imperial Wax Solvent being such an achievement (and, indeed, one of the darkest, and strangest in the Fall’s long span of output), this was the Fall’s return to form in the 2000’s, including the infectious stomper “Theme From Sparta F. C.” and electro-drifter “Recovery Kit”.

The Legacy:
Long championed by influential British DJ John Peel (who described them as “the band against which all others in our house are judged”), with the Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 compiles all of the Fall’s 24 such sessions over six CDs, with many of the tracks rivaling their studio album versions.

A wide range of musicians have been influenced by the Fall, among them Sonic Youth (who covered four Fall songs in a 1988 Peel session), Radiohead, Elastica, Pavement, Franz Ferdinand, and Bloc Party, though the music still remains relatively unknown outside of critics and musicians (at least in America). Take this chance to dive in- your ears will be richly rewarded.

Further Reading:
The Fall Online – The most comprehensive source of Fall information on-line; the Lyrics Parade is of particular note!
The Story of The Fall – Track by track reviews and analysis from 1977’s “Dresden Dolls” to 2008’s “Exploding Chimney”.
The Fall – Mick Middles, Mark E. Smith – In-depth journey through the Fall’s inception and later years, with dialogue from Mark E. Smith throughout and thorough insights and discography.

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Starter Guide: Post-Punk


 Post-Punk, frequently associated with ‘gloomy’ late 70’s/early 80’s acts, can often actually be split into two varieties there’s the jangly, guitar-oriented kind (Television, the Feelies), and the dark, bass-driven kind (Joy Division, Bauhaus). After coming to the realization that an enormous portion of my music library contained artists considered post-punk and, more recently, through my crazed work on the 6-disc RYM Ultimate Box Set for Post-Punk, I thought that now would be the prime time to give overview and insight to this complex music movement that has provided such a large portion of my music listening enjoyment over the years.

Influences on Post-Punk:

  • Punk: Many artists later appearing under the umbrella of post-punk formed and recorded when the original wave of punk had not yet dissolved: Television’s 1977 album Marquee Moon could be said to bridge the gap between the two genres, injecting an arty sophistication into the punk model and turning it into something altogether new. The Birthday Party’s output and early Pere Ubu and Wire, Killing Joke, and even the mighty Fall and Gang of Four also stood on the edge of punk-meets-post-punk.
  • The Lou Reed-David Bowie-Iggy Pop Triangle: There seem to be just a few patches of music that have been left untouched by the sweeping arm of the Velvet Underground’s influence, with post-punk being affected by this and Lou Reed’s solo work as well. David Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’, Low (1977), “Heroes” (1977), and Lodger (1979) and Iggy Pop’s The Idiot (1977; this would sadly later end up as being the last record Ian Curtis listened to) served as important blue-prints for the post-punk sound.
  • 1960’s Psychedelia: Echoes of the Doors and/or Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd can be heard in the work of bands like the Teardrop Explodes, Echo & the Bunnymen, Siouxsie and the Banshees.
  • Krautrock: This 60s/70s German music movement, characterized by much experimentation and delving into prog (Can, Faust) or synths (Cluster, Kraftwerk). Julian Cope’s Krautrocksampler serves as an excellent guide.

First Wave of Post-Punk:

  • Joy Division: The premiere post-punk band, they released two (perfect, in this author’s humble opinion…) albums while they were together: Unknown Pleasures (1979, pictured at the start of this article) and Closer (1980). As much as Ian Curtis’ talent has been (rightly) heralded after his 1980 suicide, Joy Division were a band in which all the members were crucial: Peter Hook’s signature bass sound, elevated above Bernard Sumner’s guitar stylings, and Stephen Morris’ adept, machine-like percussion all heavily shaped the dark atmosphere that surrounded Curtis’ distant, distinctly cold vocals and lyrics. The rest of the lads went on to form New Order, with 1981 release Movement still clinging to their post-punk past, with Sumner now at vocals (apart from Hook’s lead vocals on tracks “Dreams Never End” and “Doubts Even Here”, where his voice bears an eerie similarity to Curtis’). Power, Corruption & Lies (1983) began the transition to the dancier, new wave elements that would characterize the rest of New Order’s career.
  • Public Image Ltd.: Post-punk in the literal sense, it wasn’t too long before John Lydon set to work on something completely different than what was accomplished in his former group, punk barrier-breakers the Sex Pistols. Influenced by krautrock like his frequent point of comparison Mark E. Smith (the Fall). Recommended albums: Public Image (1978), Metal Box (1979; also available as Second Edition), the massively underrated Album (1986), and The Flowers of Romance (1981).
  • Original Gothic Rock: Though the modern conception of what constitutes ‘gothic rock’ is typically, according to NME Originals – Goth and doing a bit of research into genres, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, and the Cure are all considered original Gothic rock, a branch of post-punk, with darker themes expanded upon and no small amount of camp about it all! Recommended albums: Bauhaus – In the Flat Field (1980) and Mask (1981), Siouxsie and the Banshees – The Scream (1978), Kaleidoscope (1980), Juju (1981), The Cure – 17 Seconds (1980), Faith (1981)
  • Neo-Psychedelia: Not every post-punk group leaned towards psychedelia (despite the 60’s version being a prime influence), though Echo & the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes were chief among those that did. Echo & the Bunnymen’s output from 1980-1987 is highly recommended, though Heaven Up Here (1981) provides the most post-punkiness. Kilimanjaro (1980) is the Teardrop Explodes album to hear, while Julian Cope’s solo material delves further into the neo-psych side.
  • The American Scene: Frequently new-wave-tinged and fabulous: Pere Ubu, Devo Pylon, Chrome, Tuxedomoon. (Thanks to reader Princess Sparkle Pony for the reminder!)
  • Ladies of Post-Punk: Aside from Siouxsie, post-punk gals are all-too-often cast to the wayside! Recommended: Essential Logic – Beat Rhythm News (1979), The Seduction – Ludus (1981), The Raincoats – Odyshape (1981), The Slits – Cut (1979) and the compilation from the band Kleenex (later known as Liliput) Kleenex / LiLiPUT not released until 1993.

And More…:

  • The Chameleons: Recently included in our 15 Brilliant Out-of-Print Albums piece (along with the following band, the Sound), the Chameleons were forerunners of shoegaze , putting an atmospheric spin on post-punk in their first album Script of the Bridge (1983), with What Does Anything Mean? Basically (1985) and Strange Times (1986) moving farther afield into an even more unique, distinctly Chameleons sound.
  • More Recommended Albums: Nick Cave – From Her to Eternity (1984), The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace (1985), The Sound – Jeopardy


  • Associated Genres: Shoegaze (The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine), New Wave (Devo), Coldwave (see So Young But So Cold compilation), Dance-Punk (Liquid Liquid), No Wave (James Chance and the Contortions, Lydia Lunch; see also No New York)

Post-Punk Revival in the 2000s:
Some of those who have made the big splashes…
Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (2005)
Editors – The Back Room (2005)
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand (2004)
The Horrors – Primary Colours (2009)
Interpol – Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)

Further Exploration:
RYM Ultimate Box Set > Post-Punk

Post-Punk Diaries, by George Gimarc
Tape Delay, by Charles Neal
Rip it Up and Start Again, by Simon Reynolds

A Future in Noise ♪♫♪: Starter Guide: Post-Punk