Fiery Jack/2nd Dark Age/Psykick Dancehall #2
Where The Fall follow Dragnet with an absolutely killer single. The A side all chug, chiming harmonics, further exploration of the ‘Country and Northern’ thing, warped rockabilly with a touch a white line fever. Portrait of grizzled pub fixture?
I sat and drank
For three decades
Cause I am Jack
From a burning ring
And my face is slack
And I think think think
I just drink drink drink
Too fast to work
Too fast to write
I just burn burn burn
a working man who lives off hot dogs and pies using himself up. Insidious and worms its way under your skin.
For the B Side, 2nd Dark Age - a rant that feels pretty millennial. Doom! As with a lot of these lyrics, they are opaque and don’t always yield to probing, but you can always just enjoy the poetry of:
It's a second dark age.
No Psalm Sunday or any day.
The city is dead.
Bust. Ghost-dance rite. Tepid
Additionally, we have Psykick Dancehall #2, from a version of the song from last week’s Dragnet. What’s worthwhile here are some additional lyrics in the middle about Helen Duncan - who’s weird story is worth reading about (http://www.helenduncan.org.uk/). This further underlines the medium/ESP/supernatural themes of the song.
Totale’s Turns as a list with bullet points and stuff.
The Fall as smart arse noise cabaret band with MES as master of ceremonies.
1. Mostly a live album, recorded in the Working Mens’ Clubs of Doncaster, Preston and Bradford during the winter 1979/1980. Clearly as a southerner born in 1980, this is another world to me, but in my head it is more David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet than Peter Kay’s Phonenix Nights - i.e. subtle undercurrent of menace, overflowing ashtrays, yellowing wallpaper, Double Diamond, tough crowds.
2. The band are a well drilled, firing on all cylinders, snarling beast of a group. Further exploring the Country and Northern thing that we’ve seen developing in Fiery Jack, a grimy but surprisingly detailed chug providing the perfect platform from which MES to do his thing. The two guitars in particular chime in and out beautifully. Hanley handling the bass like he is trying to play it and dismantle it at the same time.
3. MES’ ‘thing’ is pretty much compering, controlling the audience, hectoring the audience, admonishing the band, relating tales, telling jokes. Allowing no breathing space to encroach from any outside agencies, moving from front to confidence. Working them like a professional. Vocal tics on display:
- the yelp
- the ‘ah’ suffix (beloved of the lazy journalist-ah)
- the strangulated scream
- “The difference between you and us is that we have brains! Bang fucking bang, The Mighty Fall”
- “Last orders half past ten. This is a groovy number (aghh)!”
- “This is The Fall and this is the drudge nation. Your decadent sins will reap discipline. Still it is unclean! Unclean”
- “We’re breaking it in easy for you”
- “Come on, get a bit of fucking guts into it”
- “Can you get it fucking together instead of showing off!”
5. A great live album makes you want to be there, makes you wish you had been there there. This is one of those records.
6. This is all good. Notable highlights however include:
- groovy number Rowche Rumble - “Valium!” which is full of unresolving manic tension.
- Muzoweri’s Daughter - more funereal, more processionary, more heavy bass drone, more dread. Riley pops up towards the end to offer some of his trademark totally pointless backing vocals, but we can live with this.
- A less caustic but certainly no less demented version of Spectre vs Rector
- Something new! Cary Grant’s Wedding. Switches erratically between rockabilly and some sort of final reckoning, storm the citadel theme. Ridiculous, in the best possible way.
7. This is not completely a live album. The broadcast interrupted -
- That Man - a not too shabby pop song, but in the end kind of fails to stick. Accrington and 'Hovis land' get a shout out
- New Puritan - a home demo, one mic and rattly guitar job. The germ of something great, lyrically strident, sharp poetry and images. Word like this very exciting few lines:
In LA the window opener switch
Is like a dinosaur cackle
A pterodactyl cackle
Jet plane circle
Over imported trees
8. And back to the previous programming to round things all off with a rousing and combative No Xmas For John Quays. Possibly the best version - closed in, head down, frenetic, focused, a maelstrom. Sound men are berated. The band is berated - ‘Can you get it fucking together instead of showing off!’. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Bang, the end, applause.
9. Sleeve Notes/Title. Right - I have this album only on MP3, legally purchased I might add, so I’ve missed out on some extra stuff that’s relevant. The sleeve notes have MES speaking through the persona of Roman Totale - I think Pete has the CD, so hopefully he can elaborate.
10. To conclude - a thrilling lo-fi collection showcasing a band more than hitting its stride, but hitting on something very special in a very focused, determined, deliberate way.
This week could always have been about another quality single and a budget live album thing. However, on reflection its actually about a couple of giant leaps forward. It's also going to be about being concise and focused as I seem to have run completely out of time this week. Oh well.
… oh, well, concise. Tight. Focused. Compare Fiery Jack to Bingo Masters Breakout - both character studies, but whereas Bingo was all gloss and sheen (lyrically at least) Fiery Jack manages to be both more obscure yet more insightful, and rather than telling a story of a character manages to capture some of their essence. Stuff like...
And peace is a kite of materials you never catch… doesn't make much sense, but by the end of the song it all combines so that you really feel you know Jack. All this lashed to a twisted rockabilly groove. In terms of singles The Fall are on one hell of a run of form. B-sides - 2nd Dark Age is pretty clumpy but entertaining, especially the bit about Abba, and the reworking of Psychic Dancehall an uncharacteristically pointless retread.
Come up for a snatch
Up from hell
Once in a while
Totale's Turns was an odd career move. At lest in hindsight it was - were we back in 1980, but a few months after Dragnet, a budget live offering which proudly proclaimed 'Doncaster! Bradford! Preston! Prestwich!' might well have had me bouncing with anticipation. But looking back, after the thrill of Dragnet this seems just a little anti-climactic, though none the less essential. What we have here is not just a live album with a couple of demo-y tracks thorn in for good measure - its also a minor rewriting of the band's short history thus far, and almost a manifesto. MES has found his live footing, there's none of the slightly coy banter of before, he owns this environment, he owns the band, and quite frankly aside from being a little more verbose between songs and a lot more comprehensible this is exactly the MES that you'll get if you potter off and see the Fall now - clever, sneery, uncompromising, very, very rock and roll. If he's not taking the band to task in No Xmas, or insulting the promoter during Rowche, he's toying with the audience, mocking them. Its a very twisted version of what we love from our front-men, and masochistically compulsive.
But its the band who've made the greatest leap forward here… ok, so its an almost totally different band but bear with me. The tunes utterly thunder along - Muzorewi's Daughter was already meaty, but god almighty it hammers you here, Spector vs Rector may not be as sonically oppressive as on Dragnet, but there's few musicians that could even contemplate this in a live setting, let alone pull it off, and No Xmas suddenly has lost any trace of silly, becoming an utter monster, circling round and round, sounding like a fight that is both happening, and is probably about to happen right in you face. Cripes.
There is newness here - Cary Grant's Wedding swings from a doom laden chorus to a mainly chipper another chorus, and then another bit. This is the sort of Fall song that gets your average Fall fan excited - lollopy, heavy, and with lyrical insights such as
Buster Keaton he turned up… what does it mean? Haven't a clue. But its good. I think. Also new is That Man, which feels a bit like a Dragnet cast-off - bit Your Heart Out, bit Dicemanish. It feels like a hyped-up 50s boy group + kazoo. And of course New Puritan which (breaking all of my usual rules) I'll discuss next week.
He wasn't a woman
He didn't take hallucigens