You would have thought that this week the Fall Retrospective would have been a breeze, what with a few days annual leave and such excitement spilling over from last time. However, its been far from that - after such an outpouring of guff about Grotesque, general life bits and bats, and a Pisco Sour Hour recording session on Friday, I find myself on a Monday night feebly tapping away. And I enjoyed this weeks offering too, so maybe its a shame to not do it justice..
… but on the other hand - ah screw it. Let's get this bit out of the way - Legendary Chaos Tape is a fine document of this version of The Fall playing a high quality set to a increasingly empty room of people (at least that's how it felt) who go from being enthusiastic to bewildered to elsewhere. But none the less our heroes plough on, carrying their unique torch as they blaze a trail through something or other, turning music on its head and washing it down with a pint of bitter. Is MES a lager or bitter man? I sort of feel he's a lager man, but I wish it were the other way round.
Anyway, here's my key thought from this week, before I sign off, send this to Ed, and expect a stern tut due to lateness - as I said, my band were recording on Friday night - it went rather well, cheers for asking. Our errant quarter Mary will be returning to the fold soon, and so our attentions to the live set what with gigs coming up, and we've already drawn up a list of greatest hits to get back up to speed. Its not a very long list, but that's not important right now. What is important right now is - when does a band bring a new song through to the live set? When do you unleash that sprog on the world? When it's half formed? Quarter formed? When you think its finished? And how do you approach that live performance? A gift to the fans? A litmus test?
PSH generally get a song totally written, then try it out live, then tinker with it to really hone it for live performance (or ditch it - that has happened before now). Based on the Legendary Chaos Tape The Fall do something rather different. They lull their fans in with the odd single or album track, then having metaphorically tethered them to a chair proceed to continue the writing process, but on stage. Maybe a couple of the band don't really know the song - fine, they'll work it out. The audience certainly don't know it, but given that it hasn't really been written you can't really blame them. Maybe the lyrics aren't finished - fine, use some old ones that you like and see what new direction you can take.
Essentially, the observation I'm trying to make here is that certain tunes here are less live performances and more small parts or a laborious birthing process, with an audience unwitting contributors. With other bands I'd get cross at, lets say, An Older Lover being such a prototype feet-finding process here, but I can hear something growing and changing, and I know that by the time we get to next week this kind of thing will have paid off. And anyway, soon afterwards we have a stunning, tight Container Drivers just to prove that we're in a controlled environment. In fact, much as I did enjoy this live offering, and though I am pushed for time this week, I do reckon that this white-hot on-stage growth ties in with the Repetition and with the changing faces and with some of the other things that we're noticing, and that's perhaps the most interesting thing to take forward from this. Onwards.
The approach we've been taking to this whole project is to take things chronologically, release by release, with the conceit that each week we're listening to the music anew, or at least with fresh ears. We're barred from listening to Fall output beyond our current temporal threshold, so to all intents and purposes we don't know what's coming up. Of course, being more than a little interested in the music, to date I'd heard all of these records. This is not the case of The Legendary Chaos Tape, which I've been listening to for the first time this week.
So some points. A live album. 1980. It's a nice little (long) set, although not up to the intensity of Totale's Turns. The sound is grubby and lo-fi - which is not a problem. The band are verging on the edge of shambolic at times, but they are admirably nailed to the floor by the younger Hanley brother, Paul, on drums. There is energy, enthusiasm, attack. Most of the songs on here are essential, although perhaps not present here in their essential versions. Notable highlight is the bonkers shamanic trance of Spector vs Rector, where every version I hear seems to be a further exercise in distilling more and more fear and loathing from the source material, radiating bad vibes out in all directions. Newies, An Older Lover, in particular showcase a kind of claustrophobic spidery sound with creeping dynamic shifts forming an uncomfortable bed for some uncomfortable poetry, which is very potent. We'll be dealing with this more next week.
The band, and MES, sound uncharacteristically relaxed. MES is joking, having fun, doesn't appear to be too nonplussed with band cock ups. None of this - 'Will you stop mucking about and get it fucking together' business. Perhaps he's breaking in the new drummer gently after the teddy boy's ejection.
Live albums, however, are curious beasts, particularly ones with little crowd noise that appear to be mainly taken from on stage sounds (a guess). There is a disconnect between the performance and the context. You get this on the Chaos Tape and I think it kind of suffers because of it, or perhaps this is just me. Are they playing in the upstairs room of a pub? A large hall? Someone's front room? Who knows? What's the room look like? Are the crowd excited, antagonistic, bored, confused? Perhaps I'm some sort of sap who wants everything spelled out.
Its a good snapshot of The Fall at this moment in time, or at least I assume it is. MES is a frontman very much in control - well mostly in control. There is a level of shabbiness, but it is appealing. I don't know. I think I have to spend some more time with the recording. I'm flip-flopping.
In short, its not bad, but its no Totale's Turns, one of the great live albums. Other great live albums I've known and loved would be The Commodores Live 1977, Suicide's '23 Minutes Over Brussels' and Bob Marley and the Wailers Live at the Rainbow. And its strikes me that all of these in their certain ways capture the crowd and the ambience perfectly and therefore the event as a moment in time and with a context, even if it is the sound of a load of enraged Belgians trying to bludgeon someone to death with their own drum machine.
That's it this week. Seriously rambling and confused this week, let's see where the next one takes us...