In which Pete and Ed listen to something by The Fall and then write about it.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Hex Enduction Hour (Album) (1982)

Ed Says:

It has been a few weeks since the last entry. This has been partly down to being incredibly busy and partly down to procrastination. Procrastination because the idea of writing about Hex Enduction Hour is pretty daunting. Its a work of epic proportions in a world where the currency of the word ‘epic’ is at an all time low. A particularly good sandwich, a mobile phone call plan or a video of a cat falling off a slippery work surface are not epic. Epic is big, expansive in idea, ambition and execution. It dwarves its contemporaries and proves them to be wanting. As a quality, it is rare - it has to be, because we are talking about scale.

That’s one thing then, the epic nature of Hex makes it a difficult subject to get started on because in some way you have to translate the scale and the way it hits you into some sort of sensible collection of words. Back to the old cliche of dancing about architecture.

I’ve made some notes. Looking back on them I find I’ve seemed to favour World War II military terminology, suggesting the impact and sound of the record might be analogous to blitzkrieg or the assault of a Panzer division, or full on total war conducted by the Wehrmacht. I’ve gone even further down this particular metaphorical cul-de-sac to suggest that there is very much a last days in the bunker, fight to the very last man, bombs falling, barbarians at the gate sort of scenario. However, that’s a bit one dimensional.

1982, but it may be at any time - there’s no frame of reference to mark it as contemporary to anything much. Nothing stylistic speaking, and where lyrics hit on known reference points, the framing is abstract. The music is an extreme final gasp - a dinosaur cackle, a pterodactyl cackle, before extinction. Back to the bunker. Presentation - angry, measured, sardonic. The Fall never sound this gloriously deranged again, but that’s OK, there’s many more avenues to explore in the future.

Some background - supposedly this was supposed to be the last Fall record. The one where they bowed out to mainly indifference with a final, totally uncompromising fuck you. They made the record they wanted to make, but luckily for us, the rest of the plan failed - unexpected success - 71 in the mainstream album charts. No mean feat.

After spending a large proportion of my life listening to music too loud in headphones, I’ve fallen foul to tinnitus. The high pitched whining in my ear is a tedious nisance, but I can live with it, the ear doctor advises that the best thing to do is not listen to music at an ear splitting volume and to take regular breaks from standing in front of amps etc. As I am a lot more sensible that I used to be, I follow this advice - with a couple of exceptions - listening to Hex Enduction Hour being one of them. If there is ever an album that should be listened to at a very loud volume it is this, it is almost feels disrespectful,  if that makes any sense whatsoever. The other exception is Raw Power - for the same reason.

Jesus. That’s some meandering preamble. I apologise. Summing up so far at this waypoint - intense, angry, extreme, sardonic (so therefore humorous, darkly) and should be played loud.

A word on personnel - this is the one where The Fall make like the glorious and unfairly maligned by association Glitter Band by utilising two drummers. Karl Burns is back and he’s beating the living crap out of those drums in tandem with Paul Hanley. What a team! Hold tight - I’ve been misleading you a little, Hex isn’t all full assault - there are also quieter, more trancier moments where the drummers get intricate and do some cool intertwining complex stuff.

The album, opens with the bombastic The Classical, which is one of the best openers to any album I’ve heard, on a par with the marching boots that announce Never Mind The Bollocks. Booom! We’re in - a funky, scathing tirade. An exasperation with the great British tolerance of mediocrity perhaps:

You won’t find anything more ridiculous than this new high profile razor unit - made with the best British attention to the wrong detail.

‘Hey there fuck face!’ - another Fall state of the union, pearls before swine. Anyway, it’s big, brash, poppy and it has a fucking bass solo in it.

Jawbone and the Air Rifle - which we’ve visited before, honed over a series of years, the version on here is great - still retaining the weird lysergic Chas and Davisms, but with increased confidence in the delivery and story telling.

Which brings us on to the classic Hip Priest. I don’t think it’s autobiographical, but its a tempting conclusion to come to - ‘He is not appreciated’. He hits motorway services. ‘All the young groups know they can imitate, but I teach’. Seething and shimmering, pulsing, ringing harmonics. All enveloping with a hint of menace, narration up front, right in the ears. Hip, hip, hip, hip, hip hip priest! ‘Clean as a packet of chocolate treats’

And in a series of high points, Deer Park is now prepended with Fortress, a tale about a humdrum BBC radio panel assignment in a the dreary warrens of one of the broadcasters buildings:
And here on the Vitamin B glandular show...
Much discussion in boiled beef and carrots
Room C-H-1-O-C-H-2-O-11
This almost throwaway, but like everything else on the record, it works - stateliness heralded with Casiotone preset.

A pause. I am growing dissatisfied with just running through the tracks like this, it seems that by breaking down the constituent parts we fail to do justice to the whole. I’ve attempted to outline a general feeling of what this record is about, but it is a complex, slippery beast, which is part of its appeal. It continues to yield treasures for over repeated listens and its a different album everytime. At the risk of pretension, how you see it depends on where the light is settling on that particular day. Oof- that’s tortuous.

A word on Iceland. This record was part recorded in Iceland, and I like to imagine that this is where the more hypnotic, inwardly contemplative part of this record stems from. You can definitely hear it in the song Iceland, written on the fly with the band running through a something delicate, repetitive, ancient, a plinky piano figure running through it. A general air of finding a spiritual home in the desolate edge of the arctic. Incantations:
What the goddamn fuck is it?
That played the pipes of aluminum
A Memorex for the Krakens
That induces this rough text
And casts the runes against the self-soul
And humbles in Iceland
Incidentally, the rest of this record was recorded in Hitchin, which having lived there for some of my teenage years, I can confirm is an absolute shithole. Perhaps this album wasn't going to be so angry until the group had spent a couple of days in this backward little market town. I digress...

Backing up to Just Step S’ways. More garage, but made super-huge and magnificent by the double drum attack. Most importantly:
Just step outside this futurist world today
Just step right round
The Eastern Bloc rocks to Elton John.
So just step sideways from this place today
To be a celebrity you've gotta eat the past, nowadays
and then the killer:
But who wants to be in a Hovis advert, anyway?
I’m tying myself in knots here really, so going to wrap up, hopefully Pete has been a little more lucid. And This Day, the piece of music the record ends on is ridiculous and extraordinary. Excerpted from some point in the middle of a 26 minute recording, this is a slice of extreme strait-jacketed bonkers in an industrial unit business, where it’s all cranked up, pummelling onslaught with sick on the waltzer woozy fairground organ. Taking the repetition to the logical extreme, with ranting, hectoring vocals -
‘Everywhere no fucking respite!’
And just when you think there isn’t, it ends. And then you want to listen to it again.

In conclusion - Hex Enduction Hour. It is extremely good, but I’ll be damned if I can convey how good it is. So I suggest you listen to it.

Pete says

In my experience, there are certain albums that, when you even simply go to pick them off the shelf, seem to spark and fizz under your fingertips.  They have an electrical, tactile quality even before that physical moment - they seem to loom large in the mind, to pulse expectantly next to their peers, seemingly knowing of their own power and weight.  It isn't just that they are exceptional - though for me such albums as 'Kid A' and 'Blood On The Tracks' undoubtedly are - and very occasionally they're just ('just' he says, with a wry smile) really good - for example 'Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space'.  No, its something more.  That sense of magic, that notion that this little sliver disk represents something greater than mere notes and words and rhythms.  Its a slippery sort of intangible kind of weird potency.  It can almost be overbearing.  Its clearly impossible to define.  It can be unpleasant, like riding on a roller-coaster in the dark again and again.  And for me at least, in the whole of The Fall's cannon, only one album truly encapsulates this illusive quality, and that album is Hex Enduction Hour.

If Dragnet were a grimy flat with angry dreamers inside, and Grotesque a run-down council house with the fantasist working class, then Hex is a skyscraper, all glass and steel, defying vision, defying light even.  You stare at it for ages trying to comprehend, and then realise your gaze has slipped to your own feet as you remain there, abashed and dumb.  Inside, myriad people, a city's worth of people, so many people that individuality has become meaningless, even meaning has almost become meaningless.  There's just recurring, vague, angry trends of thought that bubble through the legion.  They could be aliens for all I know, as the reality of Hex seems just so far removed from anything I perceive, and while you can try to latch onto a train of thought, but the time you have the train has left the solar system.  It feels paradoxically like 'essence of fall' while also feeling quite removed from anything else by the band ever, like the way that a tomato glances over at tomato puree and goes 'what the fuck?,,,'.

Let's illustrate this by looking at the two weakest things here (and let's get our terms of reference right - we're talking 'weakest' as in 'still can lift those huge round rocks, and almost made the finals of world's strongest man' weak).  When we thought about 'Jawbone and The Air-rifle' some time ago there was a latent sense that it was, for whatever reason, destined to end up on Hex.  It just seemed to condense the HP Lovecraftisms of MES with that pounding rhythm section, clanging guitars, meshing together words and song in a way that felt like the bastard son of 'J. Temperance', 'Spector vs. Rector' and all the great singles we've had  - it just seemed to be a call from the future, a sign-post to the heart of Fall-land.  But now its here, proudly sitting as track two, my god, doesn't it feel like a throwback?  I mean, surrounded by all this noise and sense, and nonsense, and everything in-between, strike me down but doesn't it feel... well, twee?  It's a cheeky tale of a curse with a proper old-fashioned narrative, the driving and grinding is comparatively one-dimensional, the vocal delivery is (in Hex terms at least) very straight.  What we thought sometime ago was the calling card of the future is merely the man at the gate.  And yes, I am overstating the facts to make a point - its a great tune, its a good choice at track two, and anywhere else in the Fall's early cannon it would standout - but there is something very functional about it.

Compare that with And This Day - fucking hell, if ever there was a 'song' that defied you actually hearing it its this one.  Its pretty clear that each instrument has a sense of where it is in the song, which bit it should be playing, but as to how everything fits together its a blimmin mystery.  It just whomps along, sustained primarily in its own obstinate belief in itself, with hooks falling as it goes, shot down in isolation - a bass one hits the ground, a drum one rises above the parapet, another Tommy with a inevitable look in its eye and a prayer on its lips.  Bang.  Gone.  And yet not gone, 'cos on and on it rolls, whipping the listener up into an emotional state best described as terrified bewilderment, "The whole Earth shudders / The surroundings are screaming on the roads" and don't we just know it, and yet another lurching riff on that insescent organ smacks you in the ear.  And yet, after everything that has gone before you can't help but feel this is an appropriate end to the listening experience that is Hex - I mean, what else could come here?  I don't resent And This Day for being hard, I'm not complaining about the way it makes me feel, as you can't finish something as powerful as Hex with anything less than a hammer.  If in this instance we're being pulled about by our expectations of how a song should feel then I'm a better listener because of it.  And Hex deserves a significant send off.

So we have two extremes - Jawbone (though top) feeling like a trad. Fall song (a concept that, in itself, is so ridiculous, and suggests perhaps just how indoctrinated I have become) and And This Day being the most extreme example so far of how hard The Fall can push you while still being artistically/musically valid (there will be gibber at some pointin the coming weeks, I am sure).  Everything else here doesn't feel like it can truly exist, like those elements at the end of the periodic table which fall apart before they actually formed.  All the other songs should never have been able to drag themselves out of the swamp because in so many aspects they stray so far from the norm, from convention, that conceptually I cannot even begin to imagine how they got from head, to guitar, to ear.  To even begin to picture a song like Hip Priest causes the brain to give in and die, and lets be honest, this does not bode well for whatever I am to write next...
Let's mop up a couple of bits before more strangled gushing.  Two drummers - Hanley, who in my head is just a solid, tuned in drummer, and Karl Burns, who I know was mental and I like to think drummed like it.  It's this unusual arrangement that creates the musical template for Hex - rhythm, rhythm, rhythm.  Beats and strums and sounds crashing in and over each other, fighting their way out of the murk.  Also, please don't ask me how, but while the production values here would cause an audiophile to weep the sound is perfect in every way, and whether through intent or accident the nature of the sound goes a long way to lending Hex the otherworldliness that befits the lyrics and songs.  Even before you get into the nitty gritty of what is being said and how its being presented, Hex just seems to be one of those records when everything got nailed all at once.

We've already looked at a number of songs here beforehand, so lets just recap - Deer Park, which impressive left me a little tiny bit nonplussed in its Peel Session outing is made here by a simplest of tricks - The Fall whack a whole other song at the start of it.  'Fortress' is far shorter than Deer Park, a little more expansive in its riffage, but when prefacing it provides the perfect scene setter.  Lyrically the two seem to rub up against each other without really making too much literal sense, which in microcosm is exactly like the rest of Hex.  Who Makes The Nazis allows itself to be a little more musically bonkers with tapes and goodness knows what else cluttering up the sound, but I still stand by my analysis of what its doing lyrically - using the power of nonsense to undermine our labelling of the world.  And Winter is just achingly wonderful - my only criticism of it is that due to the fact that we've moved from a musical medium which you actually have to get up and interact with to hear the second half of the record the splitting of the song into two parts (last track of side one and the first of side two) doesn't work quite as magically as it should do.  But that's hardly The Fall's fault - Hex lives and breathes in a world of its own creation, so who would think of future-proofing it?

There are five tracks remaining that I haven't mentioned, three of which are easily among the greatest songs that The Fall have ever done, while the remaining two are merely phenomenal.  Iceland is a companion piece to Winter, so much so in fact that the weird ennui that infects the latter tune in Salford almost moves lock stock over to Reykjavik.  A jammed meditation with the startling opening "A plate steel object was fired / And I did not feel for my compatriots" it almost, almost matches its chilly partner.  And with Jus Step S'Ways we have a strong contender for best Fall riff ever, with everything slaved to it and MES entertaining us with such weighty insights as "the eastern bloc rocks to Elton John" and "who wants to be in a Hovis advert anyway?"  Simply marvellous.

… I've three songs left to write about.  I have just reread their lyrics yet again, and thought really hard about the whole of Hex to try and start to pull this together, but this record defies any sort of analysis, pinning down.  I suppose the bottom line is this - for a lyricist that was already off piste Hex sees MES just going fucking off on one, and when combined with the focused, yet clattery music, it just leave this listener an awestruck mess.  The words here just sweep and judder,with as many odd phrases that catch the ear on one album as the Fall have had in total so far…
"Hey there fuckface"
"There's been no war for forty years / And getting drunk fills me with guilt"
"I got my last clean dirty shirt outta the wardrobe"
"Much discussion in boiled beef and carrots"

And, of course Mere Pseud Mag Editor's Father which is fucking fantastic.  You have to read it times to actually work out what it means, and then in the context of the song it seems utterly irrelevant anyway.  Anyway, basically, its a character study.  It's Fiery Jack turned up to nine hundred and eleven.  It's about a bloke who sounds a bit of a twat really.  But thats not the point.  The point is, for a pop song (and deep down, its a pop song), its a right fucking mess.  It's the same rhythm over and over again, with various instruments playing the same thing over and over again, occasionally on the 'right' notes though its actually anyones goes what those notes really ought to be.  It's a lurching monster of a tune that comes and goes without much fuss, apart from the fucking chaos, with MES just oodling away one the top, aside from when he gets a bit excited about watching Rowan Atkinson.  It's even got a middle eight that exists to reiterate how punishing the main body of it is, and - get this - a weird, strummed intro which he fucking croons over like some demented Dean Martin type.  It is brilliantly pointless, dazzlingly inconsequential.

And then there's The Classical which as opener sets the tone perfectly.  Two drum kits whacking away, thudding Hanley bass (and even a solo of sorts) and those scabrous guitars that we've come to know and love, but a light year - a fucking light decade - on from anything before, even maybe New Puritan which in hindsight pointed the way much more accurately than Jawbone did.  Lord only knows what its all about - something to do with creativity possibly, highbrow verses low - but all viewed from a Fallian prism, all mashed up and spewed back at you, unrelenting, unforgiving:
Too much reliance on girl here
On girls here, behind every shell-actor
Snobbier Snobbier
Too much romantic here
I destroy romantics, actors,
Kill it!
Kill it!
… and finally, goodness me.  How to describe the genius that is Hip Priest.

Y'know all those rappers that dedicate so much time and rhyme to self-aggrandisement?  Both Ed and I have a soft spot for such things, but really its a dirty, cheap little habit isn't it?  You know - "I've got a bigger vocabulary/gun/cock than you".  Childish.  Well, lets bow down to the master.  MES not only manages in one song to declare himself the greatest… whatever he is, but wraps it all up in a little fantasy that teases and delights, is equally as boastful as it is knowingly pathetic. This weird little character study is so perfectly put together that we can feel this hip priest, we know him, even though we can't really say why or how (though, of course, being so blatantly autobiographical helps)… and you know, I could quote any number of lines at you.  Lord knows, I've been quoting this song since the day I heard it, often straight in bemused people's faces, who have no idea who Dan is, nor why someone is not appreciated, nor why they can imitate, but I teach.  But what's the point.  This is a vocal tour de force, an insanely rare perfect combination of writer and singer, showman and artist.  This is someone demonstrating exactly what he's talking about by doing it amazingly - for those of us that get MES, that buy into it, this is like a fucking mantra.

But lets hold on one moment.  If there is any song that we need to redress the MES = The Fall balance, then maybe this is the one.  Yes, I and a many others like (and unlike) me believe MES to be a genius, a unique talent in music that should be celebrated (though that would ruin him), honoured (though he would hate it, probably), bought by every single red-blooded Britishman (… that'd go down OK I suspect).  But while he must take plenty of credit for shaping them, MES would be the bloke in the corner of the pub spouting rubbish were it not for his team - The Fall.  Hip Priest is such a strange musical experience, and he must pay homage to our aforementioned drummers, Riley and Scanlon playing guitars and maybe keyboards, and the might Hanley on bass.  The tangled mesh of music that these people weave, which builds for so long with plucked strings and taps, creating a sparse and lonely landscape with nowhere to hide, just the right environment for MES to unleash the full force of his talent.  The way the song builds for so, so long, the level of control and understanding required to keep things in check before the inevitable, yet still unnerving rush of the loud bits.  Go back to the Peel session and then listen to this - there's no doubt that MES has pushed and moulded, but that little guitar noodle, those bass drops, the way the keyboard can knowingly, perfectly just belt out whatever so long as the rhythm is right, the fact that so many little things have grown and been flooded into the melee must mean that there are skilful players here, and I utterly refute any fool who considers The Fall to be that Smith bloke and his backing band.  Hip Priest is both the best thing that The Fall have done up until this point, and it is a perfect demonstration of just what makes Hex sublime - everybody on the absolute top of their game, and everything else just falling into place as everyone must hope it does when they open the door to the recording studio.

And I write so much, and convey so little.  Hex astounds and delights and you get to the end flustered and sweaty and short of breath.  It says so much but doesn't allow you the dignity of comprehension.  It breaks you down as a music listener, and disdainfully walks away leaving you shattered but aching to learn.  Its astounding… and yet, I still prefer Grotesque!  For all the magic of it, the unyielding invention, there's something about its supreme confidence in itself that makes you think back to NWRA, to S Mithering, those snotty tunes that at least patted you on the back as they prepared to fuck you up.  It's splitting hairs, and really, truly, its nothing more than personal preference, but of these two astounding records the earlier one just manages to tick the boxes that I need filled.

… but having said that, Hex is there on my shelf right now, humming, buzzing to itself, dominating the space, jutting its elbows into its neighbours and waiting expectantly for the next time...

Monday, 2 April 2012

Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul (Single) & Peel Session #5 (1981)

Pete says:

This week – “The Good, The Bad, and The Before Its Time”, a.k.a.“Welcome Back Karl Burns (Do You Actually Play Anything)”, a.k.a. “There’s A Storm Coming”.

I just can’t shake it, though it breaks all my own rules, so I’m going to get it out of the way now – next week already feels massive.  Not necessarily good (though the chances are high), but sun-blockingly significant.  So as a result we’ve ended up this week with a cheeky single and an important Peel session.  We’ve also ended up – in my opinion – with something of a mixed bag, and to be frank this is the most inconsistent group of tunes we’ve had since Witch Trials, and to be perfectly honest, there’s even an element of dullness.  Oh, and I've decided to be hypercritical this week simply due to the fact that otherwise I'd be carping on about 'oh, how wonderful, how innovative', and that'd be super boring for you Mariah.

So, Peel session 5 – we’re rattling through them aren’t we?  That’s 5 in threeish years, and lets not forget the amount of progress that is evident in just this one example of The Fall’s output, especially when you compare it to today’s standards, when it seems to take years for a band to record yet another album that sounds like the last one (it’s just noise, you can’t heard the words, get off my lawn, etc etc).  We begin with Deer Park, which is a prime example of something The Fall do better than any other band I know – sustained, unreleased tension. As in, the same thing over and over again.  Now, this is fine, and in the context of Deer Park it works pretty well really, nice scabrous guitar, thudding along bass line, all well and good.  And that buzzing, incessant electric piano thing, all on two notes - nice, in a nasty sort of way.  But there's something about the performance that just leaves me a little cold.  I can appreciate it, and certainly enjoy it, but it doesn't quite hit the heights that one feels it ought to.  Perhaps this is due to my frustration at the lyrics, as while moments of it buzz me (I like "See the A&R civil servants / They get a sex thrill out of a sixteenth of Moroccan" and "Spare a thought for the sleeping promo dept. / They haven't had an idea in two years") as a whole I feel a little lost in meaning... and its worth saying that this has never fussed me generally about The Fall (or most other bands), and when it happens I often revel in the nonsense or view it as a challenge.  Maybe its the fact I've not read Mailer's 'The Deer Park' which would probably have helped, maybe its just not what I want from this song, or maybe even its been my mood over the last few days, but there's something not quite here for me to hear.  Humm...

And for me at least, things get a whole lot worse with 'Look, Know'. Okay, there should be nothing here for me not to like really, a typical Fall-funk bas line which has a bit of swagger and swing, a nice considered vocal, guitars, meh meh meh... lets be honest with each other, Look, Know is dull.  MES knew it was dull.  Steve Hanley forgets himself at one point and plays few bum notes, but bum notes that come not from the usual place of being so into it you loose yourself, but bum notes from surprise at how dull the not-bum notes are.  Its a dead-end of a track, a half-arsed exploration into a type of song that The Fall have no real reason to be playing, but what is most frustrating is the fact that that repeated, creepy little refrain 'Do you know what you look like / before you go out' could spin off into something really interesting, when in fact after a while you realise that its just an 'end of the affair' song, and even worse there's an element of self-pity that has no place on a song by The Fall (I am prepared to be corrected on this point at a later date). Things like:
But I say happy memories leave a bitter taste
I need a good brainwash agent to cut out this present shout of:
Do y'know what you look like before you go out?
That's why you eat crap food
That's why nobody talks to you
That's why you messed up everything you do
I'm sorry - 'messed up everything you do'?  Well, that's just lazy for any number of reasons, and the stuff that precedes it isn't much better, and I could be an arse and start to bang on about mess/do or
messed/did, but then we get "He was the first one to wear a flying jacket and go to a club / And she has the general policy of not being seen dead in a pub" which is just a nothing, nothing bit of lyrical nothingness.  By the time the lyrics start nudging toward Satre (which in turn starts to make the title a little more interesting) the song is a dead fish on the end of a dead fisherman's cock.  And what I find most frustrating about it all is that I know this song will be a single release, which if its not drastically better than this performance will be the slow bakers cheese flan which breaks a consistently ace run of singles since whatever came after It's The New Thing.  Just poor, and I'm honestly amazed that MES allowed this to bumble along.

Now - please bear in mind my hypercritical stance this week.  Deer Park is at the very least alright, and Look, Know is at the very best poor. Winter is undoubtably amazing. In fact, potentially the
most beautiful thing I've heard by The Fall thus far.  In fact, in the continual yet slightly engineered debate that I'm having in my brain about The Fall/lyrics/poetry it represents the finest example of how
exceptional poetry and music can coexist, and through doing so create a whole new form of meaning, and eschew any concrete sense of 'real' without delving into the likely blind alley of 'surreal' (thought having said that, see below...).  Let's break this down - effectively (after a clugging introduction at least) we have drums, bass, guitar, electric piano all playing pretty much the same thing all the way through (key note - 'pretty much'... there's so much room to manoeuvre within 'pretty much' isn't there?  Classy musicians, really good musical peeps who play without self-consciousness, who drive forward without watching out for the trappings of fame, those types can find whole albums in 'pretty much'.  Elgar wrote the Enigma Variations out of 'pretty much'.)  And musically that's it - but then again, oh! that syncopated arpeggio on the electric piano and oh!  the thuddy riff on the bass that ends each phrase and oh!  all of the sodding thing basically.  Like a runty, dirty four-year old singing something that just causes you to weep uncontrollably, musically Winter inexplicably whacks you right in the heart and will not let you ignore it.  There's no rhyme or reason to this, you can't really explain it, it's just a base fist of a piece. Bang - listen.

But over and above all this, its the most sublime, exceptional piece of poetry this side of Bob Dylan.  The poetry I like the best is usually one of two things, and the stuff I like most is often both - something that says something about something in a smart way that perhaps changes what you thought you felt, and/or something beautiful that uses English in a way that is perhaps unexpected, perhaps rhythmic, perhaps shocking, but always, always beautiful.  Winter scores well on the first and supremely well on the second, though in all honesty to say what its about would be over-reaching myself.  But clearly the mad kid is at the heart of it, and the fact that he demands three times 'gimmie the lead' of the black dog suggests that his tangible unruliness and yet the air of sadness seems to define the emotional timbre of the song.  And that's a fairly potent mix, especially when the refrain seems so perfectly constructed, so well considered, so that its literal ambiguity ('what the fuck does it mean?') is mirrored by its emotional nullness, where positive words immediately get balanced out by darker ones.
Entrances uncovered
Street-signs you never saw
All entrances delivered
Courtesy Winter.
It feels very very Alan Bennet, it feels very very Dennis Potter. It's bliss.  'Two white doves cross the sky' sounds like it should lift you up, but the gentle weariness of it all makes the line doubly sad, Manny in the library who appears only briefly is forever crystallised in time at the moment just before your stomach unravels and a hangover gets slightly better and I know better than most that feeling in that place, and the mad kid's "black cardboard Archbishop's hat / With a green-fuzz skull and crossbones" is so ridiculous but so pathetic... everything that is wrong with Look, Know is flipped on its head here, but most pertinently the general sense of pointlessness that infects Look, Know is harnessed by Winter, is thrown right back at the listener, is turned into something beautiful and sad. It's almost too much to bear to be honest.

... okay, so I don't think its up to my to decode it.  But I really want to.  But using words to do so seems to miss the point - I mean, if the mad kid has 4 lights, and genius only three, yet the rest of us have 2.5 (bar the mediocre) then am I illuminated enough to even try? And the mad kid has more lights than genius, what does that make him? Too insightful to even realise, to bear knowing?  Here's where music and words together can strike even more pointedly into the brain, into the 'heart'.  I can feel Winter, even though I don't know why.  And as if by magic, as if I actually plan this gibberish ineffectual garbage which I write, now is the moment to point out a lovely little coincidence that occurred today.

I have, for some time now, been taking photos of my daughter with CDs that we've listened to, and this is the one I took today.

Winnie very much enjoyed Abbey Road, and I don't blame her as its class, but let us for a moment consider its opening track 'Come Together'.  I don't have my copy of the seminal 'Revolution In The
Head' to hand, but I seem to recall that Ian MacDonald talks about 'Come Together' as being a song that (excuse my paraphrasing and potential misinterpretation) uses words and specifically nonsensicality as a tactic in the counter cultural revolution, crystallising something begun with 'I Am The Walrus' and others. Actually breaking down meaning and yet saying something regardless about how pointlessness and artificiality.  'Come Together' is powerful beyond words precisely due to its lyrical content being beyond sense, to the point where that is the point.  Now, consider who makes the Nazis...

... I mean, who does make the NAZIs?  It seems a daft question, but really, think about it, and don't answer Hitler.  It's who 'makes', not 'made'.

... and who decided that 'fuck' upsets people?

... and why are you reading this?  It's just words.  It's just words about words and music, written by someone who's opinion is only as relevant as you make it.  I'm nobody.  Seriously - I'm a 34 year old
librarian.  I take pictures of my daughter with the CDs of other people's bands.  I write songs that virtually nobody hears.  But those that do think they are pretty good.  But what do they know?  I could
write my achievements and make myself sound like a superman or a waster.  You might think I've striven hard against adversity to achieve something noble, or squandered my talents when I could have changed the world.  If indeed you consider my talents to be anything like worth speaking of.  I could spin words back and forth and make anybody reading this believe anything.  Or nothing.  Or everything.

So, who makes the nazis?

Over a scatty couple of riffs MES essentially takes apart the horror and the artifice of 'nazis'.  It's like that Lenny Bruce bit of standup where he goes through the audience naming them by the most offensive racial stereotypes there are, and keeps saying this words over and over again, but here its almost gibberish that smacks the power of words to bits:
Who makes the Nazis?
Motels like three split-level mirages
Who makes the Nazis?
Buffalo lips on toast, smiling
Who makes the Nazis?
I put a finger on the weird.
This was real Irish know.
Joe was then good as gold
And told of the rapists in the Spa Motel.
The real mould.
Who makes the Nazis?
Here we are 35ish years after the end of the second world war, and MES is illustrating to us that these archetypes are nothing more that empty vessels that we fill with meaning.  This is not to say that he's
undermining evil and terror - far from it - but the evil men do need not be labeled and indexed.  I am sure that there are many interpretations of this song that take images and eek out meanings, that demonstrate connections between The Fall and history, but that's not what I hear.  I hear a remarkable deconstruction of sense, which takes as its subject nazis, but it could be anything really.  Who makes the Beatles?  Who makes The Fall?

Phew.  Heavy.  Anyway, lets just touch upon probably the last great Fall single in a remarkable run Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul all thump and chippy and joyous, with a proper bridge thing and pop greatness
spilling over - we salute you Rowche-Lie Dream, good times.  And before finishing up, Fantastic Life... humm... well, it's alright isn't it, but already I'm starting to hear spaces that need to be filled by something a bit more clear and clean, to cut against the mess and noise.  I mean, its well played, interesting enough, but it needs a bit more spark, a bit more glamour maybe, a something to add to the brix and mortar. Wonder what that's going to be?  But before that... what's this I see before me, blocking out the light, uncompromisable, scary, big...

Ed says:

Once upon a time there was Northen - an odd, semi-secretive regional subculture with esoteric rituals, serious fanatics and distinctive uniform. Seven inch singles as sacred relics that had somehow become weirdly divorced from their original Motor City context and transplanted to the North. Specifically Lancashire and more Specifically still, Wigan. Of course, these days where every single sub-sub genre has been mined for the reissues market, a lot of the mystique has been removed. On the plus side, anyone can now hear Frank Wilson’s incredibly rare (two known copies), and incredibly beautiful ‘Do I Love You’, but on the down side it is now forever in my head indelibly associated with a popular brand of fried chicken. Families thrust their gaping maws in bargain buckets while the soul man expounds. So it seems you can have familiarity and chicken ads or you can have obscurity and an opaque mystique.

Lie Dream of a Casino Soul does nothing to dent the mystique but it leaves us with more questions. An insight into the deranged sleep deprived Sunday mind of the 48 hour chemically assisted dancefloor athlete.
I'm a bit jagged right now
In a tongue-tired, wired state
Cause Sunday morning dancing
I had an awake dream
I was in the supervision dept.
Of a big town store
Security floors one to four
They had cameras in the clothes dummies.
‘And that just goes to show, the lie dream of the casino scene’. Ambivalent, but ready to do it again next week no doubt. Musically, we’ve immediately picked up where Slates left off. Leaning to the abrasive side of that release, we have bopping drums, and wonky, creepy keys/kazoo. From the intro we could almost be dealing with some sort of northern soul pastiche, but this is neatly side stepped by the song becoming totally fucking willfully awkward - a good thing in case you were in doubt. Yet it is still poppy in a nagging way - repetition. MES is in strong form, commanding, although a bit more serious in tone, which is at odds with the surrealism of the lyrics. Oh yes, and the thing I love most about this is the pronunciation of ‘dept’ - exactly as it is written.

The B Side, Fantastic Life is even better, at least I think it is - I’m flip flopping on this one - at the moment I am all in favour. Again following in the vein of Slates, but this time the poppy Leave the Capital side of things. Driving, repetitive, shiny, with some shimmering keys and a nice bit of understated but cooly melodic guitar, where Fantastic Life really stands out for me is lyrically, in as much as I’ve got very little idea what Mark is actually banging on about, but there’s some great snippets:
The Siberian mushroom Santa
Was in fact Rasputin's brother
And he didst walk round Whitechapel
To further the religion of forgiven sin murder
which feels like the beginning of some insane shamanic conspiracy theory that takes in the Romanovs and Jack the Ripper. Anyway, a hard one to get a handle on but I do like it, despite, or maybe because of its intangibility. Sometimes it is good to resist the urge to know something inside out and to struggle for some sort of definitive interpretation, sometimes none is available - don’t let the untidiness jar, accept it. Join us.

Onto Peel Session #5, which is a cracker. Now, in past posts I’ve been inclined not to go too mad with songs that reappear in the studio form in the following week, but here we have some new songs that will do just that, but in interesting and different enough forms to give the session versions a bit of attention in their own right.

Right then - Peel Session. You know the drill. The Fall come in, record four songs of quality and distinction which we then get to enjoy for perpetuity. Thank you The Fall and thank you John Peel, even if your love of gabba was a bit trying sometimes. They never play any gabba when the BBC wheel out Zane Lowe or Lamacq to eulogise him once a year, and what we hear is the standard indie disco Love Will Tear Us Apart/This Charming Man/Blue Monday revisionism with maybe a sprinkling of The Wedding Present and maybe our heroes’ recording of Mr Pharmacist to spice things up a little. Never any gabba, Scouse house, King Sunny Ade, Bogshed, dusty old 78s and the like. We just get a Factory/Rough Trade oriented indie theme park that bears very little relation to the late Mr Peel’s incredibly varied, often delightful  and on occasion slightly irritating radio show.

Major digression - back on track - it must have been great hearing these on the radio for the first time in March of 1981. This is, in my opionion, a really special Peel Session. Let’s dive in.

Deer Park. Sometimes listening to The Fall is like being given a massive reading list. Does the hook allude to Mailer's 'Deer Park'? I've read it and am none the wiser. Keeping up with Mark’s literary references can be a full time job. In previous weeks we’ve had H P Lovecraft, M R James, William Blake. Add to the list this week Colin Wilson’s ‘Ritual In The Dark’, which I’m yet to get round to. A full on drone, head down thumper. A sketch of some sort of London squat scene. ‘The English Deer Park - a large type artist ranch’, patrolled by ‘Captain Beefheart imitators with zits’ where ‘young rastas...get a sex thrill out of a sixteenth of Morrocan’.  Grubby, improverished post-punk (chronologically, that it) scene. A keyboard all the way through - all on one crash victim’s head mashed against horn honking note.

It’s hard being unique and it’s very difficult creating original work that sounds unlike anything that’s gone before it. Look Know makes it look easy. Its greatness is in its insouciance. Repetitive circling bass, snare with vocal mantra breaking out into exquisite longing jangling that is perhaps reminiscent of The Cure’s more poppy moments before returning to the mantra, leading out into a more lovely jangle that harks back to Dragnet, which seems like ancient history now, but was in fact less released only around 18 months previously. Ridiculous. Lyrically weak and concerned with, I don’t know, the ritual of how you display yourself on a night out. Not amongst the best, but in a way irrelevant, as what makes this great is the delivery. A triumph of style over substance, which needn't always be a bad thing.

Winter. How to approach about writing about this? Its beautiful, shimmering, throbbing, brittle, hypnotic and again, true to the mission built on repetition. Peaks and troughs, build ups and slow downs, shifts in gear. Over the weeks we’ve had these many moments where there’s a musical bed with poetry over the top, ‘CnC Stop Mithering’, ‘Spectre Vs Rector’, ‘The NWRA’ - this is the moment where they nail it, where the words, mood, music work together in such a way as to create something really rather special.
The mad kid walked left-side south-side towards me
He was about 7
His mother was a cleaning lady
She had a large black dog
And the mad kid said:
"Gimme the lead
Gimme the lead
Gimme the lead"
I'd just walked past the alcoholics' dry-out house
The lawn was littered with cans of Barbican
There was a feminist's Austin Maxi parked outside
With anti-nicotine anti-nuclear stickers on the side
Anyway two weeks before the mad kid had said to me
"I'll take both of you on,
I'll take both of you on"
A snapshot of a scene, a neighbourhood, characters rubbing against each other. Again - signifiers, what the Austin Maxi tells you, a very specific early to mid eighties form of radicalism, like my mum’s friends from the the Poly who used to give the seven year old me Greenpeace T Shirts with pictures of whales on and read New Internationalist. We also have a bit of weird pulp science stuff which also harks back to the ongoing thematic obsession with there being something else behind the curtain that the more attuned mind can latch onto:
The mad kid had 4 lights, the average is 2.5 lights
The mediocre has 2 lights, the sign of genius is three lights
Again, marvellous.

With its heavy quotation, you could say that Totally Wired was The Fall’s big old Hunter S Thompson influenced song, but to me Who Makes The Nazis really evokes the late Doctor’s style. Short, clipped, hallucinatory, buzzing away, paranoid journalistic phrases barked into a dictaphone. Over some extreme anti-music - out of tune uke, thumping non-swinging toms, glorious dictaphonic tape hiss, serious twangs, sparseness. If you don’t make music you might say that it is completely without skill or planning, but you’d be wrong. This is a piece of music full of images - conjured up by the words and by the gaps in the music as the listener’s mind attempts, by default, to pin down some meaning or reference point. A heat haze song for dried out, brains frazzled by sun and acid.
Mark: Here’s a word from Bobby 
Unidentified Fall Member: When you're out of rocks, just give them real soul (salt?)
Hate’s not your enemy, love's your enemy
Murder all bush monkeys 
Yes. Me neither, but what I love about this exchange is the complicit deadpan delivery of Unidentified Fall Member. There’s a surrealist cabaret vibe to the whole thing. Or an aside in the script for a some sort of weird play. Unsettling. Who makes the Nazis? We all are all complicit...

So - no straight answers, no easy narratives, no simple tunes, but many interesting facets and a high hit rate when it comes to hairs on the back of the neck moments. The single’s great, but the Peel Session is stunning - consolidating but innovating, perhaps more than they’ve ever done at this point.