The Fall The Marshall Suite
by Marquis Cha-Cha
When I'm at the many dinner parties thrown in my honor, toasting the many military campaigns that I proudly funded, I will occasionally hear an errant wag pipe up, "And what about Mark E. Smith?" I will inevitably smile and reply with a laugh, "and what about him?"
I know that we shouldn't speak ill of the dead- even Stalin has been rightfully rehabilitated for making the Soviets into a mighty empire and that stout Putin fellow has done a splendid job carrying the torch, building up his own share of territory. But, you know, Mark did help to get my name circulated. I'm no fool though, and I know that song about me was supposed to take me down a peg, but it honestly didn't bother me. So-called fans are shocked to learn that Mark himself wasn't a pacifist and that he actually cheered the Falklands War that he wrote about, specifically using my own name as the title for his little record from 1982. You don't believe that Mark was cheering on the mighty British army? Read this interview that he did with the Telegraph and tell me I'm wrong then.
At the very least, you have to say that he had the right idea about the Falklands War, not like the crying little do-gooders such as Robert Wyatt and Elvis Costello who would write this ballad or the anarchists like Crass who yelled about the whole thing. I ask you, what good did all that sobbing and noise do?
In my own defense though, I have to say that Mark had the wrong idea about me. I did taunt the Brits on to the tiny islands as much as Mark himself was taunting people about being frightened of or angry at the war in the song that bears my name. I secretly welcomed the English military there as I, shall we say, had a bit of investment in the conflict, which led to quite a tidy profit for myself. In fact, that little skirmish led me to other profitable ventures in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and elsewhere that I can't discuss here for obvious reasons, including some work with associates of Mr. Putin himself. As for the 'bad publicity' about myself, as long as your name is on people's lips, even if they're cursing you, everything's fine, as the current American president would tell you. The worst sin is not being talked about at all.
So, I suppose, in the spirit of feting me those years ago, I might as well return the favor and speak for a moment or two about Mr. Smith. I have to say, I have found his music quite odd for my tastes. I like Wagner and Sousa more and the occasional catchy pop tune- you know, the type of thing that gets the blood pumping for a good skirmish. I've even become fond of that German rock song "Rock You Like a Hurricane"- now there's a tune that gets you in the mood.
The silly, misguided, bleeding heart editor here who asked me to write this article has a bit of fondness for Mark and his '90's era 'dance' music (my idea of dance is usually a good Strauss waltz) and he tried to get me to write about how this 1999 record is a bit of return for Smith and his band back to their 'roots' music, with a striking consistency to it. I have to say, it's a rather amusing record, in places. I prefer it to the earlier albums of his which I had to sit through, as he never seemed to know when to stop barking his lyrics- here, he's settled into some shorter, more digestible (though cryptic) polemics, which I prefer in comparison. I was also lured in by the promising title- I thought 'Marshall Suite' would be a good classical piece and something military-related at that. I was sadly disappointed in that regard.
So what shall I say about this supposed 'Marshall Suite' otherwise? The beginning is wonderfully rousing, I must say. The song "Touch Sensitive" has a proper, shouting atmosphere of a football-match (it's soccer really but you Yanks can't stomach that you supposed own 'football') and I adore the lines "They say what about the meek?/I say they've got a bloody cheek." Well said though I don't get the bit about Star Wars and urinating behind a tree. Bloody cheek indeed. After that, Mark finally shows some proper respect for finance with another upbeat number, "F-'oldin' Money," a clap-a-long rockabilly number originally done by some nobody person back in the 1950's. After that, Mark gets all full of himself on "Shake Off" (sadly not the Taylor Swift song) as if he's making an announcement to a large gathering before some thrashing rock and a bit of a dance rhythm kick in. It's good I suppose, if you like that kind of thing. From there, he finds another song from some Aussie band called the Saints, which was their idea of punks I believe. "This Perfect Day" has very good military drums at the start and then turns into a chugging little rock song.
Things go a bit wonky from there though I imagine someone who might be a fan of Mark's music would probably like that kind of thing. "(Jung Nev's) Antidotes" sounds strangely like the slow, grinding epic you'd hear from a band like Led Zeppelin in the middle of the 1970's though I doubt those fellows would have a song like this with cross-current shouting voices. From there, Mark wanders a bit with a moony song called "Inevitable" and then "Anecdotes and Antidotes in B#" with has a nice little rocking beat to it but Mark sounds as if he's had a few too many pints, if you know what I mean. From there, he goes into a very weird little number called "Early Life of Crying Marshall" with has a nice sweet interlude to it but also weird noises from all sorts of sources. This may be some kind of intro to "The Crying Marshall," which is all about guitar noise and a distorted dance music beat that's poorly recorded, which is no doubt something his fans would appreciate more than I would. Like I said, nothing about the military here- just some fellow trying to dodge a fashion show, of all things.
Things perk up nicely though with "Birthday Song," a reflective number to pause at, with some light electronic touches to it. Here, we hear the sad story of a girl whose birthday no one remembered as her friends had no time for her (I'm happy to say that I've never had that problem). But then, Mark feels the urge to show his 'artiste' side again with another bizarre number called "Mad-Men-Eng.Dog" with him moaning about the title and how 'the money is in the bag,' with a giant crunching sound and banging and radio noise in the background. Is it really supposed to be a song? I know his fans like these odd bits but it's really not for me. Maybe something to do with that silly "Dog Star Man" film? Luckily, he ends on a positive note with "On My Own," which features some jaunty piano, similar to the dance-pop you might have heard then from Pet Shop Boys, though without any drum beats. Mark moans about wandering the streets but does a nice job of detailing the drab scenery and his isolation.
So there you have it. I suppose it's something of an interesting record with some upbeat things and the usual crazy bits that you find on a Fall record. I know the editor here is mad about this album and thinks that it's a little under-appreciated number in their catalog but I was only mildly amused by it myself. I've heard worse things (I'm not a fan of rap, I must say) but how can you compare this to "1812 Overture" or "Wellington's Victory" or "Triumphal March" from Aida? You can't really.
Now, I'm afraid, dear reader, that I must get back to work. As I said, I'm doing a bit of work for Mr. Putin, taunting those pesky Ukrainians and then there's Belarus and Poland, but I'm getting a bit ahead of myself now.
Also see our Fall tribute
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