The Fall Bend Sinister
by Aaron Goldberg
The first thing I ever saw of the Fall was this shitty video clip of them doing a song live in New York City. It was on this rock show on the multicultural TV channel here in Australia, SBS. The show was called 'Rock Around the World' and unlike other rock shows of the time it was presented by these oh so sophisticated arty women. All they would play would be this obscure 'pop' music from overseas, shit like Ideal from Germany and the Talking Heads, and occasionally stuff like Midnight Oil and lots of Neu Wave music from England like Japan and Classix Neauvaux and the Au Pairs. Even though I never bought any of this shit ,I was to some degree affected by it, remember this was the early to mid 80's.
Anyway this buddy of mine who wasn't so impressionable, taped this live clip by this obscure English band called the Fall, the song was called "Totally Wired" and there was this skinny looking junkie guy yelling 'I'm totally wired, can't you see,' and occasionally yelping the words as if he were getting it up the arse every now again, to help feed his habit or something. Anyway I never heard that music again until I was a little older, maybe 16 or 17, and I was really damaged by the English sound of the time like a lot of teenagers are. I used to listen to the English influenced radio programs we have here on the local indie-radio stations, and bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and the Smiths and the Cult and Siouxie and Badcheese were the big hoo-haa, and of them all I really liked New Order, but somewhere, amongst all the haircuts, and claims of being the greatest, and one or two OK songs, was the Fall. Those ugly, rude, intellectual working class motherfucker scum from Manchester. Everytime the stoopid DJ (I used to think he was a genius and cool as a little pisher 16 year old) would play 'the ubiquitous (whatever that means) Mark E Smith and the Fall, I would get excited. Why? Because not only was this music a disruption, it had a better beat than all the other shit, it was rawer sounding, and the band had real fuckin' class. By this stage the band had Brix Smith on guitar, and she was just the total fuckin' late 80's rock sex goddess. In fact I saw Brix Smith before I ever saw Kim Gordon, and in my opinion Brix Smith is the underrated late 80's rock sex goddess up there with Julia Cafritz from Pussy Galore.
But back to the Fall and the only record I have of theirs - Bend Sinister. The song I really liked off this record, that actually made me wanna go out and buy it was the track 'Mr. Pharmacist', which I would find out later was a cover. Mark E Smith really sings like a fungool on this track - you know , that indifferent 'fuck you' type snarl that penetrates and complements the mood of the listener. I also really like the track "Shoulder Pads," which I'm still not exactly sure if its about cross dressing or not. As a song its another fuckin killer, Mark E Smith raps like a cross between William Burroughs and LL Cool J. But imagine if these two were stuck waiting for a dole cheque in cold, wet, shitty Manchester, bored out of their skull, and the first lines that would come into their heads would be...'you can't tell Lou Reed from a mule'. Mark E Smith is the US influenced verbal pop-cultural regurgitator that had the bad misfortune of coming from Manchester, England. He wants the whole world to know how fuckin' shithouse a predicament that is, and from that, he makes great rock records.
The record as a whole is very anti-American, even if every musical idea on it is of American origin. It doesn't matter if "US 80's-90's" has an almost Grandmaster-Flash rap feel or if 'Shoulder pads' sounds a bit Velvetsish or if "R.O.D" has a beautiful surf-guitar solo played by Brix - Mark E Smith doesn't have much nice to say about the place. Which is fair enough, because in 1986 was there anything worthwhile happening in music in the U.S. of A? I don't think so, if my memory serves me well. In fact all I can remember is that fuckin R.E.M and the Smithereens and that barachlo (shit) 'cow punk' or whatever you fuckin' called it was happening. It's no wonder a miserable pasty faced but well dressed gentleman from Manchester had the gall and balls to proclaim:
'Watch out beggars and fads, its M. E. S in shoulder pads!'
Viva esperanto Fall style!!
Also see our Fall tribute
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