The Fall Fall Heads Roll
by Aaron Goldberg
The mid-'00's was an interesting time for modern rock. The Internet had established itself as the grand toilet block of culture, and the kids born into this world - the Millennials or whatever you called them - started to 'rebel' and spread their word as 'hipsters'. Vice, an arty, street-skate culture fashion-industry magazine that was given away free, created a new generation of ironic, hyper-real rebels who were more versed in yuppie greed/hedonism and a cultural knowledge completely born from what they read on the Internet, than any life experience. It spread like herpes, but fuck it, they dressed well and could darnce! New York was partying like 1975 again, if you could afford the rent. Heck, dudes like New York's 'finest,' LCD Soundsystem, cashed in big-time on this whole shtick- they even wrote a song about it called 'I Was There." Then, you had the Storks or the Strokes or whatever you call them, a bunch of entitled little junkies, born into all the spoils of the '80's yuppieism and postmodernism and private school education - they HAD to become the 'perfect' New York 'punk' band in the history of anything. The lead singer sounded just a little bit like a young MES- hell, he might skip the guillotine... And getting back to LCD Soundsystem, those New York yuppies lifted 50% of their (his) creative existence to this bloke: MARK E SMITH.
Interestingly, on the other side of the pond, the UK bands weren't even bothered to deal with 'the Master.' They were too busy going through some sort of nu-Stiff Records revival with bands like the Libertines and Franz Ferdinand etc.. At this point in 'rock history,' the Master had seemed to be forgotten, while global ponces and toffs started to manufacture this new-wave of old-wave rock with modern production (i.e. everything louder). Terrorists had demolished New York, the Yanks schlepped everyone into another lie-war, Right-Wing cunts were running the world, what else was new?
Enter Heads Roll. Whose heads? LCD Soundsystem's heads? The Strokes' lead singer? MES' last version of the Fall? Dickheads? Fuck them all, they gotta roll!
The mid-'00's seemed to be a bit of a dead zone for MES' career, music-wise. His previous bunch of albums were going in a more electro route, and this didn't seem to jack into all the electro that was around at the time. He was getting terrible press for punch-ups on USA tours and Fall biographies portrayed him as a total cunt and drunkard. He even wrote his own autobiography, which espoused what appeared to be some controversial truths on the zeitgeist of the UK. Many thought the Fall as a band might be finished, with MES destined to become just another old-English rock-fart on the UK variety TV-and-satellite radio wagon. Alas, he rolled, or more accurately ROCKED on, heads.
The album kicks off with a countryish sounding oompa-loompa called "Ride Away." USA, Country music, shit, 'nothing to do with me,' he says. Of course, after some random noise, we hear an oscillating rave-soccer anthem synth, dirty indie-guitar, tight drum beat, and collectively LIGHT UP a "Pacifying Joint" - a MASSIVE tune!! Almost the exact same soccer-anthem electro riff kicks off "What About Us" - why change anything when yer already having so much fun? "I am a robber from East Germany, I was very happy," sings our wise narrator, why should we question it..? England, at this stage, was roped into the Euro. MES would more than likely have hated that- his beer would have become more expensive, and there were all these cheap Polish and East German labourers cleaning the toilet at his local pub. What about us? And who are 'us'? Miserable alchos like MES or the cheap labourers?
The energy levels drop a bit with a mellow "Midnight in Aspen," before the Amphetamine infused riffing and Motorhead smash guitars of "Assume" bring everything up a notch. MES may sound 'older' on this record, but the music definitely sounds 'younger.' Heck, he sacked his last band at the time and replaced them with a fresh bunch of hot, young hipsters, programmed the Fall sonic blueprint into them, and just let the rest RIP. "Blindness" is over 7 minutes of MES dub-grind- the Guardian even listed it as one of the Top 10 greatest Fall tunes ever. MES sounds like a warbling old drunk with no teeth as he coos, yells and often dribbles the lyrics. Maybe the 'blindness' he refers to is being pickled out of his gourd? MES deconstructs another UK '60's beat tune, the Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow," another great Fall cover.
Heads Roll's, appeal is that it sounds like a totally 'munted' record. References to joints, and lax adherence to grammar and spelling with titles such as "Bo Demmick" and "Youwanner," suggest MES was imbibing plenty of pish and pot and whatever else.
The final few tunes cover rockabilly, surf and even C86 indie with "Breaking the Rules" as MES sings: "..Flash your picture in a magazine/Look who's passin' In a limousine/Look who's a fallin' star/An ancient story/An innocent fool/He broke his mind tryin' to break the rules/I waste my time tryin' to b-b-b-b-break the rules..." MES never followed them to begin with!
MES' acute ability to see the future whether sonically or abstract-politically had never been sharper on Heads Roll. A late lament entitled "Early Days of Channel Fuhrer" points clearly into the Brexit/Fox/InfoWars/Interent present. Heads have gotta roll, you bet.
Also see our Fall tribute
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