Perfect Sound Forever


The Unbearable Shitness of Mark E. Smith
by A. Goldberg
(February 2018)

I'm not the world's biggest Fall fan. In fact I can admit I am merely just a ‘bit of a fan'. I bought Bend Sinister when I was 17, but then it went missing. I really dug that album, as I have written previously on this site. But after that I lost interest. I wasn't such a fan of "Victoria" and "Hit the North,' even if they were ‘NME Chart Hits.' I didn't mind "Telephone Thing." I guess the problem was I substituted the Fall some something infinitely shitter – grunge. Time has proven me wrong.

Over the years I have come across numerous people who are Fall ‘addicts.' 99.9% of them are guys who smoke rollie cigarettes, drink beer and take way too much mind-bending drugs and generally wear long coats and have poor personal hygiene. The younger generation seem to have become obsessed with the Fall via the American band Pavement, whose first few records sounded ‘a lot like the early Fall.' Or like Sonic Youth. Either-or, another grunge period band who became terrible. Shitness. Yes. Mark E Smith. A man acutely aware of it. A guy whose interviews were never boring, and had an acute ability to tune into those things in the zeitgeist that were inherently shit – American foreign policy, America itself, Manchester bands, London, New York, etc.etc.etc... He made tons of utterly classic comment about ‘culture' but the best were towards ‘other bands.' One I remember to this days: ‘grunge was made by ‘hippie kids.' You can find more classic comments here Mark E Smith, the KING OF INSULTS, but always funny. You can be a cunt, as long as you are funny, and Mark E Smith, on paper was always that.

I saw the Fall live here in Melbourne about 5 years ago. Let me tell you, they were dreadful. The band immediately cracked into a groovy Velvet Undergroundy/Motorik groove, Mark E waddle out like a sausage-roll wrapped in a cardigan. He didn't even want to be on stage. Mumbled some indecipherable lyrics and played everything off their latest album which maybe 5 people in the audience bought. That's all I remembered. I nearly got into a fist fight telling someone about how shit the experience was.

Personally, I liked them the most when Brix was in the band. She was one of the true female-rock guitar stylists of the 80s, her and Poison Ivy. I reckon everything she did with the band has held up the best. I didn't get interested in the band again until the Fall Heads Roll album. A late era masterpiece.

His lyrics were always great. Dense, cryptic but hinting at an impersonal, dystopian modernism, sci-fi without being some prog-rock bullshit. I found out later on he was a big WSB and PK Dick fan, so that makes sense. He was a totally literate and groundbreaking experimental poet without being a pompous cock like Morrissey. And he didn't do really shit things like Morrissey, like support Farage and play in Israel.

Anyway Mark E Smith has gone, but wow, what a legacy! Some of the greatest music of the last 40 years, and more seminal than Peter North's donkey. Personally you don't need EVERY album, and I couldn't be bothered buying them all. My personal faves are the ones I own, I suppose: This Nations' Saving Grave, Bend Sinister, Fall Heads Roll, etc.. I probably need a few more, I'll get around to it.

The Fall seemed to always be respected in the USA more than other ‘80's British bands, I don't understand why, maybe because he wasn't bothered with ‘invading' the place like the fucking Beatles or Oasis or Morrissey? Fuck, when can those cunts die? He probably also influenced more American bands than any other English group.

In fact wherever the Fall toured, they influenced bands.. He came to Australia in the 80s and suddenly bands like the Moodists and Go Betweens and Venom P Stinger sounded like them, he goes to New Zealand an half the Flying Nun label sound like them, he goes to America, Mission of Burma, Pavement and then LCD SOundSystems. Put on "L.A" and it sounds like LCD Soundsystems' career, "Paint Work" like every decent lo-fi indie-shmindie band that ever came after it. A strange thing is the Fall were too busy influencing the indie underground that you never really knew what Mark E Smith listened to himself. He never gave much away. He dug Evil Blizzard apparently, and some ‘60's garage, Can and I dunno?

Anyway he's gone. No more shitness. Just shit.

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