The Fall familiarity factor

There was a lot of forgettable “maverick genius” gush around when Mark E Smith died last month, much of it involving lame references to “hitting the north” and Smith’s Prestwich roots.

I sifted through some of it, including the better stuff from WIRE and some old NME interviews. In the end, though, none of it altered my views on Smith or The Fall. At his best: an amazing lyricist. At their best: an amazing band.

Over the years, Fall music has seeped in. The lyrics have infiltrated my addled mind and … made it even more addled. You only really notice this when you go back to something like Hex Enduction Hour. The whole bloody LP is full of stuff that’s been swirling around in my brain ever since I first heard it. Half of it I’ve misremembered, or I’ve retained fragments that don’t make sense (then again, “sense” isn’t exactly what the full lyrics add up to either).

The Fall familiarity factor is at its most unnerving when a MES-ian line is triggered by something heard on the radio or when someone uses a particular phrase in conversation. It’s hard to resist the temptation to sing/snarl it back at them …

(Pic: goro memo) 

Here are some of the Hex Enduction Hour snippets (just to confine it to that one LP) that always trip me up, come to me unbidden when I’m walking along, or that just lie around uselessly in my head, taking up valuable space:

Hey there, fuckface! Hey there, fuckface!

Where it is I can’t remember / But now I can remember / Now I can remember

Made with the highest British attention to the wrong detail

Obsolete units surrounded by hail

Message for yer! Message for yer!

I’ve never felt better in my life

He-e-e-e-e is not / Appreciated

I take a walk down West 11

It wasn't quite like what you thought

Cosy winter

Gimme the lead, gimme the lead, gimme the lead

I’ll take both of you on, I’ll take both of you on

I just looked round / And my youth it was over

Just step sideways

Longhorn, longhorn breed

Yeah, you could make a good song with these. Or The Fall could have done.

Well, fine. Music works like this even with dire quality stuff. But with The Fall you’re pummelling your brain with surreal rants while a drum-and-bass chug-and-grind bashes the stuff into your subconscious. You’re helpless! Mentally invaded by a slurring, delirious Mark E Smith!

So yes, there is a ghost in my house. Or rather in my brain. And it’s the ghost of Mark E Smith. Fag and pint of lager in one hand. Mic in the other. He’s yelping and growling some gibberish. It’s all rather menacing. Like a page from Kafka. What’s he on about? And why is he using my thoughts to harass me like this …?


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