The Fall – Sub-Lingual Tablet. Suck it and See. No sweetness to sugar the pill. Take this, it’s good for you. Etc, etc.
Another request tonight, this time for a whole album – The Fall’s 2015 50 minute album. It’s certainly something I haven’t heard before, and probably something I won’t listen to again, but it stretched beyond the length of music I normally listen to of an evening for these blogs – certainly not enough time to listen to it 6 times.
What’s it like? Well, it’s the Fall, who have produced some 30 albums, all of which involve Mark E. Smith shouting over some discordant music, fuzz guitars and challenging rhythms. I exaggerate, of course. I don’t think I have consciously ever listened to a Fall album in its entirety before. Why would I? It’s the opposite of easy listening. I might as well try listening to prog, for all the listening pleasure it would bring.
In fact, this album isn’t so unbearable. In as much (after one listen) I can tell the songs apart, Junger Cloth is actually quite listenable. Solid bass lines, interesting, but not unrhythmic drumming, pleasant keyboard melody – even Mark E. Smith isn’t shouting – more speaking out loud. Nice while it lasts, but then jumps into the bass riff heavy, MES on full snarl ‘Stout Man’. Endless whiney guitars and pushy drums.
As I’ve jumped into track by track assessment, here comes Auto Chip, that reviews (hello Quetus & Pitchfork) mark as the centrepiece of the album. Steady bass – I like that. Melodic lead guitar notes. A lot of repeating of “Suffering” – is this the repetitive jamming style of Krautrock having its influence? Repeat a tune, line often enough and it directly drives an appealing wedge into your mental hard drive of music, forcing a space for its status as potential earworm? It’s not quite working. I’m just a little bored now. Come on, come on – give me the next song.
That’s the thing. One thing I keep coming across in these blogs is – repeat anything often enough and its music starts to appeal, bits stick in the memory and stand out when the track is played again. They are listened out for and begin to lengthen as the bits around the first hook also familiarize themselves – like floating detritus trapping itself around a branch sticking out into in a river. But if there’s nothing that appealing or memorable in the first listen, it’s a chore to keep chipping away. Ok, there’s nothing satisfying about taking a rotten piece of wood to pieces, but there’s not much fun in carving granite. If you manage to make any purchase on the surface, eventually you’ll end up with something hard wearing and durable. But better for looking at every now and then, not comfortable for everyday use.
Ramble, ramble, and now it’s the next song. Pledge! Give money or wash my windows? It’s hard to tell. Wavy, hazy synth drone accompanies random clatter drumming and buried guitar churnings, as MES variously bleats and growls the words.
The next one’s Snazzy. A song that doesn’t go anywhere, speeds up and slows down over and then stops. Definitely a case of being glad I’ve stopped hitting my head against a wall.
Driving bass, dull needling guitar riff before helium MES demands a Facebook troll. Give him one and let me have some peace. I have a 2 year old daughter who is just as persistent in her demands, and just as willing to have a temper tantrum when she doesn’t get her way. In both cases, the best response is to ignore them, but stay there until they stop in case they do any damage to themselves or anyone else around them. Though I don’t expect MES is as cuddly and sweet when he has calmed down*. Just another minute and a half and it’s the last song. Waiting, waiting. Now MES is joined by others in the band voicing their demands. That’s often what happens. Best to separate them so they don’t influence each other.
Quit Iphone – old people can be so technophobic, can’t they? Do they have to be humoured? He could write to his local newspaper or call Radio 4’s Any Answers. Anita Anand is very good at tolerating and nursing these aged balls of rage at the modern world, without coming over as patronising.
I say I never listened to any albums by The Fall – that’s true, though I used to enjoy Hit The North and their cover of Victoria. Not a great success rate. Mind you, it’s probably a good thing that they exist. Just as long as I don’t have to listen to them (very often).
I quite like the idea of them – raucous singer over clattering, rhythmic rock. The band who I do like to listen to who did that better was Levellers 5/Calvin Party – may be they were a Fall rip off/Fall-lite, but I still like their music. The Fall – not so much (just in case that wasn’t so clear form the above).
Will that do, Iain?
*Well, there’s not sweetness and cuddling – but there is whistling. Which I guess is all you could hope for.