There aren’t many bands who can say they have released over 40+ studio albums in their career but then again neither are there many bands who have been around for 35+ years. The Fall are one of them though & here David Speirs, long time friend of MES, reflects on that relationship, The Fall in general & reviews their latest show in Glasgow.
As a result of The Falls 35+ career & those 40+ albums, every road mile travelled by MES, every artistically tempermental argument, every bottle of Whisky, every narcotic substance, every past wife and partner & every one of the 45+ band members as well s every dissenting journalistic voice is well and truely etched into the well lived in face of Fall lead singer Mark E Smith’s 57 year old face.
He is, as he will often remind you, not a Mancunian and as one of his songs (the fifth in a relatively short 12 song set tonight) will later tell us, neither is he from Bury. Mr Smith is a Salfordian and very very proud of the fact.
It’s a year since their last studio album, Erzatz GB, and it will be at least three months until the new one (recorded but as yet still unnamed) hits the shops & Mark E Smith and The FALL are back in his favourite Scottish city for a return performance at the Arches Arts Centre.
Although Mark lived in Edinburgh a couple of years either side of Glasgow’s “Year of Culture’ Smithy isn’t really an Edinburgh Man, as he’s indicated several times during our regular lenghty post pub discussions on our joint favourite sport, football, chats which often go into the wee small hours after one or both of us stumble in from a lenghty shift in the pub.
Without the blink of an eye Mark Smith can name you his favourite Scottish Indie bands too like Hugh Reed and the Velvet Underpants, The Fire Engines or Orange Juice. For a man who has been accused of everything from being cantankerous to aggressive & from angry to menacing, anytime we hold our late night football chats he’s usually on good form, just like the day he was allowed to read out the full time classified results on the BBC’s Final Score. And so it is tonight too with his band The Fall who in fact (maybe in particular) are also on very good form.
Having recently spent the best part of two months in the same studios used by UK Mod legends The Kinks, Mark reckons its greatly improved his current line up (who have all now been with him over 5 years) no end. In his own words “its made them tighter and better. Even though I say so myself, they’re bloody marvelous” he reminds us in his broad Coronation Street like accent.
Known for his alleged petulance, like last years Edinburgh HMV Picture House gig, when I personally had to drag him back on stage after he quit after only 6 numbers to firing more people than Alan Sugar, tonights entrance doesn’t bode well as Â he remains hidden from view seated behind guitarist Peter Greenways amp for the first two opening numbers, Irish and Hot Cake. However when he does eventually rise from his chair, like a pheonix from the ashes, for Grey, the crowd’s spontaneous applause seems to push him and his band onto even greater and louder things, so by the time they play Cowboy George and Im Not From Bury the audience are now in full all out swing.
As is par for the course these days he repeatedly turns his back to the assembled 1200 people to twiddle with the controls on bassist Dave “The Eagle” Spurr’s amp and wife Elena Poulou’s keyboards. Strychnine, Three Dreams and I’ve Been Duped continue to see both the intensity and sound levels increase so by the time they play Spider and Container Drivers they are ticking over like a finely tuned but very noisy jet engine.
Weather Report is the bands penultimate track of the evening so if you were to use that title somehow as an analogy to describe tonights gig you could well say that it started cloudy overhead before clearing up to provide a ray of sunshine. By the time The Fall play their last song Blindness the assembled fans are now humming with pleasure.
Young or old Fall fans, diehard or new convert, after tonights performance I’m sure a great deal of the crowd who leave are ever so pleased with their lot & will be looking out for that as yet unnamed new album when it hits record stores in Late January early February.
Ladies and gentlemen that was a performance by Mr Mark E Smith and The Fall, goodnight.
All word by David Speirs. More articles by David on Louder Than War can be found here.