The Fall
Friends Of Mine Festival
May 22nd 2011

Me and the Fall have a lot of history.

Then again neatly everyone has a lot of history with The Fall.

I first saw them in Blackpool in the late seventies and since then must have seen them over a hundred times. I’ve supported them in my bands, Membranes and Goldblade, got on and fallen out with Mark Smith, once shared a house with Smith’s sister’s wild card boyfriend, been neighbours with the great Steve Trafford, known most of the ex members and still bump into Brix Smith now and then. I’ve interviewed Smith a few times, and I still own all their albums.

I’m baffled by their endless media love, not because they don’t deserve it but because plenty of other from the same timezone deserve the same attention.

And after all these years years I’m, still in love with their grouchy bass driven assault, their awkwardness and their obtuseness. Every now and then we meet again- nhem making their distinctive grouchy growl on stage and me standing their mesmerised by it.

Still the ultimate cult band, live on stage at Friends Of Mine festivals, all those Guardian spreads make little difference and it’s a tight knot core of fanatics at the front who welcome the band whose very misfit nature makes them even more loveable.

Loveable is not a word often banded about when people talk about the singer. Manchester is full of tales of run ins, fall outs and dark tales of madness- none of which deflect from his obstinate talent and his sheer bloody mindedness in running the band, the band that has become the platform for his brilliantly twisted assault on the world.

On the grapevine all I hear is snippets of Smith taking a swipe at me and, as people jovially pint out, he really does seem to be giving me a daggers stare from the stage during the set- all this is irrelevant, I’m not a fan of the band just so I can nod to him in the street. His opinion of me matters little and oddly for a band that get so much endless media love I’m usually the only person from that strange and cosy world who ever bothers to see him live at his home town shows.

I’ve always been a sucker for his band and respect his talent and his twisted, misanthropic worldview and his amazing imagination. Would I like to sit in a pub with him? Not really. Would I like to tour with him? Definitely not. I will love his band from a distance and get enthralled by his words and his surreal imagination and the band’s brilliantly catchy songs.

I have little interest in the soap opera of the Fall. The music is enough to wallow in.

The Fall can be hit or miss. You never know which Fall is going to turn up and there does seem to be some sort of tension going on on the stage which only adds to this, one of the best Fall performances for a long time.

The band, whoever the fuck they are these days, are tight and keep out of the way- like any able garage band in the world could do they have quickly nailed that Fall sound down- the deceptively simple, churning, warped, neo rockabilly, shuffle and the long, deranged Sister Ray hypotonic grooves.

They sound spellbinding. They have the correct intensity and right amount of keeping their music out of the way, with no showing off, that really suits this operation. Smith himself looks distinguished- he’s really growing into his older self. Looking dapper, looking angry- he seems focussed.
The set is a mix of old and new. No hits. Just obscurities and random songs. ”ËœCan Can Summer’ is back into the set from 2008’s ”ËœImperial Wax Solvent’ album as the set opener. There’s a new song that sounds very good, a cover of the Standells ”ËœStrychnine’ and the instrumental ”ËœChange’ which is stopped halfway through. They don’t play the hits, they don’t really have any. There are old songs like ”ËœMuzorewi’s Daughter’ from and ”ËœPsychic Dancehall’ and then ”ËœHot Cake’, ”ËœI’ve Seen Them’ and ”ËœChino’ after which they wander off stage not arsed about what anyone thinks and then when they feel like it they saunter back on for the great ”ËœI’ve Been Duped’ then an extended ”ËœPsykick Dancehall’, it’s an extended version that slowly speeds up with added keyboard squelches from the moody looking Mrs Smith. The song lurches backwards and forwards and that early magic mushroom- plucked – from – the – Lancashire – dales Fall sound has never dated.

You realise Fall sound is so much part of the local DNA- the weird drugs, the weird scenes that existed after punk and what was called post punk, the Fall were there but not part of it. They were caustic commentators who offered no solutions, outsiders embraced by the press- a poison pen letter to anyone who cared to listen.
When they end the set with an hypnotic ”ËœWolf Kidult Man’ before wandering off their statement has been made- part studied northern cool, part fuck you and part arrogance.

It really did sound good. Rare for a festival, the PA is crystal clear and the blustering winds cannot ruin it.

Many people wonder if the Fall are a festival band- the traditional mode of attack at a festival is to connect with the audience, wheel out the hits. The Fall make no effort to reach to anyone. The band look at the floor probably too sacred to reach to their boss. The man himself, either has his back to the audience, or is in his own nicotine stained pub world of weirdness, mumbling his genius lyrics into his mic, making anti music that is more musical than a whole conveyer belt of the polite dustbin indie that makes up these festivals.

The audience reaction is varied. There is a clutter of Fall fans at the front in rapture at the band’s unlikely appearance behind them music fanatics who know the band’s name and are attempting to nod along and behind them locals confused by the whole affair. The perfect reaction then.

And they are still at it now proving that being nice to people in rock n roll is a distraction. At Friends Of Mind they were at their hypnotic, satanic best. They made some great noises, made tunes that stuck in your head and still did that repetition thing that is so effective.

They didn’t bother with banter, chorus or cheery bonhomie they were a law unto themselves and were still fiendishly brilliant.

Previous articleTeeth of the Sea / Parts & Labor – live review
Next articleMike Joyce – ex Smiths drummer interview from FOMfest
Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Well written review John, you covered all the angles or as many as you can with this band, they are unique .
    This present line up does seem to hit good more than bad which for the current members future employment prospects in The Fall does’nt bode too well if the past is any indicator.
    The Band do seem to have developed into groove machine pumping out big fat bass driven grooves ,this they do well, they have the chops to do it and Kieron always puts a shift in, but on a pesonel level I miss the jarring guitars from previous incarnations. Frankly I find it hard to judge or listen to The Fall, to me there is music from bands of all different types who I like a lot for various reasons, lots of bands I don’t like etc etc then there is The Fall almost like a different thing altogether removed from music it could be anything like embrodiery or scuba diving or what ever but this thing happens to be The Fall.I know its a massive over quoted cliche but Peel nailed it

  2. MES is one of those interesting people like Neil Young who seem genuinely to not give a jot about what people think. And like Neil Young whether you like his current output means little too I imagine.

    There’s a fake bonhomie in rock, pop and even punk rock – that the industry was happy to perpetuate for sake of sales – where you feel that you have to ‘like’ or ‘have something in common’ with the person who makes the music you love.

    This is of course a false relationship built of artifice but you can see that it’s psychologically alluring. And in that respect MES’s position remains radical even after all these years.

    The thought of small talk in a pub with him would be the stuff of my nightmares…

    • I love the way people excuse his downright rudeness and prima ballerina behaviour as some sort of statement or radical statement. Would Richard think Sting is making the same sort of radical statement or Mariah Carey or any other similar tantrum throwing singer? is there a difference apart from the fall making music that we grumpy old men (and we are the oldest audience you will see at any gig!) enjoy?
      Weirdly it’s also really obvious he cares a lot about what people think of him

      • Hi Emp,
        I think you misunderstand my words.
        I don’t think he’s making a statement, I think he is a statement unconsciously or not.
        There’s a very big difference.

        By being (not acting) the way he is his is a radical stance at odds with that whole weird false relationship that normally go with pop music and its audience.

        If Sting or Mariah Carey manifested their behavior in such a way i would regard that as quite interesting. so yes.

        it is interesting that you think he cares what people think. can you explain that?

        MES repres

  3. you are right emp re his rudeness I certainly don’t excuse it, even though I think it is a little tiresone and deliberate and a little bit of ” show buisiness”. I have loved the music of the group for years and seen them a lot during that time but a night in the pub and a friendly chat with M.E.S is something I would bloody hate along with a night on the town with Pete Doherty or being forced to listen to the music of Sting

  4. […] at what\’s going to make the most money as opposed to the acts you really want to put on. The FOM Fest lineup was phenomenal – one of the best I\’ve seen. It\’s exactly what I do with the East Village […]

  5. […] manoeuvre over boggy ground. It\’s Mark E Smith\’s signature mode of transport and given The Fall have recently vacated the stage, it seems a coincidence too […]

  6. Spot on with the Fall review John, I also saw your set with Goldblade which was non too shabby either, Goldblade have got a couple of new fans in me and my lad.

  7. […] Steve Hanley (The Fall) The Fall have had a million line ups but they have never had a bass player as good as Hanley in the line up […]

  8. […] will remember Purrkur Pillnikk the Icelandic art punk anarchist band who toured the UK with the Fall. They morphed into KUKL who were on Crass records and promoted the Crass gig in Iceland, that band […]

  9. […] The Fall – \’Blindness\’ (Peel Session Version) […]

  10. […] tour announced By johnrobb on Sep 11, 2011 in Blogs Louder Than War troublesome favourites, The Fall have announced an autumn tour and a new album, their 29th, The album called ‘Ersatz G.B’ […]

  11. […] was called Splat! and, surprise surprise, we sounded a bit like the Birthday Party and a bit like The Fall. The guitar player left and was replaced by another: who was into the punk stuff I was into. We […]

  12. […] punk” then they must be worth a listen. When The Hives, The Cramps, The Fleshtones and The Fall do covers of a band, then they are definitely worth a listen. The […]

  13. […] 2. The Fall, ‘Ersatz GB’ Live Fall have been on form recently which is hopefully a hint at something good coming in the studio. Expect more sneering sarcasm and bass driven elastic snideness. […]

  14. Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your site is so cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this web site. Angelina httpss://


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here