Music

The Fall: Fall Heads Roll

Josh Berquist

Punk's last lone standing band of any repute returns with an infectious record that secures their certain doom.


The Fall

Fall Heads Roll

Label: Narnack
US Release Date: 2005-10-04
UK Release Date: 2005-10-03
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Disaster impends The Fall. Worse than the usual shuffling shake-up of members or spontaneous tour truncation, an absolute catastrophe awaits punk's last lone standing band of any repute or relevance. With the group coming up fast on 29 years of uncompromising cantankery and bristling brilliance, the severity of this imminent calamity might make their unfathomable pearl jubilee that much more unimaginable. Still somehow The Fall will rise up and again surpass unparalleled rock and roll milestones. They will carry on as always, at the very verge of collapse and victoriously claiming failure over fortuity.

This is the way of The Fall: every success begets a setback setting the stage for resurgence that implodes into acclaim all over again. The greater the triumph, the more certain and dire the defeat. Their looming undoing then demands an antecedent of ascendancy. This most recent portent of prosperity is that Fall Heads Roll is impossibly, wickedly, and even unnecessarily superlative. It's not just the latest record from The Fall, it's the latest greatest record from The Fall. Rather than just another ministration to the faithful like Shift-Work or Levitate, Fall Heads Roll resounds with the same kind of incongruous charm that ingratiated newcomers with The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall or The Unutterable.

Such an accomplishment was preceded by the accustomed cycle of tragedy and victory. The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) was a smashing recovery over the dingy din of Are You Are Missing Winner but turned up stateside almost a year later in an inferior albeit appended iteration. A storming but unfortunately final Peel Session followed and again raised expectations. The untimely passing of John Peel focused even more attention on the group he dared call his favorite, but any unintended legacy on the part of their most notable fan was quickly spoiled by the seemingly insensitive buffoonery of The Fall's indomitable figurehead, Mark E. Smith. Opinions of the band were brought down further with intolerably lackluster Interim. Compiling impotent takes on unfinished tracks, the stopgap teaser failed even against the standard of ever-expanding unofficial releases plaguing the group's discography.

Into all this arrives Fall Heads Roll. Opening with "Ride Away", Smith and The Fall make it quite clear they have nothing to prove. The song is a loping cowpunk plod evoking the same amateur spirit of the band's early years. Over the slow stuttering gallop, Smith reiterates his position on critics claiming "when you accuse me, you're talkin' 'bout yourself" while taunting "you think you're giant, don't you know son / you're talking to yourself / and no one else." Stridently offhanded, the track impresses only in that the band appears so apathetic in their delivery. Their message is made clear: they are The Fall and thereby aloof and above all reproach.

That smarmy introduction isn't so much a surprise given the notorious curmudgeon at its center, but what follows is an unexpected storm of cocksure confidence and swagger. Locked down tight on drums and bass, "Pacifying Joint" drives on with synth stabs and Smith at play over the relentless rhythm. That refreshing irreverence carries on into "What About Us" with Smith getting absolutely elastic with his garbled gibberish intro on into his punchy and impassioned outro. "Blindness" finds him almost scat singing along to the dexterous beat before the throbbing bass outruns him on an upper registry slide.

All throughout the band behind him sounds vigorous and vital. Guitars burn and charge through as bass growls below and synths saw in on heavy hitting downbeats. Infectious energy pervades every manic repetition.

It's not all uncontrollable fury though. Fall Heads Roll also features some more meditative and even congenial moments. "Midnight Aspen" and its subsequent reprise contrast the riotous tracks with alternately melodic and driving bass underscoring arpeggiated guitar. Spotted with Smith's cryptic emanations, the work assumes both mysterious and whimsical connotations. The quietly contemplative "Early Days of Channel Fuhrer" takes those impulses even further with its somber ruminations on snow-covered streets. Although uncommon this more subdued side of The Fall is far from unprecedented. These tracks share a lineage with other indiosyncratically skewed takes on sentimentality like Extricate's "Bill is Dead" or "I'm Going to Spain" from The Infotainment Scam.

Numerous other allusions to past madness abound elsewhere on the album. Quoting the refrain from Extricate's "Chicago Now", "Blindness" has Smith snarling "Do you work hard?" "Bo D" paraphrases "Enigrammatic Dream" from his Smith's solo effort The Post Nearly Man with its famous speculations on moderninity. The distorted and out of context tape snippet at the onset of "What About Us" makes for a familiar intro and "Clasp Hands" brings back that peculiar groove called Mancabilly. "Ya Wanner" instead opts for the more forward assault of "Jim's 'The Fall'" from Are You Are Missing Winner.

Even with these insular references to previous works, Fall Heads Roll sounds more like the work of an emerging artist than it does an established band catering to a core audience. Anyone who was ever to have any affinity for The Fall and even those who never will cannot refuse the engrossing volatility or inspired weirdness that makes this record so instantaneously enjoyable. All that makes this probably the best and thusly the worst possible time to be a Fall fan. Enjoy it while it lasts as the admittedly self-destructive Smith surely has some embarrassing undoing in store to subvert this triumph. This then is the very essence of The Fall as famously pegged by John Peel: always different, always the same.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

"Hold on to the Night" is a club-ready indie rock tune outfitted with polished musicianship and contemporary swagger.

If one thing is true so far about recent alternative upstarts THRILLCHASER, it's that they certainly live up to their band's name. Originally known as American Wolves, Rod Pires, Nikki Zell, and Rob Lundy built a considerable following under the moniker before deciding to renovate a little. Rebranding their sound into the THRILLCHASER that we know today, the trio, with their new name in tow, invokes a pop-rock sentiment similar to the slick, modern vibes of bands like the 1975.

Keep reading... Show less

What makes Call Be By Your Name stand out from the films it will be compared to (Brokeback Mountain, Moonlight) is Guadagnino's play on juxtapositions, which go much deeper than merely an angsty teen with an introspective soul.

If you're a 17-year-old boy sorting out your sexuality, there has to be worse place to do it than the Northern Italian landscape of writer-director Luca Guadagnino's latest drama, Call Me By Your Name. It's 1983 and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalame) is the classic case of what psychologists call a social introvert: While flirting with a French girl in the countryside lake, he charms with a bad-boy air -- he's capable of passing as an extrovert and much more -- but he's obviously much more in his element alone. The summer days find him composing piano concertos by the family's pool or riding his bike through rural roads. His contradictions, broody but introspective, are seductive, much like the famed "bad boy" ballet dancer Sergei Polunin, who was arguably the most prolific dancer of his generation but broke high-culture norms by tattooing his torso and making tabloids with his late-night party-boy antics.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image