The music of The Fall will roll listener’s minds into an alternative musical dimension. Legendary to some but unknown to others, The Fall led by Manchester’s own, Mark E. Smith. Their music is astute yet silly, crass but cultured, cranky but enjoyable. The late DJ, John Peel once stated, “They (The Fall) are always different, they are always the same.” For decades, Mark E. Smith remained the band’s soul while everything else came and went. Smith drove his group through countless record labels, band members, multiple wives / girlfriends, and various musical stages. From the loud punk rant of “Hex Enduction Hour” & “Grotesque” to the glossy pop of “The Infotainment Scan” and “Extricate”, The Fall maintained a signature sound with experimental innovation. Love them or hate them, The Fall are still making music. Yes, Mark E. Smith is still alive! The group has endured decades due to Smith’s attitude and lyrics. Along with the excellent re-releases “Hex Enduction Hour” and “Room To Live” (on Castle Records), The Fall returns with their 2005 album. Released on Narnack Records, “Fall Heads Roll” is another addition to the endless discography. A typical Fall LP, with few surprises, “Fall Heads Roll” has catchy cover songs, very upbeat rock tracks, improvisation, and the usual journey into bizarre territory. The electronic experimentation is missed, but the quality of the songs redeems the LP. The true Fall heads will roll to the closest independent record shop for the “Fall Heads Roll” LP.
“Fall Heads Roll” includes songs that use repetition to ensure an instant appeal. The opening track, “Ride Away” is 5 minutes of a bouncy rhythm that Mark to sing over using his strange style. Eleni Roulou’s backing vocals add to the pop sensibility with a female touch. Smith sings in a drunken slur over pounding, bouncy drums and quick, sharp guitar lick. The listener may only understand what Smith says during the chorus, “Ride away! Hey hey!” This opening track is a perfect example of the album’s style and attitude. Slightly mad but also fun, the band provides Mark E. Smith enough room to be loose while maintaining a pop structure. “Pacifying Joint” is the typical weird rock track that stays in your head regardless if you understand the theme. The buzzing melody of the thick, spacey keyboard stands out as Smith repeats the title for the chorus. “What About Us” will become a favorite among fans. Similar in sound and tempo to the previous track (“Pacifying Joint”), “What About Us” needs multiple listens to be fully appreciated and understood. For the chorus, Smith repeats the title as the female vocalist chants in the background. The chorus and keyboard melody may be the only aspects that will make the track memorable, if the listener does not follow Smith’s vocals. While Smith is hard to understand many times, his first moment of vocals is the most unintelligible Smith has probably ever been. “What About Us” is about an East German immigrant who goes to North Britain and “frolics” in a train station. Smith rants, “…There was a man going all around the town / He was dishing out drugs-ah / He was a doctor / Dishing out morphine / To old ladies / I said, ‘What about us? What about us?…” From the immigrant main character to the drug references, every little nuance of the track is classic Fall. “Bo Demmick” is a cool Bo Diddley tribute track. Using a Bo Diddley musical style, the upbeat feel and thick groove starts the album’s revitalization. Throughout the song, Smith rants, “Hey fatty!” The first released version of this song, “Bo Doodak” (released on the album’s first single) is much better due to the thicker music and Smith’s powerful performance. The LP’s first single, “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” (originally by The Move) is an incredible pop track with a satisfyingly cool guitar riff and sharp drum beats. The catchy chorus is both fun and weird. “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” will become another classic Fall track. These tracks are instantly appealing in many ways, but also improve with age.
Fall albums always include some tracks that require a little more attention in order to be fully appreciated (or understood). “Blindness” was previously released as a demo track on “Interim” (Voiceprint Records). Using some of the lyrics from “Chicago Now” (from the “Extricate” LP), Smith spills out whatever is inside his mind over long waves of music. Although the track is 7 minutes long, “Blindness” does not get boring due to the band’s chemistry and Smith’s performance. “Breaking The Rules” is one of the best cover songs that The Fall made since “(Stay Away) Old White Train” (from “The Light User Syndrome”). Exceptionally catchy, the upbeat rock track leaves the listener wanting more after 2 minutes and 30 seconds. “Midnight In Aspen” has a mellow guitar melody over a driving rhythm made from rim shots and cymbals. Smith tells a bizarre tale which also requires multiple listens. “Aspen Reprise” brings the driving story back with subtle interest. “Assume” is a loud, rock track with a buzz-saw rhythm guitar and thick lead guitar melody. Like many of The Fall’s tunes, the title is repeated for the chorus. “You Wanner” has a thick, upbeat rock feel with cool, tripped-out keyboard sound effects that move like waves within the rhythm. “Clasp Hands” has a fierce rockabilly style. The closing track, “Trust In Me” features guest vocals from an un-credited band member. While all of these songs have the signature Fall style, each track offers something unique that only can provided by Mark E. Smith.
“Fall Heads Roll” by The Fall proves John Peel’s comments about the band. The album is different than their previous LPs, but maintain the Fall sound and feeling. Smith’s sharp wit still thrives within his rants and half-sung vocals. The LP has some accessible songs mixed within with weirder, more difficult tracks. Although not as easy as their previous album (“The Real New Fall LP”), the “Fall Heads Roll” LP will please both fans and newcomers. Well executed songs like “Ride Away”, “Breaking The Rules”, “What About Us?”, and “I Can Hear The Grass Grow” are all instantly satisfying. Other tracks (like “Early Days Of Channel Fuhrer”) have elements which draw the listener in without having a typical pop structure. Smith and his new (newer) band sound very comfortable with each other. Every Fall fan likes certain albums more than others. While "The New Real Fall LP (Formally ‘Country On The Click’) is more satisfying and less angry, this album has enough substance and energy to satisfy the listener. Always typical while remaining unique, The Fall has made another solid album. Fans expect a Fall album to maintain the Fall “sound” but be distinctive enough to be a separate entity. “Fall Heads Roll” meet (but may not surpass) these expectations. Always original and true to form, The Fall is band that we can always depend to be… The Fall. The true Fall “heads” will roll when they experience “Fall Heads Roll” by The Fall.