Regular Trebuchet column Into the Unknown takes a rare look back, and picks The Fall's 'Reformation' for closer scrutiny.
Omnipresent, the veterans, the journeymen of British guitar music, every time someone lists how many albums they’ve had it’s a different number. Some say 29, some 39. Either way it’s big, but the number matters not, the band do. Electric and driven live, malleable in members, the profits split equally and the vision one, they are The Fall.
This month seems a perfect time to look back at a band of importance and ongoing influence, as does any. Born in the late 1970’s and still going strong, revered with as much importance as New Order by many, where other bands have lost importance alongside growing popularity The Fall have remained ever present, ever inspiring and ever non-plussed about the world around them, influencing an ever growing fan base of new listeners as the years go by. This song is indicative of The Fall.
'Reformation' is from the 2007 album Reformation Post TLC. It features a two note bassline hook that anchors the track for pretty much its seven minute entirety, and that’s what makes it so great. It displays the DIY ethic of punk, the driving rhythm of dance and the obscure lyrics of Smith.
black river, fall motel, cheese sticks, TLC, hack 81! Repeat!
It’s that two note, stand-up bass line that starts the track. Fuzzy, deep and grinding, joined promptly by sharp drums, simple in nature but carrying the piece with a crisp snare, hi-hat and kick combo. An edgy barking guitar snaps in conversation with another, high pitched grit screeching in competition. Then as so often happens live, Mark E. Smith joins the fold late: ‘’black river, fall motel, cheese sticks, TLC, hack 81! Repeat!’’ Nonsensical, enigmatic comments furnish the track adding to the menace.
The loop repeats and dances in the fire, 8th notes are replaced with 16th’s and as the tempo ups, they crescendo; building with timbre but almost jeered by MES: ‘’Goldfish Bowl!!’’. Higher notes, faster beats and the wash of big, grinding dirge. The same chords continue with little licks and rolls but never veering far away from source: feedback noise and panic. Elena Poulou’s keyboard swirls off topic in the background, swooshing and lurking behind the track, MES repeats and bullies the track: ‘’Goldfish Bowl!!’’. That loop continues until close: repetition, looping, squawking, thumping, and for the crowd, dancing.
So few could see it working with so few notes, but The Fall see it through. All too often bands in rehearsals leave songs at the earliest stage because they can’t add any more to them, feeling the need to create a post-rock masterpiece. Sometimes things are best left on their own. We all have those songs in which we love the verse/chorus but hate the chorus/verse. The Fall don’t, they don’t deviate, they stick to things in pure form. They make very good, intense music.
no chord change, which leads to no obvious duration of time
The prominent American Blues musician Otis Taylor calls his music ‘’Trance-Blues’’, his suffix being the music from the south The Blues. The Fall follow a similar tack, hypnotizing the listener into a trance, a higher state. It’s music where there is no chord change, which leads to no obvious duration of time, and the chance for you to drop off into the song that little bit more.
They are best heard live, when it all makes sense. MES is always brilliant and odd. Fronting a very tight set of musicians, he’s the only ever-present member of the band, famously remarking ‘’If it’s me and your granny on keys it’s The Fall’’.
They sound like nobody else. It’s hard to picture anyone else sharing their traits; yes there are similarities but no true comparisons.
How many bands can boast that?
Liam runs the small but potentially revolutionary radio station Different Class Radio, he just needs that one idea.