People only need me when they’re down and gone to seed – Mark E. Smith
I can’t say I’ve been a Fall fan my whole life. I’ve really only gotten to know the world of Mark E. Smith the last 9 years or so. But in that time I’ve gotten to love this ever-curmudgeonly Brit with a snarl like a pissed-off stray mut and the tongue of a philistine poet. His willingness to just say f**k it and do as he sees fit on both record and on the stage is something to admire, really. From the sound of it, Smith wasn’t an easy guy to please, given the 60+ folks that have made their way through the hallowed halls of the Fall roster. But it seems that most that have played with the guy feel they’ve learned something(even if it’s that they never want to play with the guy again.)
I don’t feel I can comment a whole lot on the passing of The Fall’s ever present angry leader/poet/instigator, as like I said before that connection isn’t there as deeply as say someone who’s been a fan for the last 40 years. I will say this, when the mood struck there was nothing better than Hex Enduction Hour, but I had to be in the mood. If I made the mistake of throwing on The Fall when I wasn’t ready emotionally it was like a jackhammer migraine trying to bust out of my skull, with Smith as a stand-in for my subconscious screaming at me all of my life’s great disappointments and letdowns. But when I was feeling particularly self-destructive or going thru some serious existential turmoil, nothing felt better than hearing the line “Hey there fuck face! Hey there fuck face!”
Hex Enduction Hour and Groteque(After The Gramme) were the two albums that hit me the most. The mix of garage-y swagger, drunken spittle on the mic, and grimy poet laureate vibe was enough to keep me coming back. “C.R.E.E.P.” was great, and I adored their cover of The Kinks’ “Victoria”. The amount of artists Mark E. Smith influenced is endless, with standouts being Pavement. Protomartyr is another band as of late that seem to tip their hat to the world of Mark E. Smith and The Fall.
More than anything, I just want to acknowledge the massive body of work Mark E. Smith accumulated in his nearly 40 years of making music. I’d read where someone called The Fall’s discography “intimidating”, and I can’t think of a better way to describe the work. Both in the massive amount of albums and moods to try and get through when you’re first diving in, but even in the attitude each one reflected. It’s as if Smith and whichever crew he had assembled was egging you on; daring you to keep listening.
That’s as punk as it gets.