Mark E. Smith: the grumpiest man in post punk rock? The brutal English wit was the one thing pushed up and peddled by the ever-changing band members of the Northern Post-Punk The Fall. The only constant member of their abrasive sonic anger was the sarcastic champ, Mark E. Smith, who passed away in January of this year. Arguably his relentless fervour – and constantly steady attitude to want to unpack and disregard the motivations and movements of the British government is what has kept The Fall as a constant cult production until his death. Through all the movements, grumpy and often labelled as an impossible and grating drunk, Mark had a warm grumbling arrogance about him, once saying that “if it’s me and your granny playing the bongos, it’s The Fall”.
Subscribe to Cherry Red Records: http://bit.ly/CRSubscribe Listen to The Fall on Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2EhlUuE This promo video is from the collection “Perverted By Language Bis” by the Fall, released on Cherry Red. An illuminating insight into Mark E. Smith, we see him in the pub, at the football ground and jiving at the Haçienda.
A working class man who met his bandmates at a Lancashire Sex Pistols gig – as so many others did (Joy Division, The Smiths) — and went on to prove literature and sonic melodies could seamlessly, or maybe ruthlessly, marry to fight the system. Smith was brought up in Lancashire and whilst a young lad working in the dockyards he would take his lunch breaks to write about the tough lifestyles he was witnessing, in the form of the prose that would soon become the nearly unintelligible spoken word lyrics to The Fall’s first release “Live at the Witch Trials”. For Mark this was actually to be one of the groups thirty five albums in total, and he was publishing until his death, especially addressing today’s relevance and his unabashed views on modern society in ‘Telephone Thing’, a track from the 1990 revival album ‘Extricate’. But he always dismissed notions that he was an ambiguous and romantic poet; describing the writing of his lyrics he stated: “I put a lot of hard sweat into them, I think about them. They have an inner logic to me so I don’t really care who understands them or not”. The utterly original pastiche of his language, subscribing to the heights of true feeling and incomprehensible anger, led a mundane punk band like The Fall to become a fire in disc jockey John Peel’s record collection, thus taking their place in Underrated Hall of British Musical History.
Released in 1988 and taken from ‘The Frenz Experiment’, here’s the official ‘Hit the North’ video. Additional trivia question, how many parts did ‘Hit the North’ have?
In this respect, Smith is nothing short of a refreshing innovator, with his bolshy persona and attitude like that of a Premier League football manager firing the centre-forward to attack at every opportunity, allowing him to maintain an arrogant dismissal of revivalism – and his own bandmates. Not to mention the classical ode to patriotism and British past, its populist formulas and predictable intelligencia. Smith had an astute ability to observe the nuances and changes in everyday life that, through his macerated drool would be rendered utterly surreal – which in light of the political climate in the 80s of northern Britain, wasn’t far from what he lived. He never shied away from militant sonic experiments, with early albums like I am Kurious Oranj (1988) – actually an experimental ballet project, to IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) – that was tested out in elaborate concept albums such as Levitate (1997) and the Marshall Suite (1999). These illuminated his inspired lyrics of H.P.Lovecraft and Burgess, which, transposed onto over-distorted repetitive basslines wouldn’t be misplaced in the late nights of working men’s club of Northern England, with half the crowd busting for a dirty rave, and the other half on for a dirty brawl; Even today.
Words, Emma Hosking