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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

44.1 kHz Archive

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The Fall
Hex Enduction Hour
Castle Music

UNFATHOMABLE, the context of abundance: The Fall today are a prisoner of their best seven years, and this period is itself too now prisoner — to History's necessities of completion, chronology, and choreography. I speak from the standpoint of embattled hipster youth (obv.) but it has become old and embarrassing duty to fete these, our alt.rock idols: "peel back yr eyelids once more, on yr knees in catatonic supplication, and gush." Here we are once again, in genuflect hell: Oh God, no THANKS! Do your own self-justification, do your own devil's work. But — this line in unearthed, unearned attitude is useless but to guard my own understanding of myself. It only serves to rush me away from this record at the exact moment I should be embracing it. At the expense of any actual listening or thinking I might have to do, I set myself to relax, safe and comfortable in my bunker, arrayed alone and unflinching against the whole blahhdy world. This does not good crit make, however (nor good sense neither), and so, against my worse instincts, I actually, y'know, listened to this record, and then I thought and wrote about it…

Burke and Hare — it could be anybody, really; this is just illustration, here to take or leave as you please — combine several different genres in one, and if they had written the murders instead of committing them, they'd probably be accused of laying it on thick, or maybe even overkill: "Isn't the 'evil' doctor a bit much?" Consider: (1) the mentally handicapped victim (sets in relief: awkwardness, injustice, sympathies); (2) the culture of (rabid?) demand for fresh corpses; (3) their immigrant status as alien outsiders (brings the moment of exclusion forward, accentuated as Other); (4) the signature finishing move ("burke vb. (tr.) 1. to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation"); (5) sickly lodgers and old prostitutes (the infirm and lowly) cast as destitute victims; (6) the popular images — the "little old woman," e.g., or (7) their faces!, e.g., (8) a secret "language" allows them to plan murders in front of their victims (brazen badness, disrespect), (9) so much alcohol, intoxicant and comforter, (10) no one survives their clutch, (11) bizarreness (sprinkling whisky to "ward off spirits") ("spirits" haha), (12) misnomer of grave robbing widely and blindly accepted, (13) Halloween night murder, ("accentuates pervasiveness of evil") and (14) "overshadows superstitious or whimsical holiday 'evil'" ("the real deal"), (15) the angry crowds outside court and at execution, (16) myths and ballads lie into existence a 'hidden past' (possible cross-channel trade with Ireland, e.g.), (17) Hare's eventual betrayal, and (18) the "evil" doctor pulling the strings (thereby denied all agency but the vectors of pure malevolence and greed).

In some contexts of abundance you can sprinkle whisky around a room and it's no big deal. Clauses (12), (13), (14), etc. above, unremarkable by fact of the sheer snowballing remarkableness of the whole episode, pollute (1), (2), (3), et al. so they too become and remain unremarkable. This idea translates into music too. However, in that arena the context of abundance does not just extend to the sum of these social forces, histories, entropies because the music (the lyrics, the T-shirts, the drummer's girlfriends etc.) also forms part of a music's context. So far, so said elsewhere (see: Frank Kogan, "The Disco-Tex Essay").

During "Hip Priest," a song by Mark E. Smith, (COMMENT ABOUT THE ACTUAL MUSIC ALERT) the singer courts 20 conversational conversations, glimpsed, in shouts and drawls, like something turning underwater, 10 fathoms deep and swimming after you and me. The only remarkable thing about this is that the contingencies of history and memory, cultural strip-mining and entropy, have rendered this all entirely unremarkable. So — here is a bitter old drunk, face like a job center, heckling his friend: "Drink the long draught, Dan!" The over-intense near-lunatic at the office water cooler: "I got my last clean dirty sheet outta the wardrobe." A caustic girlfriend with a venomous turn in high-pitched sardonics: "Heeeee's not appreciated." The pub-ensconced satirical crank, he doesn't understand fully what he's saying but it's still more than you or I do: "White collar hits motorway services." Twenty conversational conversations, things people could say, sort of, turning and turning, mind-dredged memories of actual people in actual places talking, and not one pitched for any semblance of straight-line narrative or sense. All this at one time stunning and new, but now just old and original.

This is a very old album, and reissue is no inoculation against time's passing. Culture is full of little time bombs, though, and so at any time new contexts (e.g., post-Pavement, Grime etc.), new excitements and new enchantments could explode into being. A 20-year-old album — re-released into a culture it no longer understands; the culture that birthed it no longer exists — could find an audience and importance, a context of scarcity. ("Nothing is ever lost; things only become irretrievable. What is lost, then, is the method of their retrieval, and what we rediscover is not the thing itself, but the overgrown path, the secret staircase, the ancient sewer," François Aussemain, Pensées.)

And so this is what's so special about The Fall in 2005, that this stuff is now all just so there, y'know, to take or leave as you please. Its sheer abundance defines its context of scarcity. Mark E. Smith's wonder, doubt, despair, anger, all somehow stolen from overheard conversations, the retold dreams of others, etc. stolen, but by ex post facto design he managed to turn these snippets, these this-stuff, along the threads of his own agenda into something weird and new, original and unfathomable. Those strange flexes in intonation ("message foh ya! message foh ya!," "The Classical"). The shoddy guitar playing. The laughter on his wee gnome face. The goddamn-that's-ugly but quite (spelled: "hilariously") funny cover art. The 1990s descent into Pavement songs and 2000's ascent into Life Without Buildings songs. The energy and the fury and the sheer bloody-minded… (FURTHER COMMENT ABOUT ACTUAL MUSIC AVERTED PHEW) All of these ideas and novelties have now cropped up elsewhere in other people's music, denuded and debanged, serving new energies and new momentums. One worn-coin example: Stephen Malkmus' appropriation of Smith's cut-up conversational style in the service of Pavement's urbane, debonair and slacker chic. The Fall are alive somewhere in that music, but it's difficult to desquirrel The Fall-ish elements in Pavement's lines and ideas, difficult to strip away the aesthetic and the attitude to glimpse Mark E. Smith's cheeky-angry energy wriggling within.

So here we are again, finally, in your own private genuflect hell, peel back yr eyelids once more and on yr knees in catatonic supplic… of course I'm just kidding! The Fall are great, yes, but now just kinda there, neither to be feted nor excoriated. The Gumby warriors of once-apocalyptic intent have had their ideas defanged by the culture industry's amusement: so enthralled were we all first time round that we took and we took and then there was nothing left to take except from that which we made in the process of taking. The Fall's reissued records are sadly the guise of least potency for Smith's ideas, which have settled like silt in a cereal box. Their ideas and contents are endlessly available in a thousand other forms (1. design, 2. adverts etc.). And now, thanks to Castle Music, Smith's power and fury are once again easily accessible at your local record store. The scheme of reissues on Castle Music (which culminates in May with a complete Peel Sessions set!) ensures that this music is easily available, to take or leave as you please. You want it? Cool. You don't? Cool.

by David Howie

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