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Sunday, 12 December 2010

~Winter Wassailing~#7: Four Festive Frolics from The Fall

A Selection Of Seasonal Songs In The ~Streetlamp~ Stylee!

Here at the ~Streetlamp~ we're not just here for the nice things about Christmas; tinsel, presents, too many sherries, days off work! But we like to deal with more unpleasant festive twaddle too; hard packed snow, sheets of black ice, Visa bills in January, botulism etc.

And so we feel it's time to roll out the Christmas Grinch....or should that be Grouch? For today we look at the Festive oddities turned out by knotty curmudgeon Mark E Smith and his ever changing army of musicians collectively known as The Fall.
I love The Fall and have done since even before The Smiths. In fact, if The Smiths had never existed then it's almost certain I would consider The Fall as my favourite band of all time. It must be something about Northern grit, or a certain Salfordian attitude/humour that has made me so fond of both Mark and Morrissey. That and the fact they are two of the finest wordsmiths(pun intended) to emerge in our generation. But whereas Morrissey deals in a doomed Northern romanticism, Mark is more like a sage or an oracle, or even the great Mancunian Philosopher.
Didactically obtuse and scathingly intellectual, there are many who just don't get Mark or The Fall in general, but those who do usually give in completely and defend The Fall's outsider stance to the death. Once again I have to confess that I have planned a Blog about The Fall for a long time but for now we are just going to concentrate on a few Festive finaglings.
And what better place to start than with the very excellent 'No Xmas For John Quays' from the fantastic debut album 'Live At The Witch Trials'. "The X in Xmas is a substitute crucifix for Christ" states Mark in the intro before we fly into a furious Post-punk maelstrom pummeled along by the extraordinary drums of Karl Burns! I swear the drums practically sing on this song, as if Karl is playing a tune on them, using three beats where most dull drummers would use one. This is a very witty and scathing song about down and outs at Christmastime, peppered with comical asides like "Good King Wenceslas looked out// Silly bugger he fell out!".
It's always been a point of discussion amongst Fall fans whether 'John Quays' really means 'Junkies' or not. I'll stay on the fence!

Next is a couple of tracks that The Fall recorded in one of their many legendary Peel sessions. Both these stem from the one session and I'm sure John would have been doubly pleased, a)because it's The Fall, and b)because John always wished that bands used his sessions to record tracks that they wouldn't normally record elsewhere.
First up is a cover of the perennial Rock'n'Roll Christmas track 'Jingle Bell Rock', most famously recorded by Bobby Helms but covered by almost everyone from Chuck Berry to Hilary Duff. In typical Mark fashion he extemporises his own scowling lyrics for the track.

Then it's a cover of the quaint old hymn 'Hark The Herald Angels Sing' here rendered as a snarling, spitting take on the song like some mad drunk uncle raging hard in the back of the church. Some people actually have the cheek to suggest that Mark goes out of tune at one point on this song, but I'm damned if I can hear it!

And to wrap up we have Mark's most recent Seasonal Rant, a track called 'We Wish You A Protein Christmas' which is actually a version of The Fall's own 'Proteinprotection' with added tinsel and snowflake lyrics. Once again Mark doesn't let up on the vitriol and slurs menacingly "The only thing good to that the politicians are on holiday", a sentiment I'm sure we all share at the moment.

And there you have it....The Fall's Festive Greet.
And just like John Peel himself said of The Fall....."Always different, always the same!"
Just like Christmas really!


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