Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Fall - Slates

The Fall

Released 1981 on Rough Trade
Reviewed by mare-C, 03/06/2006ce

Two pounds fifty/5 dollars U skinny rats. Start here.

Best line: "I laughed at the Great God Pan... I didnae! I didnae!!"

The mystery of 10 inches. At the time, both the inkies & their own employers wanted to know why it was neither LP nor 45. A novel concept, now disabused; it was supposed to be a single, but they got inspired somewhere in the creation & presented the spillover as an entity in itself. The result, an instinctive, quickwitted adolescent work, thrown to the public as a snapshot, something frozen in the act of changing. Neither one nor the other but entirely distinctive in itself. If you know someone who's never heard the Fall & want to indicate how fucking great they can be, the sheer breadth & scope of them, then Slates would be the handshake moment. Slates is the one you'd have stuck on Voyager to let future civilisations understand just what were the Fall. A concentrate/miniature/cameo. Also the first Fall emission where each song/piece inhabits a different soundworld, the point of escape velocity where MES began to outgrow both the media preconceptions of his band & his own bandmates (possibly even his own blindspots about what exactly the Fall could be or become).

A misleading generalisation of course, but you can divide the Fall roughly into three stages: 78-83 marking territory & refusing to explain, 84-89 pop & fascinating for it; & thereafter� (every Fall follower has their own dating system from hereonin), settling/eroding into being... not anything as slight as merely, but simply the Fall, allowing that the listener can pick the bones out & is at least slimly conversant with the language around these parts. The first stage though, they were - no lie - a great psychedelic band. If you have any love for them, the temptation is to nominate one of the bigger, more obvious statements (the substance-pagan of Dragnet or the dense quasi-envoi of Hex) but really, Slates is the one, if only because in conception, execution & effect, it's entirely sidereal. Slates is the Fall putting the foot on the brake, halting & looking around, beginning to rummage inward.

1 > Middle Mass
The lurch in the midsection/gut.
Taunt then specifics, the playground wannabes fade & the bully needles in
"Let me here you whisper, bub"
gaunt taunt
Which of course entirely suits the subj.matter
(turning in again, infighting, irritation of close contact)

2 > An Older Lover, Etc
terrifying, cold gut frequency, chillz
All jangled parts which should be funny but aren't.
A rearranged body - a grotesque.
Fevered-dream like Hip Priest
Creeping around the object of description/derision
Indistinct terror

3 > Prole Art Threat
Even laid out on slv as set text.
Ever-tighter description - descrip as possesion. Self-description as possess.
Until now!

4 > Fit & Working Again
Dim dawn transmissions - possibility again
Meander, waking nag.
Tugging, surprised to be, accidentally purposeful

5 > Slates, Slags, Etc
The Safety & Joy Of The Riff!
Rediscovered ur-Fall
"Give us a break!"
And surely... the simple freedom of the endless churn - just start it up & keep fucking going!!!
Motor as mind

6 > Leave The Capitol
Possible futures, the glee & stasis of changing.
The romantic view from the bus window as you drift out of town
The vague reminders, fading.
Shells... city, self.
LTC = ignore the head. "You know in your brain, you knowe in your brain" Or is it the heart, then?
A couple of years back, Jeremy Vine was hosting a discussion on mid-am Radio 2 about ex-Red Ken's metropolitan car tolls, & lead into the midday news bulletin by playing Leave the Capitol. Whyever not? Culturally, things have curdled furiously since 1981 - why not the Fall on housewife airwaves? And why not *this* Fall (at once entirely inscrutable & yet inviting, the teases)? I heard it at work, standing & fiddling at a hotel reception, the Fall playing over the PA, business customers ambling around. It sounded perfect, people tapped their feet, and I had to wonder if it was because the music had caught them at an idle moment, their minds a bit more open than they might otherwise have been; or maybe something in the shuffle of the music.

But then again.

Apparently, Slates was the music that made Brix fall for the Fall, the start of a process that would energise & popularise their unique vocab. It's a nice story, both romantic & convenient. I've no doubt that it's as true in benign retrospect as it was at the time of it's happening. Slates is like that too; a true lie. Entirely right & cogent & sharpeyed, but also somehow yardstaring & distracted & deep. All the more worthy of congratulation for being a happy accident; chance encounters shared. Some folk meditate, and I've tried that too, and sometimes it's just what the mind needs; but sometimes I've taken those twenty-odd minutes and listened to Slates instead; the anti-meditation you sometimes require to face the world, a small journey, a distinct destination.

Two pounds fifty/5 dollars U skinny rats. Bargain!

Yup. Bargain.

Reviews Index