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Mark E Smith tribute

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Jack Young has penned this tribute to Mark E Smith. You can revisit our review of The Fall in Cambridge in May 2014 here and November 2011 here. Image provided by Valerio Berdini.

The Fall
Cambridge Junction
15-Nov-2011

“Mark E Smith has passed away, and thus the earth has come crashing to a halt much like The Fall used to with their dual drumming assaults and nihilistic noisy chaos that defines them as one of, and in my humble opinion THE great bands in the British alternative scene. Loving tributes have poured in from celebrities and fans a-like, but we must be careful not turn the great maverick singer into a drunken, grouchy caricature. Yes, he could be cantankerous, yes, he could be unpredictable, and he did indeed most certainly like a drink or seven. But Smith was also one of the most innovative, though provoking, and boundary pushing musicians this fair isle of ours has ever produced. From his near beat poetry of the first incarnation of The Fall, describing the group as “Northern-white crap, that talks back”, to his illusive Lovecraft inspired mystery tails like ‘Before the Moon Falls’, his lyrics were abstract, cryptic, probing and often viciously satirical. Few others could claim to write like that. Mark E Smith should be remembered with the likes of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop; he was an experimentalist. The Fall were one of the first groups to truly incorporate the experimental krautrock stylings of groups like Can, or Faust, mixed with twinges of rockabilly, garage, new wave, and virtually any form of experimental rock under the son. The much-discussed ‘post punk’ style of hypnotic bass-lines, noisy guitars and pounding drums was forged completely by The Fall. If you don’t believe me, listen to their masterpiece record Grotesque, released in 1980 (!!!). Mark E Smith never stopped moving. He never adapted to the times because he was timeless. The Fall’s most recent record New Facts Emerge, released in 2017, was as forward-thinking and abstract as anything they had released before.

He must be remembered, rather than purely for his complex character, for his work ethic, his boundary smashing, his focus, his grasp of repetition, and everything that defined his difficult-cum brilliant music. Mark E Smith defined most of my late teens. After moving on from the tweeness of the Smiths, coupled with the eventual realization that Morrissey is an asshole, my next step was to immerse myself in the music of The Fall. Thank God, I did. The Fall represented some of the happiest times of my life, drunken nights spent chanting the lyrics to Totally Wired with my friends. I will never forget them, even if I am hazy on some of the finer details of said nights (Holstein pils may be his drink of choice, but tread with caution!). I made friends through a mutual love of The Fall. The Fall represented a unique club, a group of people so committed to music that they dared to break through the enormous catalogue of records (34 studio albums by the end), knowing that they would never look back. Fall fans understand each other; they are smug, smug because they know they’ve found a unique enterprise that will constantly reward you. For all those who are late to the party, I offer a quote from the late, and equally great, John Peel: “With The Fall, you can never be absolutely certain what you’re going to get. Sometimes, it may not be what you want. But still, it’s The Fall- so it’s all you need!” Rest in Peace, Mark E Smith, a great visionary of our times, who would definitely- and categorically- hate this mushy shite I’ve just spewed for you.”