Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Fall, Epic Studios, Norwich

The recent publicity for the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles "Love Me Do", and subsequent re-visiting of all things mop-top across all forms of media, called to mind a comment made by a pre-fame Kurt Cobain, some twenty-odd years back.  Cobain's assertion that the Fab Four wrote every pop song it was possible to write, and that all subsequent acts have merely re-hashed the Lennon/McCartney back catalogue, is difficult to argue with, and it is clear that the Beatles continue to cast a long shadow over the world of popular music.  To give the Nirvana frontman his due, he more than most in recent years manged to put a different spin on the songs that changed the world, and one always had the feeling Lennon would have approved of Cobain's music and refusal to abide by industry rules.  In his short time as the frontman of the world's biggest band, Cobain constantly sought to reinvent his band's sound and had no interest in standing still.  "In Utero" was a long way from being "Nevermind II".

But to find a band who have truly continued to push things forward, eschewing all claims to commerciality whilst honing a sound that is uniquely their own, one would have to go a long way to touch the majesty of The Fall.  That they can pull this number of diehards to a former TV studio (the home of Trisha!) in the heart of Norwich on a wet midweek evening, with no new material to push, is testament to their continued appeal.  That the sound continues to be this uncompromising, yet still undeniably pop and in thrall to the sounds coming out of Liverpool half a century ago, offers proof of the genius that is Mark E Smith.  Yes, genius is a much over-used word, but an hour in the man's company leaves you in little doubt.

Tonight, Smith is on imperious form, prowling the stage, microphone in each hand, twiddling with the amps and driving his tremendously well-drilled band to new levels of excellence.  Of course, the lyrics continue to be as unintelligible as ever, but that voice is now so iconic that just the fact that sounds are emerging is more than enough.  The set draws mainly from more recent material, with "Bury Parts I and II" from "Your Future Our Clutter" providing a clear mid set highlight, but it is during a much deserved encore that things go stratospheric.  Smith performs a blistering "Reformation" from behind the speakers at the side of stage, looking at once both ridiculously like a scalded schoolboy and like the coolest man alive.  Near-hit "Theme From Sparta FC" keeps the pace at furious levels, before a final, triumphant run through "Mr Pharmacist" sends the faithful away ecstatic and reminds all just how long The Fall have been cranking out shit this good, constantly at the top of their game.

If The Beatles truly did write all of pop music, then better The Fall continue as the keepers of the flame, rather than the dullards regularly foisted on us as the next big thing by the music media.  We will never see their like again.  Enjoy them while you can.

The encore of the Fall gig and an interview with MES can be viewed HERE


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