I had a big long post planned discussing my history with Mark E. Smith and The Fall. First exposure, impressions, lack of true familiarity despite fanatical friends, etc. However, I feel pretty crappy because fall (the season) has just been pummeling me into some sort of narcoleptic allergen state. My only recourse to dealing with the symptoms is to take fistfuls of antihistamines and decongestants, with the occasional dose of pain killers to alleviate the pounding caused by the pressure build up in my skull. So between benadryl naps and trying to get on with life, The Fall fell by the wayside.
The short version is this: never been a fan. Was overexposed in college to the early Fall material and never warmed to it. My biggest problem being the brittle sound - all treble from the guitar, all snare and cymbals, with Mr. Smith warbling like a tasered British Vinnie Barbarino way out in front of it all. Like much of the post-punk scene The Fall were not my cup of tea.
Being the musical elitist I am, I always felt a little remorseful that I didn't find a way to like, or even accept, this seminal music snob landmark. I didn't get it. So recently I felt determined to rectify the situation and settled in for multiple listens to the compilation 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong. The first dozen or so songs are what I remember, and I can't say I like them anymore than I did before. Next comes the mid-eighties material, and the emergence of Brix, the new Mrs. Smith. As a dowry Brix brings the E and A guitar strings and The Fall discover the 80 - 100Hz range.
Then a small glimmer of hope. I actually liked a song, "Cruiser's Creek," thus proving the oft-quoted (and hitherto doubted) statement that, "If you don't like The Fall, it's because you haven't heard the right song." This swings, a great little rockabilly ditty. I do feel I like it for the wrong reason, in that it reminds me of a Bily Childish song - assuming Billy ever did more than one take. The songs right around it on the compilation are also decent. I could listen to these without being appalled, though I still think the Kink's cover "Victoria" is the sad reach for popularity it appeared to be at the time.
Once Mark E. Smith discovers the Madchester sound this compilation goes South rather quickly. I should note that this was The Fall of my college years, which may explain why so many of my music snob friends talked about the recordings from a decade earlier. I found the nineties material veered between weak and hackneyed. Black marks go to "Masquerade", a song whose Casio stylings forced me to abandon it without finishing a first listen.
In closing, I still don't like The Fall. They are much more stylistically diverse than I knew, but the genre appropriations seem forced. Smith may love acid house, but he still wrote post-punk songs on top of the new rhythm. "Cruiser's Creek" I'll add to my collection. But the number of Fall fans remains at 50,000.