A trip around the world…of psychedelia

psychedelia_by_011art-dn2np0 (aroundthesound.com.au)

It was the British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond who came up with “psychedelia,” from the Greek words for “mind” and “manifest.” The term has since become associated predominantly with music.
                                                  — Rob Young, “How psychedelia transformed pop culture,”
NewStatesman.com, 8 Sep. 2015 (a review of Rob Chapman’s book Psychedelia and Other Colours)

Let’s proceed to do just that and associate the term with music, but rather than focus on the half-century-old 1968 stuff, why not explore what’s been coming out more recently, say since the 1980s. The style and spirit that drove the creation of bands like Iron Butterfly, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Moby Grape, and songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Itchycoo Park” and “See Emily Play,” has continued – and has morphed and re-morphed to include sounds spanning the far-reaches of the musical spectrum, from punk band Bad Religion’s formation of Seeing Eye Gods to the colorful dance beats of Red Red Groovy. And from the far-reaches of the globe: Melody’s Echo Chamber from France, Australian group Tame Impala…and the Flaming Lips who hail from someplace called Oklahoma City. So drop a tab (or just spin around really fast with your eyes closed and then stare at the image at the top of this post, or better, the one at the bottom), and let’s board the Lysergic Express…

 

Dukes-25OClock (chalkhills.org)

25 O’CLOCK – The Dukes of Stratosphear (1985)

Starting off in Swindon, England, with an XTC alter-ego album originally intended as an April Fool’s joke. This 6-song EP actually outsold the “regular” XTC record at the time, The Big Express. No (big) surprise! And check out that cover. Pick hits: “My Love Explodes”, “Your Gold Dress

The clock strikes 25 now

 

The-Seeing-Eye-Gods-Cover (thebrpage.net)

THE SEEING EYE GODS – The Seeing Eye Gods (1985)

Welcome to California! These guys sprang out of L.A. punk band Bad Religion in 1985, led by Brett Gurewitz, with this obscure 5-song gem. Including a cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men”! Pick hit: “Psychedelic Suzy

Impossible to find! Take it from this guy

 

redredgroovysmall (fallingblog.double-knitting.com)

25 – Red Red Groovy (1993)

From the astral planes of Minneapolis, witness the formation of obscure dance-rock trio Brett (another one) Edgar, Mike Hill and Lori Larson. The B-52s and Happy Mondays meet Ray Manzarek in a sunny park in the late 60s. And more dazzling cover art! Oh and what’s this with the number 25? Pick hits: “The Time Has Come (To Go Out of Your Mind)”, “Another Kind of Find

The time has come to find out more

 

TheFlamingLips-Yoshi (organissimo.org)

YOSHIMI BATTLES THE PINK ROBOTS – The Flaming Lips (2002)

Off to Oklahoma City and legendary indie darlings the Flaming Lips. Here’s their tenth (out of 14!) album, with the inspirational “Do You Realize??” and the, uh, psychedelic? (ya think?) “Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell.” Become engulfed in their otherworldly sounds driven by frontman Wayne Coyne’s gorgeous falsetto. Pick hits: Those two.

And there’s lotsa weird stuff on the band’s website

 

The-Sunshine-Fix-GI (amazon.com)

GREEN IMAGINATION – The Sunshine Fix (2004)

Meanwhile, down south…the side project of Louisianan Bill Doss, founder of Athens band the Olivia Tremor Control. This was his second release as the Sunshine Fix…and album-cover-wise, better (and freakier!) than the first, Age of the Sun. Sadly, Mr. Doss passed away in 2012. Pick hits: (not many individual song postings so, the whole album!)

Check out this nice piece at treblezine.com

 

Melody's-Echo-Chamber (melodysechochamber.bandcamp.com)

MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER – Melody’s Echo Chamber (2012)

Back across the pond to Aix-en-Provence, France, it’s Melody’s Echo Chamber, formed and fronted by Melody Prochet and produced by Kevin Parker of Australian band Tame Impala. Pick hit: “I Follow You” Also check out her latest from forthcoming album Bon Voyage, “Breathe In, Breathe Out.”

More Melody for you courtesy of Fat Possum Records

 

Temples-Sun-Structures (templesofficialuk.bandcamp.com)

SUN STRUCTURES – Temples (2014)

Hopping over to Kettering, England, say hello to a Schizomusica favorite, Temples, and their debut album Sun Structures. James Bagshaw, Tom Walmsley and friends conjure up possibly the most 1968 sounds to be heard in the 21st century. Their 2017 release, Volcano, was reviewed here. Pick hits: “Shelter Song”, “Sun Structures”, “Mesmerise

Visit the temple of Temples

 

Tame-Impala-Currents (amazon.com)

CURRENTS – Tame Impala (2015)

Ok, now we’re gonna hafta leave you on the other side of the world in Perth, Australia…and the aforementioned group Tame Impala. Currents is definitely a landmark modern psych creation, with another album cover to stare intently at! Pick hits: “Disciples”, “Reality in Motion

Read more here at curiously-named beardedgentlemenmusic.com

Well, I guess the only way to get home is the old-fashioned way: close your eyes, tap your heels together, and…wait for the acid to wear off.

Psychedelic (kmuw.org)

 

Images courtesy aroundthesound.com.au, chalkhills.org, thebrpage.net, fallingblog.double-knitting.com, organissimo.org, amazon.com, melodysechochamber.bandcamp.com, templesofficialuk.bandcamp,com, kmuw.org

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I’ll have the Yung Wu. With extra Feelies.

Yung-Wu-Shore-Leave-cover (rateyourmusic.com)

Schizomusica readers probably know by now that the Feelies are a favorite on this blog. And this is a big month Feelies-wise, with three sold-out shows at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade NYC on April 13-15 and the first-ever CD/digital release of Shore Leave, the obscure and long out-of-print 1987 album by Feelies re-shuffle Yung Wu, on April 21. Re-shuffle because Yung Wu is essentially the Feelies with percussionist Dave Weckerman as singer/songwriter (and keyboardist John Baumgartner, of other Feelies side projects the Trypes and Speed the Plough, thrown in). Looking at the album cover (and the band name) one might be prepared for a collection of Chinese folk songs…the name did actually originate from a (mispronounced) take-out menu item, and the cover art of Red Chinese sailors was opted over a standard band photo.

Yung+Wu+by+J.+Baumgartner (bar-none.com)

Shore Leave was recorded in eight days in 1987 at Hoboken’s Water Music studio. Weckerman was armed with eight songs – not enough to fill an LP – so the band tossed in three covers: the lovely Eno composition “Big Day” from Phil Manzanera’s 1975 album Diamond Head, the Rolling Stones b-side “Child of the Moon,” and Neil Young’s iconic “Powderfinger.” The end result is a pleasant blend of folk-rock-pop-psych with “The Empty Pool” (covered by Yo La Tengo on their Ride the Tiger album the year before), “Aspiration,” “Spinning,” and the complex guitar collage “Eternal Ice” as the standout Weckerman originals. Overall a bit more laid-back than the frenetic new-wave of the Feelies’ 1980 debut Crazy Rhythms – and heading in the direction the band would take on The Good Earth and subsequent albums. And with that same lineup, the lineup that continues today: guitarists Glenn Mercer and Bill Million, bassist Brenda Sauter, drummer Stanley Demeski, and of course percussionist Mr. Weckerman.

weckerman-stays-in-the-background (willyoumissme.com)  The Feelies at Summerstage. The Weckerman effect…in black…and blue

The songs on Shore Leave are rooted in mellow, what-would-later-be-called-jangle-pop, but with Weckerman’s nervous intensity front-and-center. Witness his piercing gaze and darkly-clothed presence in the background at any Feelies performance, as he quickly switches from maracas in one hand to drumstick in the other, and you’ll know from whence we speak. And on that note, if you didn’t snag tickets for the Feelies at Rough Trade NYC, they’re also appearing in Washington, DC and Carrboro, North Carolina in June.

Yung-Wu-at-station (youtube.com)                           Yung Wu performing at Hoboken train station, May 17, 1987

 

Images courtesy rateyourmusic.com, bar-none.com/J. Baumgartner, willyoumissme.com, elmoremagazine.com, youtube.com

YouTube videos courtesy monty4921

Paquito Plus Parker

charlieparker_3220703b (telegraph.co.uk)Paquito-DRivera (worldmusicreport.com)

Like spicy cinnamon sprinkled over a creamy cup of coffee, Cuban-born jazz musician and composer Paquito D’Rivera sprinkles lively Latin flavors over the smooth, sweet standards that make up much of Charlie Parker’s 1949-50 albums both entitled Charlie Parker with Strings. Billed as “To Bird with Strings,” the March 16, 2018 performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater featured songs from the albums including “If I Should Lose You,” “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was,” and the classics “I’m In the Mood for Love” and “Just Friends.”

CharlieParkerWithStrings1 (amazon.com)        CharlieParkerSouthOfTheBorderCover (amazon.com)

paquitodrivera-charlie-parker-strings (allenmorrison.com)

With his 16-piece combo comprising piano, bass, drums, percussion, oboe/clarinet, full string section, and yes, even harp (played by Riza Printup, wife of JALC trumpeter Marcus Printup), Sr. D’Rivera breezed through two sets (plus encore) of Birdsongs and originals (like the group’s tantalizing tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, “A Night in Englewood,” a nod to Dizzy’s longtime New Jersey home), as well as jumpin’ Cuban numbers with plenty of percussion courtesy of Rolando Morales. “Tico-Tico,” from Parker’s 1952 record South of the Border, was introduced by Paquito poking fun at the original album cover depicting Parker as a sax-playing matador next to a bright red bull – ever see a bullfight in Puerto Rico or Dominican Republic!? Another highlight was the Cole Porter tune “What Is This Thing Called Love?” which – while not on the original 1950 sides – was included on the 1995 CD reissue of Charlie Parker with Strings.

The 69-year-old Paquito played his trademark saxophone and clarinet most of the time, taking five every now and then to let another musician shine or to turn and conduct his orchestra…or to lead the audience in singing Dizzy’s quintessential “Salt Peanuts” – the accent is on the ‘pea’ not the ‘nut’!

Check out “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and the full encore here!

¡Viva Paquito!

PaquitoDRivera (jazziz.com)

 

Images courtesy telegraph.co.uk, worldmusicreport.com, amazon.com, allenmorrison.com, jazziz.com

YouTube video courtesy Ernesto Fidel Díaz Guerrero

The Venerable Mr. Cale

John-Cale-1-1 (thevinylfactory.com) john-cale-marc-maron-wtf-640x426 (spin.com:Getty Images)

76 years ago on March 9 was born, in Wales, one John Davies Cale – an artist embodying schizomusica if there ever was one. Just take a listen to his menacing version of “Heartbreak Hotel” on the album Slow Dazzle. Light years away from the familiar Elvis Presley hit, Cale’s recording lurks around dark alleys on a very un-Elvis bass line before exploding into a tirade of musical and emotional madness. vu_white_light-616x440 (factmag.com) A founding member of the Velvet Underground, John Cale was responsible for the group’s avant-garde edge and maniacal noise-fests, more so than co-founder Lou Reed, guitarist Sterling Morrison, or drummer Moe Tucker. White Light/White Heat’s art-rock, spoken-word pieces “Lady Godiva’s Operation” and “The Gift,” though written by Reed, owe their sound to Cale, his distinctive Welsh baritone and electric viola. As does the iconic “Sister Ray,” driven to the brink by Cale’s distortion-laden organ. On the other end of the schizomusical spectrum, he played the delicate celesta which opens “Sunday Morning,” the first song on the Velvets’ first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico.

cale-john-wal (expose.org)

John Cale studied classical music early on, met and performed with John Cage and other notable composers, but also had an affinity for 1960s rock. He formed the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed in 1965, and by late 1968 he had left the band – mainly due to creative differences with Reed. It seems that very tension was the essence of the group’s sound and style, as the post-Cale Velvet Underground ended up much more subdued and, consequently, more accessible.

220px-NicoChelseaGirl (en.wikipedia.org) TheStoogesAlbumCover (amazon.com) PattiSmithHorses (en.wikipedia.org) The_Modern_Lovers_(album) (en.wikipedia.org) 220px-UK_Squeeze_album_cover (en.wikipedia.org)

Meanwhile, Mr. Cale turned to producing (Nico, the Stooges, Patti Smith, the Modern Lovers, Squeeze, among others) and released a slew of solo albums. The first, Vintage Violence, from 1970, is – despite the title – fairly tame by John Cale standards and features light, catchy cuts like “Gideon’s Bible,” “Adelaide,” “Cleo,” and the Band-like “Bring It on Up.” 1973’s Paris 1919 is usually regarded as one of his best solo works, with literary references galore (“Child’s Christmas in Wales,” ”Macbeth,” “Graham Greene”) and a chamber-pop masterpiece in the title track. Slow Dazzle, released in 1975 as the second in a trio on Island Records (the other two being Fear and Helen of Troy), contains a tribute to Brian Wilson (“Mr. Wilson”) complete with apt falsettos, as well as the lovely, Roxy Music-like “Taking It All Away” and the aforementioned “Heartbreak Hotel.” And then there are a dozen other albums, from 1972’s The Academy in Peril to 2016’s M:FANS. Plus a half-dozen live albums. The man does not stop.

JohnCale-VintageViolence (amazon.com) JohnCale-Paris1919 (amazon.com)JohnCale-SlowDazzle (allmusic.com)

And his playing is everywhere. Listen to the sleigh bells on the Stooges’ classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” The ominous piano beat in the background of the Modern Lovers’ “Pablo Picasso.” The viola and various keyboards on many of the songs on Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter album. Virtually all the instruments on The End… by Nico. And wherever there’s an electric viola, it’s probably that of John Cale – from Brian Eno to Geoff Muldaur to the Replacements. He also appeared at BAM (aka Brooklyn Academy of Music) last November, performing Velvets songs, solo songs, and a few brand new songs. You can even pick up his latest live album, Fragments of a Rainy Season, here.

Happy 76th, Mr. Cale!

John Cale (allmusic.com)

 

Images courtesy thevinylfactory.com, spin.com/Getty Images, factmag.com, expose.org, en.wikipedia.org, amazon.com, allmusic.com

Take the dream-pop exit off the folk-rock highway…next stop, Elk City

ElkCityOklaRoadSign (crosscountryroads.com)

Not from Elk City, Oklahoma (but named after an Elk City in West Virginia, band member Ray Ketchem’s home state), this Elk City is actually based in NYC and has been around since 1997. Their fifth album, Everybody’s Insecure, is due out March 16 on legendary Hoboken label Bar/None Records. A concise collection of ten songs incorporating the best of folk-rock and dream-pop, Everybody’s Insecure glides along on the angelic/sonic vocals of Renee LoBue, the emotional guitar of Sean Eden, and drummer Ketchem’s at-times otherworldly production…all held together with Carl Baggaley’s keyboards and Martin Olson’s bass. They’ve since added another member, guitarist Chris Robertson.

ElkCityAlbumCover (bar-none.com)

Opening track “Sparrow” kicks off with a perfect post-punk-ish bass line, then soars through the skies with a gorgeous hook and lyric courtesy of LoBue: “I don’t know if I’ll ever be as free as a sparrow / I’ll try, I’ll try, I’ll try.” “He’s Having a Baby” starts out like a lullaby then explodes into a bright, optimistic, jangle-pop gem.   “Ride the Slide” is propelled by Baggaley’s electric piano and playful synths. The title cut, “Everybody’s Insecure,” features some unusually-phrased vocals and beautiful, echoey guitars.

ElkCityRenee2 (facebook.com)

“My Manual” tiptoes along, then goes out rockin’, followed by the album’s shining moment, the mysterious and incredibly catchy “25 Lines,“ inspired by a writing exercise whereby LoBue wrote 25 individual, unrelated lines per day, resulting in the song’s cryptic quality. And expect “25 Lines” to be an ‘alternative’ radio hit this spring – it’s that good. Especially the bridge, which has been compared – accurately – to David Bowie. “Root Beer Shoes” name-checks Bukowski and Hemingway before going nearly orchestral, then it’s time for the slow-dance closer, “Souls in Space,” with its sad/happy refrain, “Always together.”

Elk City was originally formed as a spin-off of the Melting Hopefuls, who released a handful of records in the early 90s on various small labels. Ray Ketchem has also worked as a producer/engineer for luminaries like Guided By Voices, Luna, and Okkervil River. The band has appeared at local venues the Mercury Lounge and Bowery Electric, so keep an eye ‘n’ ear out. In the meantime, check out their stunning version of the Motels’ “Suddenly Last Summer” – as well as a nice interview with Renee LoBue on NPR.org, from back when the last Elk City album came out in 2010.

ElkCityBoweryEelectic (facebook.com)

 

Images courtesy crosscountryroads.com, bar-none.com, facebook.com

“25 Lines” preview courtesy glidemagazine.com; “Suddenly Last Summer” courtesy ghettoblastermagazine.com

Translator’s Steve Barton spins some Tall Tales (and establishes some Alibis)

SF scene poster 1967 (pinterest.com)
San Francisco, 1967! The Grateful Dead! Jefferson Airplane!

Romeo-Void-December-13-1982 (numbersnightclub.com)
San Francisco, 1982! Romeo Void! Translator!

Everywhere_That_I'm_Not_by_Translator_US_vinyl_1982 (en.wikipedia.org)

Hold on, wait – Translator? “Everywhere That I’m Not”? One hit wonder from 1982, just as “new wave” was becoming mainstream and the MTV age was dawning? And the guy who sang (and wrote) that song, Steve Barton, has been making music ever since. A couple of years ago he moved to Portland, Oregon, whereby, he says, “songs just started to pour out of me.” The result is an ambitious three-CD collection (yes, three) entitled Tall Tales and Alibis, due for release March 2.

steve-barton-tall-tales-front-cover (popdose.com)

Each disc is presented as its own album, with its own title. Disc one, “Star Tonight,” is largely electric guitar and voice with some occasional drums and keyboards. Along the way, there are flashes of fabulous pop-rock: Beatles, XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, Guided By Voices, Cheap Trick. Highlights include “Little Rule Breaker” (like Robert Pollard and company with George Harrison’s guitar), “Shadow of the Bride” (go ahead, try not to sing along with the “I don’t know what to do” chorus), “When She’s Lost Your Mind” (sparkly psychedelia a la Mr. Hitchcock), “Levitate the Pentagon” (named for an actual plan to levitate and exorcise the Pentagon by hippie activists in 1967), and “Hey, Buster Keaton” (nice ode to the 1920s film comedian and a perfect melding of John Lennon with Jonathan Richman, with George showing up again for a guitar solo). The disc ends with the title track, “You’re A Star Tonight” – the Cheap Trick-esque one – give it some heavier drums and it coulda been an outtake from Heaven Tonight or Dream Police.

steve-barton-of-translator (mapanare.us)

Disc two is entitled “Shattered Light” and portrays a much darker, moodier…uh, mood. Some of the songs (“Northwest Girl,” “Tearing Out the Roses”) are a bit Tom Waits-ish, if Tom sang without his trademark growl. At times Barton’s baritone even approaches the introspective darkness of Leonard Cohen (“I Count the Minutes” and the bluesy “Haunt Me Tonight“). There’s a cover of Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” with very un-Sinatra jangle-guitars. The disc’s closer, “Stare at the Sun Tonight,” poses the question “Is the world what we make it, or does it make you and me?” Maybe a little of each…

On to disc three, “Before I Get Too Young.” With a full band including drummers Dave Scheff from Translator and Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello’s Attractions, Nelson Bragg on percussion, Derrick Anderson on bass, and Marvin Etzioni and Willie Aron (both of whom co-produced) on guitars, keyboards and vocals. “Wake Up in Roses” gets things off to a rousing start with a Lennon-fronting-the-Replacements vibe. “She Is the Girl” features Barton’s low-register again and some spooky-but-soulful organ toward the end. “Gimme Your Hand” would be at home on any Rolling Stones album, while the two-chord chorus of “Where Did I Go Wrong” and the psych-punky “Before I Get Too Young” are straight outta any 1960s garage. And speaking of the Stones, the band turns out a rather glam-rocky rendition of “Dandelion”…followed by the touching last track “I Fly,” an acronym for the irrefutable statement “I fuckin’ love you.” Now there’s a sentiment for Valentine’s Day!

i fly (etsy.com)

 

Images courtesy pinterest.com, numbersnightclub.com, en.wikipedia.org, popdose.com, mapanare.us, etsy.com

“Before I Get Too Young” preview courtesy popdose.com

Note: the Romeo Void/Translator poster is actually from a Houston gig, but since it’s a cool period poster with both bands listed, there it is.

The Backdrop Shifted and Changed (a Fall story)

the-fall-early-on (ihrtn.net) the-fall-mark-e-smith (theguardian.com)

In 1981 I first hear The Fall—“Rebellious Jukebox” is another post-punk song in an ocean of such stuff on a sampler album, and “Totally Wired” is a fixture on certain college radio shows. The singer and main Fall guy appears to be someone named Mark E. Smith. Upon moving to NYC and having the album Perverted by Language tossed my way by a friend, all of a sudden…“Hotel Blöedel”! With villainous violin sounds by Mr. Smith and sung (delightfully off-key) by his wife at the time, Brix Smith. Later comes a cassette tape of selections from the new Fall album The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall (that title says it all) including “Elves” (think these guys ever heard “I Wanna Be Your Dog”?) and the lilting, too-tuneful (for The Fall) “Disney’s Dream Debased.” Missing from the tape but making its appearance later on, “2 By 4,” built on Stephen Hanley’s muscular, melodic bass lines and Karl Burns’ jackhammer drums. After that it’s FALL speed ahead!

TheFall-PervertedByLanguage (discogs.com)    TheFall-TheWonderfulAndFrighteningWorld (discogs.com)    TheFall-CallForEscapeRoute (thefall.org)

Living in the Bronx, everyone around me is a Fall fan. The band Fly Ashtray—still in existence today—is forging a sound directly influenced by The Fall’s minimal-yet-complex style, and we all spout Smith-isms from Fall lyrics every chance we get. Just released and in our hands is the EP Call for Escape Route, featuring an eight-minute long, positively danceable ode to low-rent apartment living, “No Bulbs.” The most astounding song I’ve ever heard. Next, a bright, poppy thing called “C.R.E.E.P.” and its sort-of psychedelic (in a Fall way) B side, “Pat Trip Dispenser.”

“Moveable backdrop / The backdrop shifted and changed”

TheFall-FallInAHole (en.wikipedia.org)

Soon a series of singles compilations and live tapes make the rounds, showcasing an earlier version of The Fall with Marc Riley on guitar, the best tracks being “The Classical” and “Backdrop” on Fall in a Hole. Both excellent examples of Smith’s rambling to the point of mania, over a tense-but-grooving post-punk landscape, his trademark penchant for ending every other word with an extra “ah” syllable not unlike a Southern preacher driving his fire-and-brimstone sermon home. Other ear-catching stuff include “The Man Whose Head Expanded” and the centerpiece from 1982’s Hex Enduction Hour (and what’s occasionally come to refer to Mr. Smith himself), “Hip Priest.”

the-fall-classic1985 (thequietus.com)

In April ’85, The Fall come to town, performing at the now-no-more Peppermint Lounge, during the final year of the club’s existence. The show’s mesmerizing high point is a driving, hammering thing with bedazzling, crazed chords from guitarist Craig Scanlon, carefully controlled feedback from the guitar of Brix, and typically indecipherable words from Mark E. The song is “Wings,” and it turns out I have it on one of the compilation tapes but never gave it a good listen. That all changes the following day as I put on Fall song after Fall song, culminating in a “Wings”-athon, playing the song ten times in a row. And note, this is 1985, so I have to rewind the cassette to the beginning of the track each time—no mere clicking on an icon. Wrapping myself around Smith’s enigmatic lyrics, I take in the strange, Philip K. Dick-esque tale of how changing the past can cause something in the present to cease to exist.

TheFall-ThisNation'sSavingGrace (en.wikipedia.org)And it wouldn’t be fall without…The Fall! The big event come autumn ’85 is the release of This Nation’s Saving Grace, their eighth album. Featuring the dance-party-fun, almost B-52s-ish “Cruisers Creek” (on the American release; the rest of the world gets “Barmy”—even more dance-party-fun and seeming to take its main hook from the horn break in the Monkees’ “Valleri”), Smith’s proclamation of his new digs, “My New House,” the intricate, intriguing “Paint Work,” and the homage to German progressive group Can and their Japanese lead vocalist, “I Am Damo Suzuki.”

“The backdrop shifted and changed / So did not even know what song it was”

The band gets poppier still with tracks like “Hot Aftershave Bop” and “Hey! Luciani,” then in March ’86 it’s another Fall show at a most unlikely venue: the Lone Star Café. Normally the home of country/western music in NYC, the place is showcasing Mark E. Smith & Co. for some reason. This time we’re there not only to see the band but also to interview them for my fanzine. So in between sets, suddenly I’m INTERVIEWING MARK E. SMITH. He actually comes across as somewhat approachable, up until he deems the session over by saying quietly but firmly, “I’m going to ask you to leave now.” And then it’s time for the next album, Bend Sinister, as The Fall falls back to a darker sound, albeit with snappy synths on stuff like “Shoulder Pads,”courtesy of keyboardist Simon Rogers.

TheFall-IAmKurious_Oranj (en.wikipedia.org) the-fall-1990s (pinterest.co.uk) TheFall-TheInfotainmentScan (en.wikipedia.org)

Now a bit of a break from The Fall…until The Frenz Experiment in 1988, showcasing a rendition of the Kinks’ “Victoria.” Another NYC performance at the Ritz (later Webster Hall, now, sadly, nothing), the next Fall release, I Am Kurious Oranj (in bright oranj album cover and producing the synthpoppy “Cab It Up!”), then in 1993—just to hear what the band is sounding like—I pick up The Infotainment Scan. It turns out be heavy on the electro-dance side, but one song stands out, a ridiculously light and tuneful cover called “I’m Going to Spain.” At this point I pretty much leave Smith and The Fall to their own devices. But they keep releasing albums, nearly one every year, with a constantly changing roster of musicians.

the-fall-mark-e-smith_6422 (tvtropes.org)   the-fall-later-years (discogs.com)

“The backdrop shifted and changed / Until did not even know”

TheFall-NewFactsEmerge (en.wikipedia.org)

Sometime in 2013 I catch a glimpse of the present-day Mark E. Smith in a magazine, and it’s not a pretty sight. Years of alcohol, tobacco, and who knows what else seem to have taken their toll. But the man soldiers on, branding himself and anyone he records/performs with as The Fall (“If it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s The Fall,” he once uttered). 2017 sees the release of New Facts Emerge, a work that has Smith ranting, grunting, and yelling like never before. Several live dates suddenly appear—and sell out—at Brooklyn hotspot Baby’s All Right. And just as suddenly the shows are cancelled, presumably due to 60-year-old Smith’s declining health.

On January 24, 2018, I read the news of Mark E. Smith’s passing. The Hip Priest is dead. But with thirty-something Fall albums, plus countless compilations and live recordings, the genius cantankerousness of Mark E. Smith carries on…against an ever-changing, ever-shifting, ever-recognizable musical (sometimes not-so-musical) backdrop. As legendary BBC radio host John Peel described The Fall, “They are always different; they are always the same.”

“The backdrop shifted and changed / And this was The Fall / Goodnight”

the-fall-mark-e-smith-later-on (teamrock.com)

 “Backdrop” lyrics © Minder Music Ltd. / Songwriter: Mark E. Smith

Images courtesy ihrtn.net, theguardian.com, discogs.com, thefall.org, en.wikipedia.org, thequietus.com, pinterest.co.uk, tvtropes.org, teamrock.com