‘THE WONDERFUL AND FRIGHTENING WORLD OF MARK E. SMITH’
The Fall were famously the favorite band of legendary BBC DJ John Peel—the Fall recorded a whopping 24 Peel sessions, the most of any act, and the 2005 box set containing all of them is essential listening for any Fall devotee—the second disc in particular is fucking great.
The BBC documentary The Wonderful and Frightening World of Mark E. Smith obviously cribs its name from the Fall’s similarly titled album of 1984. The program documents the Fall’s origins, including their first recording session, which was financed by Buzzcocks manager Richard Boon, through their furtive (Brix-fueled) attempts at wider popularity in the 1980s, to their, or rather, his more or less current status as undeniably batshit punk elder.
The interview features interviews with past members Una Baines, Marc Riley, and Steve Hanley as well as (of course) tons of commentary from Smith himself, virtually all of which is damned hard to understand for U.S. viewers, which of course adds to the charm and mystique of it all.
UNDER THE RADAR: The Magnetic Fields – “’71 I Think I’ll Make Another World”.
Magnetic Fields’ main man, Stephin Merritt, is no stranger to a sizeable project, his most famous album is after all a three disc, three-hour long, 69 song opus covering almost every aspect of love you can imagine. So writing an album of fifty songs, one for every year of your life, well that seems a pretty straight forward task in comparison. Started on his 50th birthday, 50 Song Memoir, which was released on Nonesuch last week, is in many ways his musical auto-biography. A treasure trove of non-fiction events; an intimidating but brilliant collection, it’s the sort of record you feel as a listener, you probably won’t truly get your head around for many months, years, even lifetimes to come.
This week to promote the release, The Magnetic Fields have shared videos for a number of tracks from the record, our favourite of which is, ’71 I Think I’ll Make Another World. Set when Stephin was six, it finds him dreaming of starting a new world, and the freedom that would come with his own planet, as he sings, “it may not start very large, but no-one else will be in charge”. Musically it builds around a gently strummed mandolin, and sonorous, soaring strings, a bit like Scott Walker if he ever did anything lo-fi. It’s a fine introduction to the 50 Song Memoir, a record which in time might just go down as Stephin’s finest work.
50 Song Memoir is out now via Nonesuch.
.for the rabbits
Mark E. Smith and The Fall
Siouxsie rocking with her old friend – the Vox Teardrop
THIS IS OUR MUSIC: The Pop Group – “Where There’s A Will”.
Originally released as 7” single in 1980 and unavailable for several decades, ‘Where There’s A Will’ has been remastered from original tape for reissue as the opening track of The Pop Group’s compilation of rarities ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’.
An incendiary dance, it revels as much as it rebels. The song unleashes a feral form of torn, breakneck agit-funk with its potent urgency and savagely scathing vitality undimmed since its original release. A breathless torrent of writhing deviant disco bassline and volcanic free jazz sax, the song is electrified by Mark Stewart’s vocals, a rasping blitz of politically-charged calls for defiance and solidarity.
The countercultural militant message is delivered as a hysterical, riotous spree, as Gareth Sager (guitar, sax) explains, “The group’s best attempt to mix a message with a groove plus some real free playing. If you’re really unhinged you may be able to dance to this.”
The ‘Where There’s A Will’ video, which reworks rare footage of the band performing the song on Belgian TV in 1980, has been realised by The Pop Group’s visual collaborator, NY based artist Rupert Goldsworthy,
The Pop Group formed in Bristol in 1977 out of a sense of disenchantment with the increasing conservatism of punk.
Drawing on an eclectic range of influences from free jazz, conscious funk, heavyweight dub to avant-garde experimentalism, alongside contemporaries like Public Image Limited, This Heat and Throbbing Gristle, they were at the forefront of a musical period marked out by its ground-breaking innovation.
UNDER THE RADAR: Kasabian – “You’re In Love With a Psycho”.
The Leicester band have been making all sorts of pronouncements of late, but for fans the wait is finally over.
New album ‘For Crying Out Loud’ will be released on April 28th, with Kasabian leading with a brand new single ‘You’re In Love With A Psycho’.