Thursday, September 18, 2008

Don't Make a Career of It

"Any band worth its salt rips off the Velvet Underground." So said Mark E. Smith (him again? here?) back in the neo-psychedelic days of the Bunnymen, the Furs, and the Teardrop Explodes. Many bands have also borrowed liberally from the Fall. Chief among these may be Pavement. Their low-fi sound, the obscure lyrics, and even their titles & graphics didn't come from nowhere: they came from here. St. Stephen Malkmus eventually revealed himself as a latter-day guitar god for the slacker set. Was he a quick study, or was he hiding his light under a bushel during those early Drag City days?

I've been listening to a great new Australian band called Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and I thought "That sounds like the Fall!" But what makes a band sound like the Fall? It isn't just cheap guitars, repetition, and a singer who can't sing. It's an attitude in the frontman and his lyrics: verbose, scabrous, and deeply misanthropic. A certain intellect and self-confidence, perhaps disproportionate to his musical ability. A strong regional accent completes the likeness. Bands like this (Prolapse, Ikara Colt, Beachbuggy, Life without Buildings, Lifter Puller) make me deeply happy. I made a list on eMusic of other bands whose sound can be traced back to the Fall, but the new eMusic layout cuts off half my comments.

I heartily endorse spending ten downloads on Eddy Current Suppression Ring's album Primary Colours (or buy a physical copy from Goner Records). It doesn't all sound like the Fall. But the track featured below does. My online friend Pete shared a wonderful song by Mother and the Addicts that perfectly captured the Mancabilly (a/k/a "Country & Northern") sound of the Fall. But the rest of the Addicts' album is mediocre synth-pop. Finally, fans of the early Fall (circa Grotesque) will recognize this Leaving Trains song as a blatant lift of the rhythm and cadence from "The N.W.R.A." (not to be confused with the NRA or NWA).

Eddy Current Suppression Ring: Which Way to Go
Mother and the Addicts: All in the Mind
Leaving Trains: Suicide Blues


At 9/20/2008 9:52 AM , Blogger DR said...

I know what you mean about the Pavement thing, I love 'Slanted and Enchanted' but I can remember hearing 'New Face In Hell' some time later and thinking 'Conduit for Sale' 'ouch', perhaps Mr Smith had a point when he would apparently (according to the NME anyway) rip up any Pavement record you'd care to put in front of him. The only thing is The Fall borrow fairly liberally as well, there was an official fall site which had a little signature of Mark E Smith and everything to prove it had his lordship's approval, it had all the discogrphy stuff etc and a neat little feature which listed pretty much every riff that The Fall had ever nicked (they did miss a little bit on Code; Selfish which copied a bit on 'Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) but there you go). All of a sudden the site lost it's official status and I can't help but wonder if this was the reason, even though they took this part of the site down, who knows? He's still got a right to be peeved though, and I bet the success of The Arctic Monkeys wound him up no end.

At 9/20/2008 8:17 PM , Blogger jonderneathica said...

You're absolutely right: the Fall borrow liberally, and I think Mark said as much in the VU quote. I knew that he "revoked" the official status of the fan site, but I never thought that might be the reason. A classic example of a stolen riff is Spinal Tap's "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight", which showed up in the Fall's "Athlete Cured".

At 10/09/2008 1:19 PM , Blogger Disco:Very said...

so, like, you're making me take the blame for that Mother & the Addicts purchase, aren't you? That's OK. I have the weight of the world on my shoulders already, what's one more tiny ounce?

At 10/09/2008 4:22 PM , Blogger jonderneathica said...

Mainly I blame the band for failing to live up to the potential of their best song. If they're any kind of self-respecting addicts, they'll hock the synthesizer and get hopped up on goofballs.

You I blame for the mortgage crisis, gas prices, and the war in the Middle East. I'll send a message to Washington by voting against the corporate fat cats at Disco:Very on November 4th.


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