The Fall – ‘New Face In Hell’

A couple of weeks ago, when ‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke out of Motörhead became the last member of their original line-up to pass on, a Motörhead single was selected as Record of the Day out of respect. With the sad death this week of Mark E Smith – and with it the end of The Fall too – a similar gesture is required again. This is despite the fact that another record had already been chosen and was ready to go. MES – awkward bugger to the last.

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This isn’t an obituary. There have been plenty of them over the last few days. Some of them, from the mainstream media have been awful; struggling to explain the enduring appeal of this resolutely uncommercial artist and his band. But most have been wonderful – a collection of anecdotes and recollections from those that knew him and those that just admired his work. There have been some fascinating insights into the man’s unique character, describing a proud, acerbic, caring, volatile, quick-witted, funny, fiercely intelligent and endlessly creative one-off.

Having reviewed their singles collection for 50thirdand3rd at the end of last year I’d had a couple of months off listening to The Fall. Since Wednesday, I’ve been playing them again to be instantly reminded, for the umpteenth time what a genius, challenging, funny and entertaining band they are. Probably 50+ of their songs could’ve comfortably made Record of the Day. New Face In Hell got the nod pretty randomly. It’s as brilliant as anything else they did in the early-’80s, when they were arguably at their peak.

It’s possibly based to some extent on the 1968 George Peppard film P.J. which was released in Britain with the title New Face In Hell. Possibly not though, it’s never straightforward with MES. What you do get though is a crisply delivered piece of punk poetry about a ‘wireless enthusiast’ getting involved in some sort of murderous government plot, set to a repetitious two chord riff, reminiscent of The Velvet Underground’s What Goes On and embellished with a kazoo.

There were rumours about Mark E Smith’s deteriorating health at the time The Fall’s singles collection was released. Around that time, he had appeared bloated and had performed gigs from a wheelchair and even from the dressing room. But we trusted that he would live forever through sheer stubbornness, in spite of his lifestyle, like an underground, working-class Keith Richards. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. But he lived his life exactly how he wanted to live it right to the end – making the music he wanted to listen to because nobody else did.

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Nick Perry

Nick writes fact, fiction and opinion in various places including
his music blog His musical tastes cover indie, grunge, golden-era hip hop, punk, funk, psychedelia and a big portion of distortion. You can and should follow him on Twitter @NoiseCrumbs.

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