Various Artists Before The Fall Review

Released 2011.  

BBC Review

An odd but extremely enjoyable, rebellious and esoteric jukebox selection.

John Doran 2011

When asked by this writer what cult albums all serious music junkies should own, Mark E. Smith declined to answer, saying it would be like "casting pearls before swine". To be fair, it was a (knowingly) redundant question. As with the meaning to his lyrics and his influences, the answer is (partially) right there in the music of The Fall, for those willing to put in the graft. Prestwich’s premier "Country and Northern" group have covered some 60 songs in their 35-year career. It would be daft to suggest that all of them reveal some great insight into their music, but when a carefully selected compilation of original tracks (like the 24 presented here) is put together it, can be a revelation.

A lot of groups choose cover versions out of sheer perversity and Greater Manchester’s post-punk survivors are no different. But this compilation, put together by Daniel Maier, chooses to skip Hark the Herald Angels Sing and The Beatles’ A Day in the Life in favour of more representational nuggets. (There is only one of these student-friendly songs represented here: Sister Sledge’s Lost in Music, and even this will sound odd to The Fall fanatic without an angry Lancastrian barking "Le money est sur le table" through a loud-hailer over the top.) Instead we have the far more interesting and anti-canonical Beatle Bones ‘n’ Smokin’ Stones, in original form by the recently deceased Don Van Vliet aka Captain Beefheart – one of the few musical icons Smith is candid about his love for.

The Fall didn’t record a ‘proper’ studio cover version until signing to Beggars Banquet and releasing Rolling Dany (sic) as a the flip to Couldn’t Get Ahead in 1985. Along with the growing prominence of Smith’s wife Brix in the group, this really signalled that they had cast off the last vestiges of punk’s influence and were about to enter an imperial period of sorts. All through the Beggars years their covers would be essentially faithful, such as their rendering of The Kinks’ Victoria, which still to this day is their only hit single. So this compilation gets more and more interesting as it progresses. With extensive notes and illustration by The Wire illustrator Savage Pencil (who takes his name from a Fall lyric), this album represents an odd but extremely enjoyable, rebellious and esoteric jukebox selection.

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