Wednesday, February 08, 2006
"I don't know if he's killing them or what."
It's no secret. Mark E. Smith is the most difficult boss in the world. The sheer scope of personnel-changes within The Fall is staggering, but luckily, we've been blessed with a few excellent post-Smith creations from survivors over the years, namely the Blue Orchids (formed by ex-Fall members Martin Bramah and Una Baines in 1979) and the Creepers (Marc Riley's band, founded in 1983 after his much-mythologized 1982 exit from The Fall).
The fate of ex-Fall members, many of which seem to have completely vanished from sight after their time in the band, is often speculated upon, with a quote about Mark E. Smith's possible employment-termination technique from the late John Peel being particularly amusing: "I don't know if he's killing them or what.". Amazingly, Dave Simpson tracked down over 40 ex-members for an excellent recent article in the Guardian entitled "Excuse me, weren't you in The Fall?".
The Creepers were, for the most part, a much rowdier proposition than Riley's previous band. There's something lovably ramshackle about them, a big puppy dog clumsiness that's hard to resist over the course of their six albums. They sound like the kind of guys you'd wanna have a few pints with. Our featured cut from the Creepers today is from their final studio album, 1987's Rock & Roll Liquorice Flavour.
Liquorice Flavour - The Creepers (MP3, 192kpbs/3.9MB)
Blue Orchids is a paranoid pop party hit that time forgot, something you can blast on the hi-fi while the kids light the couch ablaze and jump on the coffee table. This track originally appeared as the b-side of 1981's "Work" single, but the version featured here today is a 1980 Peel Session track. The Orchids went on to release a clutch of fine singles and albums, eventually hooking up with Nico, serving as her backing band for a 1982 tour of Holland. LTM's wonderful anthology (featuring Peel Sessions, live tracks and a few rarities) From Severe To Serene is a fine place to start.
The House That Faded Out (1980 Peel Session) - Blue Orchids (MP3, 192kpbs, 4.8MB)
Remarkably, the Blue Orchids have recently rebanded, and have a new mini-album, Slum Cavern Jest out now. There's all the info you need right here, at the band's official site.
While both of these groups found their own sound away from Smith's prior influence, they both sort of carried on the grand tradition of spooky Fall classics like "A Figure Walks" or "Spectre vs. Rector" from time to time. There's been a long-running undercurrent of ghost stories and supernatural weirdness to Smith's lyrics, but it's always been tempered with enough smarts and wit to be genuinely entertaining and non-schlocky. It comes across in the Fall's 80's sound, as well, with the foggy murk of 1983's Perverted By Language being perhaps my favorite example of the band at their atmospheric, grotty best.
Back in a few days with a Scottish 80's jangle-pop obscuro treat. See you then...