Since the late ’70s, The Fall has been the crap that talks back. As the late, great John Peel so aptly put it, The Fall always sounds different, the Fall always sounds the same. This is because of the sole constant in the band, the man who seemingly says “unh” after every phrase in his hectoring Mancunian accent, Mark E. Smith. Whether it’s careening off-kilter rockabilly or heavily electronic music, Smith’s torrent of acidic observations and musical adaptability have made The Fall one of the greatest bands ever, whose influence is immeasurable. In honor of Mr. Smith, please grab your iPod or MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first ten tunes:
Cheap Trick — Can’t Hold On (Cheap Trick At Budokan: The Complete Concert): Originally released on the Found All The Parts 10” EP, this track was resurrected when the band reissued it’s classic Live At Budokan album as a 2 CD set with all the songs played at the original series of concerts at the venue. While I can understand why this song didn’t make any of the band’s first three albums, it’s a really good anguished power ballad (and I mean power ballad in a good way, not a cheesy hair metal band way) which showcases Robin Zander’s amazing powerhouse vocals and features typically wonderful guitar work from Rick Nielsen.
Superdrag — What If You Don’t Fly (Regretfully Yours): Superdrag is a disciple of Cheap Trick, The Raspberries and Paul McCartney with beefy guitars (all the better to compete with all those alternative rockers in the ’90s), and this is a swell power pop tune. I became a convert to Superdrag when they performed at a Belmont-Sheffield street festival and overcame the ramshackle stage and poor P.A. and put on a great performance.
The Go-Go’s — Beatnik Beach (Vacation): Vacation is definitely a sophomore slump type of album, not nearly as good as the albums which bookended it. The songs just weren’t consistently strong. This surf rock goof isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but it’s fun and that’s a good enough reason to have it on my iPod.
Wipers — So Young (Over The Edge): Perhaps because they were located in the Pacific Northwest, the Wipers have not received the attention that Mission Of Burma (who has covered them live) did. Their music isn’t exactly the same, but I think Wipers, MoB and Chicago’s own Effigies explored a particularly punky niche of post-punk that still sounds thrilling to this day. Frontman Greg Sage wrote edgy, dramatic songs, such as this track, and then added his masterful guitar playing. You can get the first three Wipers albums, with bonus tracks, in a box set that is less than three sawbucks. Such a bargain.
The Move — My Marge (Great Move: The Best Of The Move): A bit of a music hall/novelty number from the great Birmingham band. This is somewhat in the vein of “When I’m 64”. A trifle.
Little Esther and Mel Walker — Cupid’s Boogie (The Roots Of Rock ‘n’ Roll): As the title might indicate, this is a blues boogie woogie number. Esther and Mel have a nice back-and-forth duet, bursting with personality. Nice, but not amazing.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience — You Got Me Floatin’ (Axis: Bold As Love): I think Lenny Kravitz based part of his sound on this one Hendrix tune (especially his hit “Are You Gonna Go My Way”). This is all about the insistent rhythm pounded out by Mitch Mitchell and complimented by Hendrix’s riffing. The chorus is a modified R & B soul shout. It’s kind of like a rocked up Sly and the Family Stone track.
The Bobby Fuller Four — Only When I Dream (Never To Be Forgotten: The Mustang Years): The heir apparent to the Texas pop-rock legacy of Buddy Holly, Fuller, as many of you probably know, was found dead in his car in L.A. and the mystery of who killed him has never been solved. In addition to “I Fought the Law” (which was written by Sonny Curtis of The Crickets), Fuller left some great soaring pop tunes, like this one, that builds on Holly and The Everlys.
Beastie Boys — Car Thief (Paul’s Boutique): When Paul’s Boutique came out, it took a bit of an adjustment, because it was so much funkier and less rocking than Licensed To Ill. But the adjustment was easy, as the album was so bloody brilliant. This was the end of the unfettered sampling era, and the sheer volume of samples on this disc is staggering. And it shows how, when done right, multiple samples are really an art form and hip-hop has been diminished in some respects when the law got in the way. Oh well. At least we have albums like this and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising.
Crowded House — All I Ask (Woodface): A lush retro-pop ballad from the Aussie-Kiwi superstars. By retro, I mean ’40s style pop, with strings and everything. A swell detour from the band’s best selling international album, with a very nice vocal from Tim Finn, on the one album where he was part of his younger brother Neil’s band.