The Fall – Shake-Off

To be honest, I should have really included around fifty Fall songs on this blog by now. Maybe more. But the idea was that I wouldn’t repeat anything by the same artist. I’m not sure why.

This is kind of The Fall at their most elemental: pounding drums and Mark E Smith’s voice right to the fore. Beneath it all, and rising throughout, an ominous, orchestral hum that drives it on and eventually slams it home. It is, by any measure, thrilling stuff.

(I use the word ‘thrilling’ far too often in this blog.)

Lyrically, it’s cryptic enough but you can guess that it’s about drugs or homemade drugs or something. There’s mention of Simple Minds reforming (not a good thing, obviously), dads playing guitars all night and the “two true pseuds” – although I’ve always reckoned it’s the “‘too true’ pseuds”. As in people who say ‘too true’.

What makes the song particularly wonderful though is Smith’s voice. Clear, authoritative, sneering, sarcastic… all the things that make him so unique. But here you also get the impression he’s putting a little more effort in, using his voice as an instrument and filling the vocal with odd tics and turns such as:

The way the word “container” (at 1:55) melts and twists. The emphases on “natter” at 2:07. The way he pronounces “pseud” as “sehrd” at 1:12. In fact, the whole thing: the mispronunciations, using the wrong words, the gibberish that makes perfect sense. Etc.

It’s a fantastic – and yes, thrilling – performance that puts tears in my eyes and gets me on the edge of my seat. Every single time.


About Paul Saxton

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