Review Summary: "I see no commercial potential in this band whatsoever." Motown Records
By 1982, The Fall had carved themselves a reputation as one of the most intriguing and unique bands in the British music scene. They first arrived as part of the punk explosion in the late 70s but quickly evolved into something darker, edgier and ultimately more forward thinking than some of their counterparts, therefore emerging as one of the first post-punk bands. Due to his disillusionment with the music industry, Fall leader/vocalist (and only constant member) Mark E Smith set out to record ‘Hex Enduction Hour’ which he envisioned to be the groups last album.
Partly recorded in Iceland; there is certainly something quite bleak and cold about ‘Hex’. It is a complex gem of intense alternative music. Featuring not one, but two drummers, the album starts with the rolling drums of ‘The Classical’ a song that builds up a prominent bass line with Smith spitting out his bitter lyrics casually until he reaches the hate-filled line “Hey there *** face! Hey there *** face!” and then the song explodes with anthemic fury. Five minutes of pure hatred encapsulated in musical form. Some simple but strong guitar work towards the end fits Smith’s sardonic exclamation of “I’ve never felt better in my life”.
From then on we are treated with some of the fiercest and uncompromising post-punk songs ever committed to a record, full of constantly shifting rhythms and the sharp noisy guitar attacks of Craig Scanlon (arguably the best guitarist to pass though The Fall). The song styles range from rowdy rockers such as ‘Mere Pseud Mag. Ed’ and ‘Just Step S’ways’ to the downbeat and menacing ‘Hip Priest’, a song which seethes and bubbles with a disdain for musical conventions.
The albums centrepiece is the two-part epic ‘Winter’ which begins with a plodding base line that remains the same throughout the first part of the song allowing the rest of the musicians to play in a free and loose style over the top. It is a perfect vehicle for Smith’s lyrics which to lot of people are the best thing about The Fall. He has a wonderful way of realising the profound strangeness of everyday life. Despite the claustrophobic and nightmarish themes of his lyrics he manages to add slices of comic relief to them, in same fashion as writers such as William Burroughs and Charles Bukowski.
“The mad kid walked left-side south-side towards me
He was about 7
His mother was a cleaning lady
She had a large black dog
And the mad kid said:
"Gimme the lead
Gimme the lead
Gimme the lead”
Lyrics like this seem to have a blunt simplicity to them but they delivered with such snarling passion that they dig into your consciousness and conjure up images of England at its most dark and most real.
Upon its release it received mostly positive criticism inspiring Smith to continue The Fall instead of disbanding. If this had been their last album it would have been a fitting epitaph for it encompasses everything that makes the band so endearing; well-observed lyrics, unusual compositions and a rebellious maverick attitude. It is a timeless recording, an abstract slab of intense noise and cryptic wordplay. It is not any easy album to listen to or grasp, but its well worth an investment of money, time and thought.
P.S. This is my first review so be gentle :)