The Fall

A Past Gone Mad

The Best Of The Fall 1990 - 2000

A Past Gone Mad is a slightly patchy compilation of their output between 1990 and 2000, compiled by Fall fanatic, music journalist and comedian Stewart Lee, half of erstwhile duo Lee and Herring. Lee even incorporated his love of the fall into their comedy; their BBC 2 show This Morning With Richard, Not Judy featured a sketch called The Curious Orange about a giant orange who was curious about things, during which they played Kurious Oranj by the Fall. Seriously, it seemed pretty funny at the time.

Lee describes the compilation as "an attempt to make sense of the most confusing period in The Fall's quarter century history". Of course, the compilation isn't perfect; Lee himself says "a Fall fan of 25 years has already written to Artful Records saying 'Where's Ol' Gang, Idiot Joy Showland, Married 2 Kids? Where's Chisellers? Where's Steve Hanley?' Meanwhile, the head of Artful Records has asked me if 10 Houses Of Eve can be removed as it contains too many notes, and if it's possible to re-EQ everything, so that it sounds more like Garbage." It's an interesting enough compilation, with added value provided by Lee's slightly crawling, but all the more amusing for it, sleeve notes.

Track Listing:

  1. The CD in Your Hand (From The Post Nearly Man)
    Interesting excerpt from Mark E. Smith's spoken word album. "Moderninity - what it means to you and I and this CD you hold in your hand".
  2. Touch Sensitive (From The Marshall Suite)
    Fun single. It sounds a bit like a cross between a big fifties rocker and an Oasis song (like Don't Look Back In Anger or Whatever...)...only not quite...also features a nicely effective string section, and an unholy choir of Mark E. Smiths yelling "Hey hey hey hey!". Sasha Gabba Hey! recently informed me that this track has been used in an ad by Vauxhall. The mind boggles.
  3. High Tension Line (From Shift Work)
    "Life is nothing more than a disposable facial tissue in a brass bin at dawn" apparently. Nice wiry guitar work and strong bassline.
  4. Rose (From Shift Work)
    A rare moment of tenderness from Mr Smith. Low key, slightly melancholy keyboards dominate this tune, with Mark sounding more subdued than usual.
  5. The Birmingham School of Business School (From Code: Selfish)
    Stewart Lee's sleeve notes completely ruin this song. Well, not ruin, but... He says "It is typical of MES' genius to realise that using the word school twice in the title here helps to point out the absurdity of the continuing existence of Birmingham". There is such a thing as over-explication...
  6. Free Range (From Code: Selfish)
    A great rant against the E.U., or E.E.C. as it was at the time. The music is slightly claustrophobic techno guitar thang, like much of the Fall's 90's work.
  7. Lost in Music (From The Infotainment Scan)
    The Fall show Sister Sledge how to do it properly! Mark adapts the 70's disco classic to accomodate the problem of "Brick house refurbishment of pubs in the hideaway". Excellent stuff, and it's still danceable!
  8. I'm Going to Spain (From The Infotainment Scan)
    (c)all's writeup on the song says nearly everything. Except that Stewart Lee hilariously adds that "Mark Smith is arguably the greatest living interpreter of S. Bent's astonishing legacy of song". You have to wonder exactly how serious (or sober) Stew was when writing these notes...
  9. It's a Curse (From The Infotainment Scan)
    Mark bashes all the 70's-80's nostalgia that was going on in the music press at the time - "Balti and Vimto and Spangles were always crap, regardless of the look back bores".
  10. A Past Gone Mad (From The Infotainment Scan)
    More nostalgia bashing, as well as Mark hoping to stay crazy..."If I ever end up like Ian McShane slit my throat with a kitchen tool/And if I ever end up like U2 slit my throat with a garden vegetable". Hardly a great track, but the title was just perfect for the compilation...
  11. Behind the Counter (From Middle Class Revolt)
    Not much idea what Mark's on about here, but the music is pleasant indie; when released as an EP, it actually got play-listed.
  12. Hey Student (From Middle Class Revolt)
    Hoorah! The return of Mancabilly! Great rocker, reminiscent of something like Container Drivers off Grotesque (After the Gramme), about how Mark wants to kill caricature-ised students. And why shouldn't he?
  13. Ten Houses of Eve (From Levitate)
    Astonishing song from a band in turmoil. Drum'n'bass clatter, with a pastoral keyboard middle-eight, and more inexplicable Smith lyrics:
    "If only the shards would relocate back in place
    In your blue green and grey heart
    Bedecked in lace
    If only thoust could
    In a rap sort of style
  14. F-'Oldin' Money (From The Marshall Suite)
    Another brilliant 50's cover from the Fall (see also Rollin' Dany). This rocks.
  15. Shake Off (From The Marshall Suite)
    Yawn. Not the most inspired moment on The Marshall Suite, an album of which Stew seems to be overly fond. Big beats and fuzzy guitars.
  16. Jung Nev's Antidotes (From The Marshall Suite)
    A relative of Led Zepplin's Kashmir; ergo, a big, fuzz-toned beast of a song, with mounds of guitar feedback in its fiery heart.
  17. Bonkers in Phoenix (From Cerebral Caustic)
    Odd duet of sorts between Mark and his ex, Brix Smith. The whole thing is a piss-take of the whole festival scene; Phoenix is/was (?) one of the larger British summer music festivals.
  18. Bill Is Dead (From Extricate)
    One of the best tracks on the album, this is beautiful. Namechecked by Brett Anderson in These Are The Sad Songs. Kind of wistful, this could possibly be Mark reminiscing on his teenage years. Or, knowing Mr Smith, it could be the results of a conversation with the inmates of an asylum....

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