Friday, December 15, 2006

Fall marathon 3: Hex Enduction Hour


There's a moment during Hex Enduction Hour that seems like an encapsulation of everything that's great about this record. we're at the end of the near 8 minute lanquid spinning of "Hip Priest", which fades away, to be replaced by... a bontempi organ beat. This is wildly incongruous, and very funny. That is then swamped by a fierec guitar attack reminiscent of the Magic Band or Zappa, which then seques into a driving garage beat, before ending up in the same territory as the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray", wailing organ and all. And this all happens in the space of about 2 minutes. But without ever sounding like anyone other than the Fall.
This is the sound of a band on the verge of combustion, the savagery and violence of the invective on opener "The Classical" palpable. There's a story that, incredibly, The Fall almost signed for Motown during this period. It never happened, and you have to wonder what they made of the tape they were sent of this, Mark E. Smith spitting out such user-friendly lines as "Where are the obligatory niggers? Hey there, Fuck Face! Hey there Fuck Face!" As he spews out bile in the general direction of British pop culture. "Jawbone and the Air-Rifle" adopts a wryer tone... "Who'd have thought they would do harm?" asks Smith in a mild tone that belies the subject matter of war and violence. "Hip Priest" was memorably used in "The Silence of the Lambs", and it's easy to see why, its languid spinning paranoia and mantra-like delivery providing a chilling contrast to what's gone before. That's what this record's about, really - long quiet, bleak expanses punctuated by sudden violent, frenzied activity, often laced with black humour. It's like a cut-up presentation of the Apocalypse.

By the time we get to "Iceland" it feels we're on the other side of the universe from "The Classical", floating in a sparse and pallid landscape.

Then we're abruptly dragged into "And This Day", a relentless march that takes us further beyond. it makes me think of those characters of lovecraft, abandoned in the antarctic wastes, attempting to articulate the undescribable majestical horrors they have witnessed. Ai Cthuhlu! An appropriate reaction, I think, considering thast at the time the band thought this might be their final album. If it had all imploded, this would have been one hell of an exit. There's so much depth to this record, compared to the vapid posturing that makes up so many bands' output. It's a record that needs to exist.

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