Old fart that I am, I’m still shattered from my three nights out in five days* so I’ve chosen something short, awkward and generally ornery today, The Fall Telephone Thing 12″. I really like the Fall but I don’t listen to them a whole lot and to be frank I wouldn’t want to meet a person who did – I would imagine the affect of consuming that much weapons-grade wilfulness would warp you like the trees you see on heathland, all gnarled and bent out of shape by the constant howling winds. I don’t own many Fall records, even though I like them a lot – it’d be too dangerous for a real obsessive like me to cut loose on their back catalogue.
‘Telephone Thing’ was like nothing else the fall had ever done at the time, it was thanks to a masterful mixing job by Coldcut a shifting indie techno thingy**, Steve Hanley’s bass being much to the fore. The heft and bounce of the music, replete with treated guitar squalls and keys was so far ahead of its time in 1990 it was untrue and unlike a lot of rock-dance hybrids of that era, it still sounds great today. ‘Telephone Thing’ was released on their Extricate LP, but its sound would go on to inform ’93s The Infotainment Scan, an LP that still sounds way ahead of the curve, then and now.
But I digress, as always with the Fall it’s Mark E. Smith and his extraordinary lyrics and vocals that are the main attraction. He doesn’t disappoint. Here he sounds like he’s singing from a corridor just outside the main room and pronounces lines such as,
I hear you telephone thing listening in
I feel you telephone thing listening in
How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you?
You Gretchen Franklin nosey matron thing
Your smug advertisements
Of your tendril ocean bed achievements does not
Justify your abuse of privacy piracy act
Like it was the most natural thing in the world and you know, in context it makes perfect sense at the time – just like that one really bad idea you get when you’re hopelessly drunk. The fact remains that, despite what Mrs 1537 says, this is a great track.
Obviously huge credit must go to Coldcut for their production and input – the origins for ‘Telephone Thing’ lay in Smith’s participation on one of their earlier tracks, they mix this tune without imposing themselves too much on the source, in fact they amplify its idiosyncrasies which I find rare for remixers, who in general just tend to stamp their brand all over their victims. The final track on the 12″, ‘Telephone Dub’ is just that really, a deeper more instrumental version, it’s fine but not worth listening to more than, ooh, five times in your life.
The ‘proper’ B-side is the splendidly named ‘British People In Hot Weather’, where over a full Fall indie beat and cheap synth effects, Mark E. Smith gets to cut loose on other people’s foibles and, you know what I’m with him on this one. Denizens of warmer climates let me explain, give us Brits an afternoon of sunshine and suddenly we head for the nearest stretch of sand, or grass en masse, baring our unshapely white bodies in an act of worship to the sun-god and drinking cheap lager; I don’t of course, I’m far too middle-class and sneery for all that. If we get two days of continuous sunshine then we declare a national state of emergency and start banning the use of hosepipes to conserve water; like it doesn’t fall from the skies in large quantities for the rest of the year! We’re pretty weird, but then so are most nations looked at from the outside.
Anyway, MES gets to rant on, chuckling to himself in a manner reminiscent of a slightly mad tramp who’s been hitting the solvents and crème de menthe in a churchyard all afternoon, about,
Fill green envelopes and send them to ya
On train ride, read Marx tracts
Play walkmans loud behind ya
Demonstrate on Oxford Street
About what the Hell they couldn’t tell ya
British people in hot weather
Have a heart-to-heart with your sister
People in shorts drunk before ya
Beached whale in Wapping
His armpit hairs are sprouting
Serpentine ah…. Serpentine grrr…
British people in hot weather
As always I just love the way that simply by sticking ‘ya’, or adding the syllable ‘uh’ to the end of every line, MES worked out that you can make anything rhyme with anything – even orange. True story.
*Mrs 1537 and I saw Season’s Greetings by Alan Ayckbourn last night; basically a very funny play about how ghastly family Christmases can be. It’s just how we roll.
**I know, I know, it’s this level of insight that keeps you from straying away from 1537 for a second.