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Originally released in 1999 on Artful Records The Marshall Suite is the 21st studio album to be released by the Mancunian punk band The Fall.
The line up
The line up for this recording were -
Mark E. Smith - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboard, Bass
Julia Nagle - Keyboards, guitar, computer programming
Neville Wilding - Guitar, vocals
Adam Halal - Bass guitar
Karen Leatham - Bass guitar
Tom Head - Drums
Steve Hitchcock - Strings
It may look like a large line up but not all of these members played together at the same time. The album was recorded at a turbulent time for the Fall and following an ill-fated tour of America that resulted in singer Mark E Smith being imprisoned in New York. The other fallout (excuse the pun) from the tour was the splitting up of the band and most importantly the loss of long term bassist Steve Hanley who had really defined the bands sound.
Not to let the dust settle around him Mark recorded and released in quite a hurry and this resulted in a sense of urgency and musical chaos seldom seen in the bands prolific output.
At the date of writing the CD was out of print. There was also a limited issue of this on double vinyl that reaches ridiculous amounts of cash when it appears on e-bay!
There are 13 tracks on the CD
Reviewed in the order that they appear on the CD -
Touch Sensitive -
A lot of people reading this will probably have heard this track and not been aware that it was The Fall as it was used by Vauxhall as the music for their Corsa car adverts. Released as a single the song is a quite a poppy song with a really catchy bass riff. The lyrics are pretty lame and not of Marks usual quality. Lines such as "And your dying for a pee so you go behind a tree" could have been written by my young daughter!
F-'Oldin' Money -
This song is a cover of the old rock and roll classic. The song is performed true to the original and is straight 12 bar rock and roll. The lyrics sing of having no money which is a subject that I'm sure we can all identify with! It's a tight and powerful rendition. The track is the only other song that has been released from this album.
I'd heard a version of this song on a session the band did for John Peel, prior to the albums release. The song was disjointed chaotic and raw. The album has somehow managed to turn that chaos and anger into what could only be described as a Drum and Bass track!
There are loads of echoed shouting vocals over the chaotic drum beat and guitar scratching in old school style. Marks lyrics are equally as abrasive, the line "Eyeball injecting domestos" jumps to mind!
In total contrast to the previous song this song could be off an old Motown compilation. The song skips along with a nice clear guitar sound and some good vocal delivery from Mark who sounds lucid and focused. There are lots of references to "The Marshall is crying in the rain", which is a theme on several songs. I speculate that Mark refers to himself as a Marshall who has lost control over his domain.
This Perfect Day -
Another cover version and this time it's of the classic track from punk legends The Saints. The vocals on this track and are good and it is far better than a version of the song that was earlier released as a B-Side and had Mark singing falsetto!
(Jung Nev's) Antidotes -
In yet another musical twist the song shouts rock at you. The metal onslaught of riffs and screaming synthesizer line could have been taken straight off a later Killing Joke album! It's the first outing of the lyrics on this album and the vocals are echoed and shouted. In fact the whole song is crushing and apocalyptic.
Once again the next track is in sheer contrast with its predecessor. The song that is quite is heavily featured around a catchy bass line and reedy sounding organ. Mark's lyrics are equally as subdued.
There are even vocal harmonies in this song!
Anecdotes+Antidotes in B# -
The second outing of the antidotes lyrics and this time the music is altogether different. Instead of a metal onslaught this time we have a funk guitar riff ladled with wah wah and the track has a DIY home recording feel about it.
Early Life of Crying Marshall -
This is an introduction to the crying marshal song. It is less than a minute of snippets of strings, guitar tuning and wayward keyboard programming.
Crying Marshall -
After the cacophonic build up the song breaks into what sounds like a backing track to some industrial rap song. The drum break beat is fat and solid and could have come straight off a Chemical Brothers record. Over the top of this is an eighties style rock lead sample lots of "Oh yeah" vocal samples and Mark who speaks more than sings the tale of a Marshall!
Birthday Song -
Another change and next up is an electronica style song which has bubbling analogue keyboards and lush strings. The drum machine is plain and repetitive and the piano notes could be straight off of an Ultravox track. The spoken lyrics sound sad and are pensive and reflective. I think that despite the delivery of the vocals they are definitely the best lyrics on the album.
Mad. Men-Eng, Dog -
Mark rants and raves about Madmen and The English. Over a background track that sounds like a thousand crickets in a jungle. The result is a scratchy and percussive track which is totally mad. The song then drifts into obscurity.
On My Own -
Taking the piano riff from "Everybody but myself" from the bands previous album this song is total stripped down to piano, synthesizers and Marks vocal. Its bareness is quite profound as it does conjure up the image of Mark being out on a limb and in solitude which was quite apt considering the destruction of his band prior to recording the album. Mark once again mentions the "Sheriff", a theme throughout.
After the chaos and implosion of the band on their American tour I was really surprised at Mark's ability to regroup and continue with The Fall.
Whether or not he had something to prove to himself or the exiled members is unclear but what is clear is the scrappiness of this album and the feeling that some of the songs were scrabbled together quickly so that a product could be released. The use of antidote lyrics twice would support this theory.
Despite the rush and revolving door personnel line ups of the band, there are still moments of genius on the album though these are however overshadowed by the less endearing tracks. One for the fans I would say.
Price and availability
The CD was currently out of print at the date of writing but copies of the CD were available from the Amazon Marketplace www.amazon.com .
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Touch Sensitive
2 F-'Oldin' Money
5 This Perfect Day
6 Antidotes (Jung Nev's)
8 Anecdotes + Antidotes In B #
9 Early Life Of Crying Marshal
10 Crying Marshal
11 Birthday Song
13 On My Own