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Member Name: otalgia
This Nation's Saving Grace - The Fall
Advantages: Great music and lyrics
Disadvantages: Still a bit odd for some people!
"This nations saving grace" is the 9th studio album by the cult Mancunian band The Fall.
Released in 1985 on Beggars Banquet Records the album catches The Fall blending post-punk pop and darker industrial sounds. The album continued in a similar vein to its predecessor "The Wonderful and Frightening world of The Fall" and had a brief stint in the UK album charts.
The band feature the classic line up of -
Mark E Smith - Vocals, Guitar
Craig Scanlon - Guitars
Steve Hanley - Bass Guitar
Brix Smith - Guitar and Backing Vocals
Simon Rogers - Keyboards, Guitars
Karl Burns - Drums
The influence of Brix Smiths guitar playing is really noticeable on this album and lends a pop overtone to the album which otherwise would sound have sounded darker and claustrophobic.
There are 11 tracks on the original album, which is what I have reviewed. There have been several re-issues of this album with single tracks and b-sides added but all of focused around the original songs reviewed here.
The opening track "Mansion" is a slow tempo instrumental track. Despite being a short song it showcases the sound scheme that dominates throughout the album; crashing drums, catchy guitar hooks, repetition and deep driving bass lines.
With the introduction out of the way the next song "Bombast" has Mark shouting through a megaphone in a confident manner -
"All those whose mind entitles themselves,
and whose main entitle is themselves,
shall feel the wrath of my bombast!"
The song's minimal amount of lyrics are more than made up for by the hooky tune that is repetitively drilled into your cranium like ticks on a loused dog!
The next track "Barmy" is a little musically lighter and centres around a plucked guitar riff that is bordering on pop rock. Mark declares that he is "Barmy" however the lyrics mention age, retirement and death so it's possibly a song about senile dementia. As always, the lyrics are open to individual interpretation so I could be way off the mark!
"What You Need" carries on in a similar fashion to "Barmy" but is a little more stripped down in sound. The song centres on a warped guitar riff and some nice Organ interjections. The whole band are shouting the line "What you need" and Mark states that an item you need is an oven mitt to cope with what he refers to as "your verbose kitchen"; he's right the lyrics are hot!.
Next up is the feisty and rocking "Spoilt Victorian Child". It's a cracker of a song and has a really quirky fast tune and some great vocals that have Mark singing a tale against Class in his own inimitable and unique style.
The pace is kept up and the next track "L.A." is Brix Smith's swansong. The song is an ode to the guitarist's hometown and has the familiar sound of a single stringed guitar riff. Brix sings "This is my happening and it freaks me out" which was quite an apt way of describing the uniqueness of the band at this point in time.
A tribal drumbeat and crashing toms introduce "Gut of the Quantifier" which continues in a similar upbeat fashion. The song has great lyrics that address amongst other themes pop sensibility -
"I'm not saying they're really thick,
But all the groups who've hit it big,
Make the Kane Gang look like,
an Einstein chip!"
The next track "My New House" is introduced by a two chord guitar intro played by Mark. The two note pop song continues in a light and bouncy style with Mark singing sarcastically about the wonders of his new house. Lyrical snatches of "Pills", "Razor Blades" & "Swine-Tax" aptly set the tone of the song. For the trainspotters out there the song was given a ferocious cover version by New York art-rockers Sonic Youth for a John Peel session.
The next track "Paintwork" sounds like it's been recorded in a kitchen. There are lots of conversations, TV interjections and what sounds like cutlery clanking away in the background. Underneath the rubble of this noise is a catchy acoustic guitar tune that plonks away happily over a retro sounding drum machine. The lyrics are like snippets from a diary. The vocals seem to address people that are unhappy about change and are perturbed by the Mark's travel into unconventionality -
"And sometimes they say 'Hey Mark you're spoiling all the paintwork'
And sometimes they say 'Your thumbprints are on the paintwork' "
"I Am Damo Suzuki" is the next track and a fitting tribute to the great front man of Krautrock pioneers Can (a band that Smith often cites as an influence). It's a difficult track that starts off with a slow musical tune that gains more gusto and power as it progresses through several loops. By the end of the song it's really picked up pace and is a rewarding listen.
The albums closing track "To Nkroachment: Yarbles" is an expanded and much more sinister sounding version of the albums opening track "Mansion". It's got lyrics this time and Mark is in good vocal form and sings an appropriate closure to the album -
"All the good times are past and gone,
Wipe the tears from your eyes son"
The "Beggars Years" as they are affectionately referred to by many fans was undoubtedly an exciting period for the Fall. The music was challenging and the lyrics were inspiring and this combination was a match made in heaven.
The album demonstrates a great mesh of styles that made the songs accessible yet equally obscure in a Yin and Yan type of relationship and has an equal balance of normality and strangeness which makes it an enthralling listen.
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Summary: The Fall's 9th Studio album