Blind Man, Have Mercy On Me

Many of you are no doubt aware that my favorite band is The Fall, who have just released their millionth album Reformation Post TLC. I’ve been foaming at the mouth about this record for some time now, but I can’t get a copy out here.

The Fall’s imperator-for-life, Mark E. Smith, liquidated yet another lineup of his band while on tour last year. I caught the new guys, who were recruited within a week or so, twice in New York. They’d been in the band about two weeks, and did a fantastic job. The new studio album was recorded during this time, and I hear it might not be so good, but . . . what can you do. It was written and put to tape in less than a month or something. I'm not expecting miracles.

Anyway, I’ve been going through my old Fall shit as I am wont to do when they’re getting ready to put out a new album. There’s a lot of it to get through. I have something like thirty Fall records—that’s most of the studio output, some live stuff, and a couple crappy compilations.

One of the most recent Fall tunes, written by the old, recently shit-canned lineup and now being phased out of live sets, is “Blindness.” There’s a couple versions of this song floating about, but the only good ones are found in 1.) bootlegs, and 2.) the Fall Peel Sessions box set. The Peel Session version is the definitive one.

It’s a real simple tune with a gigantor three-note bassline, occasional guitar miscellany, tape noises, and . . . drums. The drums don’t change much. The song only has one part, although the drums stop at some point and then start again. Meanwhile, MES goes into a vindictive, paranoid harangue.

Blindness seems to involve a narrator with only one good leg, walking down the street. He sees posters with a blind man on them, and the caption “Do You Work Hard?” The narrator is trying to make it home in time for curfew, and begging the blind man for mercy. The song also contains the sort of sideways, cryptic statements of fact/possible insults that Smith is so good at, such as:

You were expecting
Aristotle Onassis
But instead you got
Mr. James Fennings
From Prestwich,
In Cumbria

And it keeps going and going, repetitive and relentless and unchanging.

This song was first recorded for John Peel way back in the olden days of 2004. I listened to it and loved it; later I came to learn that it could very well be a veiled stab at blind British politician David Blunkett. It seems that Blunkett was pushing to end some sort of . . . all right, I don’t know what his deal was, but he was later forced to resign.

I remember saw the old lineup of the band perform Blindness on February 10, 2005. It was a midnight show at the Knitting Factory, and needless to say I was extraordinarily excited. It's hard to describe the gig. It was more or less all new material, as per Fall custom. The band plays with their heads down while their hunched, dour, polished Italian shoe-wearing Kapitan fucks with their amp settings, steals their microphones, shoves them out of the way, and otherwise stalks around them disapprovingly. Kind of like a pissed off owner of a British rooming house, all geared up to collect the rent from his tenants (who he hates).

Over the course of the show, Smith dismantled all of the microphones on the stage. I never saw anything like it. He threw backup mics in the kick drum, sang into two at once, dropped them on the ground, and took one backstage in order to sing unmolested. By the end, the stage was a tangle of knocked over mic stands and cable.

Blindness was the last song before they headed off the stage, and Smith did this unsettling thing where he kept creeping closer to the edge of the stage. As in, I’d glance at the bass player for a second or something, and when I looked back he’d just be closer. By the end, he was just yelling into the air, sans amplification. Then he stumbled through the detritus littering the stage and sang a few lines from the dressing room.

Then it was over, and those guys are gone now. I think they were, like, the 30th or 40th Fall lineup. Should be interesting to see what the new crowd has come up for this Reformation album. God knows how long they’ll last . . .

The ever-awesome Perfumed Garden has a great recent Fall gig available for download on their March 11 post.


Ganch said...

I was at that Fall concert, receiving my girlfriend initiation into Falldom. I have to state that this description of the gig is completely (and hilariously) accurate. The Fall is one of those rare bands that I have come to kinda like because I am just blown away by Mark E Smith's balls of steel and lack of teeth. I love the fact that he exists.

.///_-| said...

Would it be incorrect to presume you haven't been able to steal 'hard to find' music off the internet bountifully? Whenever you mention 'hard to find' music, I think, there's no such thing as 'hard to find' music anymore. I've recently abandoned the music theft program 'acquisition' for the less user-friendly, but far superior in terms of it's omniscience, 'Soul seek' or 'soul seeX' rather, the mac version.

I found 'little black egg' for example, as well as anything else you might want to own and not be apple-store's copy protected bitch.

Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm a musician. But you can't fight the greatest file-sharing system in the world. Hell, the internet is nothing if it's not file-sharing. Let's face it, protecting music has been a lost cause since blank tapes. Musicians need to learn to capitalize on T-shirt sales and touring and other merchandise* (see gazelles). Any monies made from selling the soundwaves themselves are icing on the cake. Let that sweet music be free to dominate and educate the minds of the teenagers as from them stems the dawn of the future. They're after all the only ones who really listen to music.

Would anyone like me to email them 'little black egg?' I'd be delighted.

Melissa said...

Did you see this from earlier this week? I thought of you