The Fall’s method is so simple – old man yells amelodically over a three chord barrage of guitar chug and drum pound with (sometimes) hypnotic bass – that you’d think they’d have influenced more bands (a few off the top of my head: early Pavement, early Parquet Courts, a small selection of LCD Soundsystem songs). Maybe because Mark E. Smith’s style was so inimitable? Listen to how he seethes the last syllable in one of the two most memorable lines of “The Classical”: “Hey there, fuck-face.”
An interesting thought: what song would you want to experience for the first time, just to have your mind blown all over again? “The Classical” is definitely on that list; Hex Enduction Hour was the first Fall album I ever heard not knowing what I was getting into. Within moments, I was getting pummeled by the attack of two drummers that sounded like Jaki Liebezeit on overdrive (it takes two to be him) and creating a very tribal-like rhythm; someone saying “There is no culture…” before yelling “Where are the obligatory niggers” near moments later. And somehow having enough space for some cowbell taps (at the 1:25 mark; cowbells, in a song like this? Whodathought?) and some semblance of tune; though Mark Prindle calls the melody “basic”, I like how it sets you up for Mark E. Smith’s “I’ve never felt better in my life.” Were it not for Kate Bush’s The Dreaming and Laurie Anderson’s Big Science, I’d easily declare this the best opener of 1982.
Nothing else on this album comes close, certainly not even “Hip Priest,” the other famous one (because it pops up during the climax of Silence of the Lambs). The one that comes closest is “Who Makes the Nazis,” the best song on the second half with an oddball, cow-like vocal, one of the most prominent bass-lines on the album and MES asking the difficult questions. Which isn’t to say that there’s anything bad – they were incapable of writing a bad
song groove at this point – and there’s plenty of fun to be had in the surprisingly hooky “Jawbone and the Air-Rifle” or hypnotic “Iceland” or explosive “Winter (Hostel-Maxi)” or the comparatively upbeat guitar of “Just Step S’ways”. Or, lyrically, in Mark E. Smith putting down the Eastern Bloc or the entirety of Iceland so casually. And even ignoring minor problems like wishing Mark E. Smith went further with the Spanish guitar thread on “Mere Pseud Mag. Ed.” or that the kazoo solo that ends “Who Makes the Nazis?” and the keyboard the opens “Fortress / Deer Park” were more integrated with the rest of the song (compare to the keyboard of “Winter 2,” that more than justifies another 4 and a half minutes of the same chord), Hex Enduction Hour‘s minimalism makes it much more mood-dependent than the other big Fall album (the one that pairs the minimalism down to proper songs, or the closest the Fall ever got to songs). This one’s for bitter moods on gloomy days. The first song’ll get you going no matter what mood you’re in.