Post-punk was the order of the night and Orion lived up to the label by diving deep into effect-laden guitar, melodic bass and stentorian vocals; the hallmarks of bands such as Joy Division and The Cure. Backed by the cold repetition of a drum machine they impressed in their ability to conjure no-frills melancholic music that hit an emotional sweet spot as readily as it invited the dance floor.
With a debut album only just released and critical acclaim already flowing their way, Gold Class hit the stage looking the part of a band already carefully considering their visual image. With guitarists in matching black t-shirts, and frontman Adam Curley in buttoned up polo shirt and dress pants they seemed self-assured and projecting a ‘look’ but it was their music that had the greatest impact. Tense and dramatic, they channelled early New Order, The Smiths and shades of shoegaze to thrilling effect and an enthusiastic audience response.
The first we heard from The Fall was an incoherent volley of words over the PA. Mark E. Smith was announcing himself and band to the stage in his distinct and inimitable way. The heart of the band is the taut and muscular rhythm section and guitarist Pete Greenway who keep the songs in tight check while Smith gurned and barked his cut and paste lyrics, wandering the stage messing with amp settings and knocking over mic stands like an annoying kid – except he’s 58. Wife Eleni Poulou seemed to be having fun, with her Korg keyboard and assortment of coats and bags. From the twisted disco of Dedication Not Medication to the primitive rock of Bury Pts 1 & 3 and an ironic Smith-less encore of I’ve Been Duped, The Fall showed nothing has changed in the maddening and delightfully eccentric world of Mark E. Smith.
Over 34 years The Fall has experienced countless members, 28 studio albums and a unswerving commitment to caustic repetition and poetic wordplay. Of course the only constant through the whole adventure has been Mark E. Smith who has carved out his own reputation as a stubborn, hilarious, belligerent and intentional aggravator both musically and by personality – but without him The Fall would not be The Fall.
Dave Graney was up first to serenade the masses with his lounge jazz and crooning blues. His current line-up is two guitars and bass and as a trio they worked seamlessly together with Graney playing rhythm and his guitarist providing the solos and colour to the songs. New songs like My Schtick Weighs A Ton, All Our Friends Are Stars and Are We Goin’ Too Fast For Love all typified Graney’s devilish way with words and showed a nice dark musical tone.
Prior to the arrival onstage of The Fall we were treated/subjected to a series of video mashups with the unique angle being that each of them mainly used a single video and looped, cut and dissected the sound and vision to create a jittery, twitching – and during the Elvis Presley one – a hilarious new version. Though at times impressive, the novelty factor quickly wore thin and the crowd began ‘encouraging’ him to leave the stage.
As The Fall appeared it felt like the walls of the Metro Theatre were sweating, such was the oppressive and nearly unbearable heat in the room. Either they forgot to turn the aircon on or it wasn’t working. Either way it made the next 90 minutes a physical endurance test. If anything the conditions did suit the sound and attack of The Fall though. Theirs is a relentless excursion into repetitive post-punk nihilism that occasionally surfaced for air with blasts of garage rock. In particular their cover of The Sonics’ Strychnine hinted at one particular area of influence on their sound.
Mark E. Smith was the undeniable focus of attention as he shuffled and swayed around the stage, hijacking his musicians amps and instruments when either something didn’t sound right to him or merely as a source of personal enjoyment and mischievousness. The band, after 3 years together, are clearly used to his antics and their stoney-faced determination to keep playing, regardless of Smith’s self-amusement was as entertaining as their ringleader himself. As he wandered the stage he used whichever mic took his fancy and it almost seemed like he’d never seen one before, such was the look of disdain and irritability that he gave them.
The Fall weren’t here to play a greatest hits set and anyone expecting that clearly doesn’t understand the bands modus operandi. The new album Our Future, Your Clutter featured heavily with the set opener O.F.Y.C. Showcase, the majestic Bury Pt 3, Cowboy George and the Jesus Lizard sounding Chino to name a few. There was no Repetition, Totally Wired, Telephone Thing or Hit The North but they did dig back into the back catalog with their cover of the garage rock classic Mr Pharmacist from their 1986 Sinister album.
You sense that The Fall are essentially the same as they were 30 years ago with Smith’s totally unique delivery and take on the English language. He knows how to surround himself with musicians that are there to serve his art and to that end they created a garage rock, post punk and krautrock canvas of the highest quality for his Pollack-esque rants and raps. John Peel summed the band up peferctly… “They are always different, they are always the same.” Long live The Fall!
Another day, another festival line-up announced. This time it is the turn of the Meredith Music Festival, celebrating its 20th anniversary with a pretty tasty lineup of bands including DS faves Girls, The Fall, The Field, Dirty Three and Pantha Du Prince…
The festival takes place between the 10th and 12th of December at The Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre is situated on the edge of a farm, about 90 kms due West of Melbourne, halfway between Geelong and Ballarat, 12 kms from the nearest town (Meredith).