Imperial War Solvent, The Fall

25th April 2008 at 01:00
Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E Smith, by Mark E Smith
Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E Smith, by Mark E Smith


"Manchester has always had men like that, hard livers with hard livers; faces like unmade beds." So writes their patron saint, Mark E Smith, the rock icon (pictured left) in his newly-published autobiography. Much in the rock world is described as unique and uncompromising, but any such claims would have to be measured against the singer for more than 30 years for Manchester rock band The Fall.

I say singer, though really he barks, shouts, rants, slurs and even gurgles his lyrical mix of the surreal and the confrontational, through a loudhailer if the mood takes him. And I say band, though in fact The Fall's signature, grimy, garage-rock attack has been carried by an ever-changing line-up of hapless guitarists, bassists and drummers - there are approaching 50 ex-members at the last count, all brought in and then slung out by their irascible but iconic frontman.

Yet no upheaval seems to blunt The Fall's relentless spirit or change their sound. As the singer once said: "If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig." Thankfully, your granny was unavailable to appear on the latest Fall album Imperial War Solvent, out on Monday and featuring a mostly new line-up but with little else changed. Which is a good thing, by the way.

This life story is as interesting, hilarious and maddeningly contrarian as you would expect. We get to share innermost reflections on fights in pubs and onstage with band members, and on familiar targets such as London, the middle classes, students and modern bars ("concentration camps with taps"). On the plus side, he admires Iggy Pop, Alex Higgins and, er, Pete Waterman of Pop Idol fame for his work ethic ("All those years digging graves have held him in good stead").

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