Curiosities of The Fall – No. 2 of 15(ish) – Live From The Vaults

The surest way to get MES to take a profund huff is to ask him about the Fall’s history – ex-members, old albums, what punk was really like, when he last saw Brix, if he still has any of those snazzy shirts etc etc. Yet, at some point in the mid 90’s, he began to raid the archive of his own free will, mostly due to a lack of funds. In 1998, the first live album on the Voiceprint label arrived, the admittedly useful “Live To Air In Melbourne", a generally lighter take on the Australia/NZ tour that birthed “Fall In A Hole". Ominously, the tracklisting was rife with errors. After this, the “two fingers" albums began to show up periodically, some of which were poor, both in terms of sound quality and presentation. Whilst The Fall’s association with Voiceprint wasn’t without its moments (“I Am Pure As Oranj” for one), this series – and the CDs sourced from the Access All Areas DVDs that followed them – was the nadir.

They appeared on the bespoke “Hip Priest" imprint. The sleeves are awful. Not just “oh, it’s Pascal Le Gras" awful but properly awful, the same couple of non-contemporanous pics of MES superimposed onto artwork so poor, it looks like the product of a therapy session for a disturbed child. For historical context, we get a town and a year. Well, one of them skips the year but we do get a town and a venue. Which is partly wrong. No line-ups, no writing credits. “Rouche Rumble" appears on one disc. A few tracks are cut off. One of mine is limited edition no. 2118 of 2000. You had one job Voiceprint, one job….

There’s a credit reading “Licenced Exclusively To Hip Priest By Ed Blaney", presumably present to make them look important. One especially annoying aspect is that a superior – and, indeed, complete – tape of “Glasgow 1981" was available with relative ease but the release of this third generation nine track version took it out of circulation. The “Alter Bahnhof, Hof, Germany" 2CD is sourced from a bootleg which padded the gig out with tracks from the following night – the change in sound quality is easily detectable but this fact is omitted. These were released in 2005 – the info on venues, line-ups, sources was all over the world’s greatest internet site – www.visi.com/thefall – and it’s not as if Blaney was unaware of this, having tussled with the owners and forum users at points (note – relations appear to be perfectly convivial between EB and The Fall Online these days).

Are any of these necessary musically? No, but that’s not to say they’re not worth a listen. The Oldham tape is noticably warbly but the performance is strong, tight and impassioned – annoyingly MES promises 10 minutes of “Music Scene" and the tape cuts after 5. Retford has a woefully fluffed “Choc Stock" but there’s a presence and a drive to the gig that’s pretty inspiring. The Los Angeles entry wins points for the extraordinary version of “Spectre Vs Rector", a rendition so wayward that MES feels compelled to justify it afterwards (I think he says it’s “the loosest thing we’ve ever done"). Glasgow is interesting as Dave Tucker and Kay Carroll are both clearly heard and MES is huff-puffing over sound problems. Hof, some of which is from the following night in Berlin has quantity on its side but is otherwise unnecessary – there’s a strong “The NWRA" but it can’t be considered a requirement when put against the version from “A Part Of America Therein" recorded about a month later.

I listened to all of these one after the other today before settling down to type and really enjoyed most of them – it may just be coincidence but MES is in good mood on all 5 discs (well, maybe not Glasgow) – this somewhat undercuts the much repeated legend of MES as an uncommunicative, back-to-the-audience misanthrope.

The release of these discs remains bewildering and its hard not to see them as opportunist. Demand for Fall product was high after the great success of the Peel Sessions box set earlier than year and the respectable sales of “Fall Heads Roll". But there were better tapes and better nights from the same tours easily available and it all just says “here you are, now cough up". It says a lot that, despite being numbered limited editions, I picked these up for £3 a pop, 3 years after their original release. Dodgy live albums might come with the turf for Fall fans but these could have been so much better.

Here’s a useful overview on a series of FALL live recordings that somehow didn’t make it into my collection.

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