THE FALL – “Leave The Capital”(from the mini-album Slates)
Everything The Fall recorded in those days stank of England, an England unmasked, the country as it would look if you threw paint-stripper over it and stood back and waited. Their first single, “Repetition”, had begun the diagnosis: thereafter the band stayed put, got harsher and sharper, more accurate. “Exit this Roman shell!”: with every year that passes, The Fall’s existence seems to matter more.

No, actually, that’s not right: they’ve made a lot of good records since, but what matters are their first five years, up with Beefheart as pop music’s most sustained and bloodyminded example of willed world-building. Of course it helped that they rocked so hard and that (for example) “Leave The Capitol”‘s looping rabbit-punch riffs and kit-down-the-stairs drums are so addictive: the sense of single-minded instrumental tightness was absolutely necessary to establish the idea of The Fall as an almost military unit, dedicated to seeding rock with Mark E Smith’s peculiar and particular truths. And it worked. The omnipresent dissonance of today’s alternative pop – the gnostic lyrics, the taut and jagged instrumentation, the creeping overall notion that something somewhere has gone terribly wrong – is unthinkable without The Fall. A few more bands could have profitably picked up on Smith’s eagle-eyed humour and his hatred of musical pomposity, but he’s had enough secret beneficial effect to justify his expanded head whatever.