The Fall’s Albums In No Order At All; No. 22 of 29(ish) - Slates
It’s difficult to find something new to say about “Slates”, long and rightly considered one of The Fall’s very best releases. For many years I had to piece as much of it as I could together from compilations as it was unavailable as a complete set so it wasn’t until the 2-4-1 with ” A Part Of America Therein 1981” was issued in the mid 90’s that I finally got to hear the original 6 track sequence as intended (nb - that CD is not pictured as I passed it on to another fan when the Sanctuary reissue sequence appeared from 2004 onwards).
What is often left out is what a massive leap forward “Slates” was for the group. The songs are all wildly original, owing virtually nothing to conventional song structures whilst remaining not only totally listenable, but utterly compelling. “Middle Mass” zigzags on a queasy semi-tonal organ riff and an equally sea-sick rise-and-fall bassline but Scanlon’s choppy guitars hold it all together while MES delivers a scabrous, yellow-eyed rant which was, for years, rumoured to be a veiled attack on Marc Riley. The late diversion into the gently creeping end section is as inspired as it is effective. “An Older Lover etc.” remains one of their absolute best, a crepuscular, slightly sleazy piece which fades gently in on some beautifully understated tip-tapping drums from Paul Hanley and some equally alluring low-key instrumentation, regularly deviating into a deeply sinister almost-chorus. Topping this off is a genuienly dramatic performance from MES and a tape experiment that truly disorientates, heightening a sense of dread that goes even beyond that of “Spectre Vs Rector”. Side one finishes with the full tilt organised chaos of “Prole Art Threat”, the clanging, unruly guitars only just held down by the Hanleys while MES is almost onomatopeic on one of the most impressive 2 minutes they had yet produced.
Side two jumps straight in with the almost jaunty “Fit And Working Again”. Riley later claimed the song was virtually improvised, something only really betrayed at the very end when the group don’t quite seem to know how to finish - this, however, works in its favour, giving what could otherwise have been, in the company, a comparative lightweight, the same knife-edge quality as the rest of the album. “Slates, Slags, etc.” is an absolute joy, a thrilling 2 chord demolition with one of Smith’s funniest lyrics - for instance, “Male slags knock over your drink, pay for correct amount spilt”. Like “City Hobgoblins” the previous year, “SS etc” roasts an entire social group in a few choice phrases, something that really, only MES could do - his wit and alacrity is in full force on this record and he was at one of his peaks in terms of word choice and sheer articulacy around this time. This is evident no better than on closing track “Leave The Capitol”, which was voted the best Fall track ever at the unofficially official forum. It’s easy to see why - Smith hisses his way through a takedown of ol’ Londinium (“this 10 times town”) which is fundamentally, a great piece of creative journalism, as recognisable and amusing as it is joyfully illuminating. A line like “hotel maids smile in unison” could only have come from MES and he makes it sound truly unsettling. He also finds room for a little of the vernacular, slipping in “I will leave this fucking dump” underneath the main vocal line while no-one is looking.
Neither album nor single, it has been almost forced into the albums canon by sheer fan affection. A tremendous way to spend 25 minutes of your life, “Slates” is The Fall being themselves, outside of everything and delighting in that status. Its reputation is entirely justified and it is essential listening for anyone with even a passing interest in the UK independent/underground scene of the late 70’s and early 80’s. C-Mac Rating - 10/10
House Of Mystery #85, April 1959, cover by Jack Kirby
Coney Island Cyclone (Taken with instagram)
Fuck U (Taken with instagram)
Oilseed (Taken with instagram)
Henry Darger (Taken with instagram)
Alice at the bowling alley. (Taken with instagram)
Maggie. (Taken with instagram)
By Andrew Wheeler
Chip Kidd is one of the best-known book designers in the business. He’s designed covers for works by James Ellroy, David Sedaris, Haruki Murakami, John Updike and hundreds of others, though comic fans may know him better as the designer on Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha series, Pantheon Books’ Bat-Manga and Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross. Kidd is also a hardcore comic fan. He has an extensive collection of Batman memorabilia, and he once told USA Today that the first cover he ever noticed was probably a Batman comic. “The colors, the forms, the design. Batman himself is such a brilliant design solution.” Now, Kidd shares some of his insights into his cover design process in a recent presentation recorded by the nonprofit Technology, Entertainment, Design, a.k.a. TED.
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Mark Evanier writes about Moldoff’s life and career.