The Fall will release a seven track EP Wise Ol’ Man on the 19th of February, postponed from the original date of the 29th of January it is well worth the wait.
The group celebrate their 40th anniversary and continue to make exciting, challenging music. In the sea of bland that passes for mainstream music these days it is refreshing to occasionally hear genuine, uncompromising creative artists. Even without the late John Peel, The Fall can be heard on the radio, something rich and strange and immediately arresting.
The Fall have always received a little media attention: partly due to Mark E. Smith’s hard work and innate need to communicate but largely due to the sheer quality of their output. We’ve been hearing from lots of young music fans who were excited by The Fall live at Glastonbury and have started to explore the back catalogue. With several hundred releases to navigate it will likely bring several years of pleasure.
It’s always impossible to absorb The Fall without repeated listenings as the songs and the ideas tend to gradually reveal themselves over time and this new release is no exception.
Clocking in at just less than 36min the EP has a great feel to it and like the Re-mit and Sub-Lingual Tablet LPs there’s lots of melody and vocal clarity, moments of real discordant beauty.
The title track, Wise Ol’ Man, rattles along with multi-layered vocals and a complex interplay between Mark E. Smith and his wife Elena Poulou. Peter Greenway’s chiming swirling guitar lifts the beginning of the track into something almost rock. Across the whole EP the songs are flowing in such a way that the group can work around the vocal deliveries with Elena’s pulsing, squelching, vibrating keyboards, Dave Spurr’s bass and the twin drums of Keiron Melling and Daren Garratt creating experimental musical shapes.
The showcase and centrepiece of the record is All Leave Cancelled. Here the lyrics and indeed the vocals are alternately obscure and lucid, with the voices working as another instrument; a weird sonic landscape is created where the incredible patterns that emerge from the rhythm section sound like the crazy workings of the Live-Evil era Miles Davis band. It isn’t jazz and it isn’t like anything you’ve heard before. Over the full 8min 21s the track is oddly compelling. And the listener is taken on a journey to where everything is going to fall apart before the bass and drum storm lifts and the skies of melody clear. Anyone looking for a precedent or similar track in The Fall discography might try Black Roof or ask the good Captain Beefheart but this track only uses its influences and inspirations as a starting point and takes off in its own way in its own wonderful and frightening directions. It would be wrong to label The Fall as post-rock but a pinch of Chicago underground, a little early Tortoise creeps among the strangeness.
Dedication Not Medication (Remix) is utterly outstanding and its sharper focus sits well in contrast to the preceding soundscape. This is a little bit like the version on the Sub-Lingual Tablet cd but with less bed wet pills and no “Connie and Cookie”, it’s a lot less like the original vinyl version, in that there is no trippy spoken word vocal interruption and anti-music stylings. Indeed the version we have here is a celebration and a lot like the live versions lucky fans will be familiar with. The track builds and builds on a wave of sound and Daren adds a vocal chant as counterpoint.
If you haven’t had the chance to see The Fall live then don’t miss out. As a poor second you can track down some of the live recordings in circulation.
Wise Ol’ Man (Instrumental) is not an instrumental but rather a more stripped down and straightforward version of the song.
Venice With Girls is also a new version of the opening track from last year’s S-LT LP: this time the vocal melodies seem even sweeter, the playing is even tighter and there’s an additional synth line.
Next, listeners are treated to a fourth and possibly the finest version of Face Book Troll. Everything that was bizarre and hysterical about the previous versions (the storming anger of Fibre Book Troll from the Modoselektion Volume 3 compilation; the warped vocals from the S-LT cd and the looping relentless Sister Ray trolling of the vinyl side) gets condensed and combined here to dramatic effect. The power of the track is enhanced by bolting it on to a recent live take on No Xmas For John Quays. Here the group live sound possessed and on fire.Thanks to the sterling work offans like Hanley Played a Fender we can pinpoint the recording to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on 28th November 2014. A pan-seasonal offering and a reminder that drugs are not just for Christmas.
All Leave Cancelled (X) rounds off the EP and reprises the track heightening the main elements of the song.
As with 2013’s The Remainderer there’s also a visceral sense of excitement and the playful experimentation of a group at the height of their powers.
We’re really looking forward to being part of the Wonderlands Graphic Novel Expo on May 30th. This one day event in Sunderland University’s City Space will be a celebration of comics in their book form, with panels, workshops and publisher hall. Patron Bryan Talbot, author of the Grandville series and (along with Mary Talbot) Costa winner Dotter of her Father’s Eyes worked on developing the programme, and the whole event is organised by Sunderland Mac Trust.
We’ll be kicking off the day on the Young Adult Graphic Novels panel, along with Benjamin Read, Paul Register and chaired by Dr Mel Gibson. We will also run a comic workshop suitable for age 12 up to adults.
Posy Simmons, Steve Bell and Dave Gibbons are headlining the show, as well as of course, Bryan and Mary Talbot. Check out the excellent programme on the Wonderlands website, including guests Hunt Emerson, Dylan Horrocks, Woodrow Phoenix, Kate Charlesworth, Darryl Cunningham, Paul Gravett, Paul B Rainey, Ian Culbard, Ian Edington, Al Davidson, Stephen White, Kev F Sutherland… and publishers Emma Hayley, Dan Franklin and Ben Smith who will be discussing the current and future state of graphic novels.
Wonderlands is a free, family friendly event held on Saturday May 30th at Sunderland University, CitySpace, Chester Road.
Once again it’s been a busy few weeks and we’ve had great fun travelling around visiting places as far afield as Helsinki and giving talks and delivering workshops at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival and Craigmillar Book Festival among others. Last week was Book Week Scotland 2014 and we did a string of events in schools and libraries up north.
With pupils at the Craigmillar Book Festival
First stop was Portlethen on Monday 24th November for two sessions with 13-14 year olds. We then went on to Aberdeen, to Northfield Academy, where we are Patrons of Reading until 2016. We have been going there regularly since we were appointed in 2013, and this time we delivered a series of very hands-on workshops over two days, with the younger pupils.
Sandra’s Xmas character to inspire the pupils
Post session photo with pupils of Northfield Academy
The pupils produced some really fun Xmas-themed characters and comics….
… such as this really crazy comic made by a young girl about a killer snow clown! The cartooning is hilarious.
Some pre-Xmas pychopathicness, in pink
It has become a custom that when we visit, John is challenged to a chess game during lunch break by pupils.
A big thank you to Mandy Wilson and Neil Hendry at Northfield Academy – they are such dynamic and fantastic people and are doing such great work at the school. It’s always a pleasure to work with them.
With librarian Mandy Wilson and head teacher Neil Hendry – Northfield Academy
Next stop was Meldrum where we gave two talks to a total of 300 students!
One of the Meldrum events
We then briefly came back to Glasgow before heading to Oban on the Friday for two events, one in a school and the other, an open event, in Oban Library.
We had an amazing week travelling regularly to Edinburgh for Stripped, the comic strand of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, attending the mini comic fair and also contributing to the blog with reviews and interviews. Highlights included interviewing Chris Ware and Joe Sacco.
We’ve met Joe on half a dozen occasions over the years but had only seen Chris once before in Angoulême. It was brilliant to have a chat with them both before the interviews and also to hear them in conversation later that evening with The Herald’s Teddy Jamieson.
The mini comic fair running over the last weekend of the festival was highly enjoyable and it is encouraging to see so many cartoonists and comic creators displaying quality work. Perhaps even more encouraging was the diversity of visitors. Even though the fair was located off-site: many of the book festival organisers paid a visit as did more than a few non-comic fans. The concentration of events over the two days meant Charlotte Square was literally swarming with comic creators and comics professionals.
Events were well attended and conspicuously attracted people from among the culturally curious at the festival.
We also wrote a piece for The List on the Stripped weekend events and on the rise of graphic novels, and Bryan and Mary Talbot, and David Fickling were generous with their time, providing us with some quotes.
The quotes were edited to fit the article’s word count, so here are the short interviews in full with illustrations by Sandra:
Drawing of Mary Talbot by Sandra
Metaphrog: You both won the Costa Biography Award this year. What are your thoughts on it (aside from “It’s great!”) and what it means for comics?
Mary Talbot: For me personally, it’s amazing that my first foray into graphic novel writing should be so well received. But for the medium as a whole the award is another accolade, which is brilliant – further recognition of comics as a valid art form. I guess it’s because graphic novels have proliferated over the past ten years or so. There’s an enormous range of high-quality material available these days, in practically every genre and style you could think of. Like Bryan’s Tale of One Bad Rat, both Costa-shortlisted graphic novels don’t just engage existing readers of comics. They have styles that make them readily accessible to a general reader and subject matter that gives them wide appeal.
Drawing of Bryan Talbot by Sandra
Metaphrog: Bryan, you have been in the business for many years. What do think of the current interest in graphic novels?
Bryan Talbot: I don’t think it’s current, I think it’s here to stay. As opposed to other times in the form’s history when there have been brief bursts of interest by the general book-reading public, we now have enough quality books in a wide enough gamut of styles and genres to sustain this interest. Metaphrog: You’ve spoken at EIBF several times already, and EIBF have had a few comics events each year. What do think Stripped means for comics? Bryan Talbot: It’s yet another example of how graphic novels are becoming increasingly accepted as a valid art form and a timely celebration of the comics medium.
Drawing of David Fickling by Sandra
David Fickling took time to tell us about The Phoenix and how it has been received:
The Phoenix has been brilliantly received. Not just by children, but also parents, teachers, librarians as well as authors and artists from all over the place. I have always believed passionately that children love comics and brilliant comic stories and I can only see the market for children’s comics going from strength to strength. We need more comics, ones for younger readers and ones for older too. We need more publishers to produce brilliant graphic novels and comic books for the young. Children want and love comics so it’s up to us to give them the best ones we can. In other countries these markets are huge. Why not here too? We lost our comics, let’s bring them back!
I hope the future holds more comics for everyone. For adults and children but especially children. And I also think comics are perfectly suited to the rush of tablets and devices that we’re all becoming fluent with. Those hi def retina screens were made to portray wonderful artwork and to inspire a new generation of creators. I think this is an exciting time for comics in general and I hope in the years to come The Phoenix will be but one of many brilliant publications delighting people of all ages up and down the country!
We’re delighted to announce that we have been included on Canongate’s Future 40 list of storytellers.
Canongate’s 40th birthday list celebrates the best of contemporary Scottish storytellers – with 40 multi-disciplinary creatives they’re banking on defining the next four decades.
Delighted to be included and to be in such good company. The list also includes: Tom Gauld, Will Morris, William Goldsmith and Team Girl Comics, for graphic novels, Kirsty Logan for Short Stories/Journalism, Ryan Van Winkle for poetry, RM Hubbert, James Graham (The Twilight Sad) for music and many more.
“To celebrate our 40th anniversary Canongate brings together some of the best storytellers we know. Authors Michel Faber, Matt Haig, Alasdair Gray and Michael Smith will be joined by poet and ex Arab Strap musician Aidan Moffat and R M Hubbert, Rick Redbeard from The Phantom Band and very special guests. Jeremy Dyson (League of Gentleman, Psychoville, Ghost Stories), will take us over to the dark side with his twisted tales and classical pianist James Rhodes, whose debut album, Razor Blades, Little Pills and Big Pianos reached No 1 in the iTunes classical chart, will give an exclusive performance. The event will also showcase original films featuring Tilda Swinton, Miranda July and the late Gil Scott Heron, plus live art and bibliotherapy by Ella Bertoud, author of The Novel Cure. Hosted by South Bank Associate Artist and official poet for the London Olympics Lemn Sissay, we hope you can join us for what promises to be a highly memorable and enjoyable evening and be part of Canongate’s journey to the other side.”