Mark E. Smith is notorious for his refusal to wallow in his musical past, preferring to Step Forward to whatever Curious New Thing with which he and his latest Fall incarnation are grappling.
For the rest of us who live on Planet Earth, though, a reappraisal of the recent slew of reissues and re-releases of the band's bustin' back catalogue allows us a glimpse of the Manc misfits' inherent power.
That’s the power to turn kids on and off, dressed in duffle coats and diamonds alike, searching for other spinetwisted mutants of emotion or seeking out their own lodestone of iron-walled passion and off-it astigmatism.
That’s the power lent by the discovery of dusty, crackly copies of 1979’s al fisto Live At The Witch Trials in random junk shops, carrying the battered vinyl home like it’s a dying kitten, rushing upstairs, shoving aside the crusty discarded tissues on top of the hi-fi, to jump up and down on the bed at the spiky archaic alchemic intelligence and gruesome riffery and exothermic drumrolls.
That’s the power of the pathetically recorded Dragnet where Mark Edward is said to have demanded every track be recorded in a single take to chain down, forever, the flitting spirit of the zeitgeist and succeeded in creating a dullard genius of an album instead.
The Fall will flap around regardless through seven thousand gripping sonic nothings that seem so poetic when you encounter them and fade into insignificance as the band’s new album is released; so despite the magnificent extras on these repackaged timebombs – BBC sessions, legendary post-Punk era live performances, rare runthroughs of Rowche Rumble - something has been somehow lost.
Because, fundamentally, The Fall are / were / always will be an act who grab you from an angle that you would never have expected. Maybe slumped over a random sink puking at a 4AM party, and hearing No Xmas For John Quays rumbling through the walls from the weird kid who lives next door. Possibly spied idly on a badge pinned to the jacket of a glint-eyed misfit pretending to sing his heart out on Songs Of Praise, having wandered in by accident. It'll hit below the belt and stay there.
So maybe to try and contextualise these records by rackin’ em back into HMV instead of leaving them underneath a pile of rotting dog blankets in the local chapter of Dr Barnardos is pretty sick. Sick because it is a self-serving preen that takes the energy, elegy, exceptionally edgy rhythmic claustrophobic split-second relevance away and reduces the artistry and instant heartstop to a car-crash gawp of relentless, rubbernecking, historical voyeurism.
Fuckin Brilliant stuff though, innit.