The Fall Slates LP

Every winter, I return to the FALL. Their music has a rhythmic turn n’ churn and cynical sneer that sticks to your ribs and gets you through the cold months. This winter, I’ve been diving deep, in the midst of casually reading the FALL tome Excavate! and the chapbook Language Scraps 02, both of which are written by massive FALL-heads and have given me a broader scope to their wonderful, frightening, grotesque, unutterable world. It was perfect timing then that I got assigned this to review, since I’ve had them on my mind. The Slates EP was originally released on the inscrutable 10″ format in 1981, making it ineligible for the singles or album charts in Britain at the time. Mark E. Smith called it one of his favorite FALL releases, and the format choice seems to be a perfect symbol for his refusal to let the FALL fit in and make nice with the music industry, independent or not. Perhaps Slates was a clearinghouse for the band between moments: too many songs for a single, but not enough to fill out an album. For such a short release, Slates has a number of my favorite FALL tracks, from the white-heat gallop of “Prole Art Threat,” with the guitar spraying sparks as the rhythm section attempts to pull the brakes, to the mutated rockabilly licks and skiffle boogie of “Fit and Working Again,” and the Manchester motorik that closes out “Leave the Capitol.” But it’s the opening song “Middle Mass” and its seasick sway that’s stuck with me lately. Mark E. Smith’s penknife of critique jabbed at me from the timeslip with the line “The evil is not in extremes / It’s in the aftermath / The middle mass.” I can’t help but hear that and not relate it to the pandemic-strained, climate-collapsing police state we’re in, where corporate fascists and the ruling rich are continually given more power by the moderate moo-ers who vote with a sports team mentality out of apathy, comfort, or fear than for the betterment of their fellow people.