58 Golden Greats cherry red
Recalcitrant anti-career made coherent by expanded ‘best of’.
“Remember Woodstock,” Mark E Smith remarks during 2013’s The Remainderer, in a phlegmyvoiced retort to the very notion of nostalgia.
This three-disc update of the landmark Fall compilation 50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong accordingly wastes little time with sentiment a year on from Smith’s death, but it does make clear sense of a rambling, uninviting catalogue.
Disc One builds a prototype which owes more to William Burroughs, Beefheart and Salford than to London or New York punk. The paranoid inertia of the blocked author in How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ shows Smith’s early talent for absurd fictional sketches, as its askew groove leads into the nervejangling amphetamine clatter of Totally Wired. Middle years of minor commercial success climax with 1992’s Free Range, with Smith gleefully prophesying bad news over fuzzed-up, widescreen vistas like a grunge-era Moses.
Disc Three finds him physically shrunken by his excesses, and his writing reduced to hermetic, hilarious mutters (‘I had to wank off the cat to feed the fucking dog’), while the latter-day Fall rumble on regardless. In these last years Smith became a vaguely reprehensible, almost indestructible embodiment of primal, personal rock’n’roll.