Friday, 9 October 2015

50 songs to take to my grave #38: Free Range

As a rule of thumb, you either love the Fall, or you hate the Fall. But you know, I've always been a rule breaker. I neither love nor hate them. I admire them - or more to the point, I admire Mark E. Smith - and I like some of their music. A lot of it I can take or leave. Smith is a bit of a twat sometimes. OK, quite often, but stone me he's unique and still one of the most interesting people in music, even if I can only understand three or four words in any sentence he speaks.

I never bought much music by the Fall, just the odd single here and there. But I bought Free Range. And I LOVE Free Range. I really, really LOVE Free Range. It's a fucking fantastic single and one of the best to grace my record collection. I hadn't actually heard it when I bought it. I did so on the strength of it being 99p and that it was housed in a limited edition, numbered, hand-painted sleeve. Bargain, I thought. I did things like that back then. It was 1992 and I had disposable income see, and I was working in a record shop. I didn't realise what a bargain it was until I took the thing home and played it.

Musically, it wasn't vastly different to the band's recent work, though it was tinged with some electronics that just seemed to give it that extra dimension. Lyrically, it showcases some typical MES streams of consciousness. Influenced by the fall of the Iron Curtain, Smith references old East European regions (Moravia, Moldavia) and German culture (Also Sprach Zarathustra, This Will Be A Spring Without End). Exactly what he's on about is anyone's guess, but it's one of the very few Fall tunes I can actually 'sing' along with.

There are several versions of Free Range out there; the single mix is far superior to the thinner-sounding album version in my opinion. Hardcore Fall fans will no doubt disagree with me here, but Free Range is by far the best track the Fall ever made. Released 23 years ago, it marks a peak in their career. It just scraped the Top 40 and they've not been close to it since, chart-wise, but the Fall were never about chart positions. They were never about... well, anything in particular I suppose. While Smith and his current band of troubadours appear to be on a roll both creatively and critically, Free Range is where the Fall really nailed it as far as I'm concerned. I mean, how can you resist Mark squeaking "It pays to talk to no one - NO ONE!"


  1. Great song, great single, but the best track The Fall ever made? Hmmmmm.

    1. I'm with you. Musically at their peak, but there are better tracks.