I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized A Fog from Reykjavik

A Fog from Reykjavik

John Fleming
Have A Bleedin Guess: Hex Enduction Hour, by Paul Hanley, Route, 192 pp, £12.99 Recorded in Iceland and a cinema in Hitchin close to Luton, Hex Enduction Hour is The Fall’s fourth lp proper. A catalogue of noise chaos and gleaming sonic bombast, its eleven tunes are tectonic plates across which Mark E Smith’s lyrics roam like Lear across his troubled land: “You won’t find anything more ridiculous than this new profile razor unit / Made with the highest British attention to the wrong detail.” The year of the album’s recording was 1981; the year of its release 1982. Paul Hanley played drums. All these years – and an Open University degree – later, he has written a splendid book about the legendary sessions. Avoiding the twin traps of vengeance and pride, he uses first-hand participant observation to animate a record cherished by the few and unknown to the multitudes. Have a Bleedin Guess: The Story of Hex Enduction Hour drips decency and likability. In what could be profitably patented as a pragmatic template for art memoirs or biographies, Hanley employs three elements: the snare drum body text on which he hammers out the truth of his reminiscence; the high-hats on which he nails quotes of succinct witness from key players; and the booming bass drum of footnotes which he kicks playfully to impart background detail, gossip or extra enthusiasms. These three pieces of percussion he plays hypnotically on his forensic drumkit. Mark E Smith retrospectively claimed that Hex was to have been the band’s last album. This seeming swan-songism heightens Hanley’s narrative as much for mockery of the singer’s claims of precognition as for reminding us that, back in the early 1980s, no one was to know The Fall would keep touring and recording until late 2017. Given the sociocultural aesthetics of the band and the enduring psychology of its ever-changing line-up, Hanley’s was never going to be a tale of rock ’n’ roll excess or even of industrial kiss ’n’ tell. It is instead rooted in modesty, deferring throughout to the excellence not only of ring-leader Smith but of the rest of the band: his brother Steve Hanley (whose own The Big Mid-Week book a few years ago was initial proof of the family signature being amusing asides, wry comments and a great talent for compelling, pragmatic, insightful prose communication about music) was on bass; the magnificent pre-Creepers and pre-BBC DJ-career Marc Riley…

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