I’m going through my biannual Fall phase right now — only appropriate since fall starts tomorrow — with a special emphasis on Hex Enduction Hour and Live at the Witch Trials. (Media kismet: Witchcraft is all over the news cycle right now, on account of that batty lady from Delaware who’s running for the Senate, and there were several references to witch trials — via Monty Python — on last night’s Colbert Report. Also, Pavement — which beings us right back, as all things eventually must, to The Fall.)

All of The Fall’s music is pretty uniquely them, but Live at the Witch Trials stands apart from anything ever recorded by The Fall or by anyone else. There’s just something special about a young band who have talent and intelligence but don’t know what they’re doing and don’t especially care. And the Genius of Mark E. Smith…well, it’s there from the first verse of the first song of Witch Trials (their first album), “Frightened”:

Someone’s always on my tracks-uh
And in a dark room you’d see more than you think-uh
I’m out of my place gotta get back-uh
I sweated a lot you could feel the violence-uh
I got shears pointed straight at my chest-uh
And time moves slow when you count it
I’m better than them and I think I’m the best-uh
But I’d appear at midnight when the films close-uh

Why the offhand rhymes on the first and third lines? Why not? When you’re Mark E. Smith you do whatever the f**k you want and you don’t worry about it. This sometimes makes you hard to understand, but fortunately there is now the magic of the internets. In a few seconds I can find out what MES is saying in any given song, or at least what somebody out there thinks he’s saying.

Of their own free will my hands started clipping these snippets of Live at the Witch Trials lyrics…they seemed to find this amusing, and perhaps you will too.

A spurs fan, a warrior,
happy no-hoper
Dull, manage,
I think slow.
(“Crap Rap 2/Like to Blow”)

No sounds at first came out
This machine had dropped out
But it made music to itself
Made music for itself
(“Rebellious Jukebox”)

He spits in the sky
It falls in his eye
Then he gets to sit in
Talking to his kitten
And talking about Frankie Lymon
Tell me why is it so?
(“No Xmas for John Quays”)

Er, what’s this song about?
Er, nothing.

Well you started here to earn your pay
Clean neck and ears on your first day
Well we tap one another as you walk in the gate
And we’d build a canteen but we haven’t got much space
(“Industrial Estate”)

I found a reason not to die
A reason for the ride
The spark inside
When it hits the mind you get
Underground medicine
(“Underground Medecin”)

Everybody likes me
They think I’m crazy
Pull my string and I do my thing.
(“Two Steps Back”)

I still believe in the R and R dream
R and R as primal scream
Tied to the Puritan Ethic
Nonsympathetic to spastics
After all this, still a lonely bastard
(“Live at the Witch Trials”)

I was in a drunken dream
The pubs were closed
It was three o’clock
At the bottom of the street it seemed
There was a policeman lost in the fog
(“Futures and Pasts”)

And behind our conscious minds
Our affections are turning grey
Yeah, we’re part of the music scene
Envy of the choosy scene
Part of the music scene
Part of the music scene
Part of the choosy scene
6 minutes!
OK, studio, that’s plenty
(“Music Scene”)