Hex Enduction Hour
|Hex Enduction Hour|
|Studio album by The Fall|
|Released||8 March 1982|
|Recorded||1981 at Regal Cinema, Hitchin, England; August 1981 at Hljóðriti, Reykjavík, Iceland|
|Producer||Grant Showbiz, Richard Mazda, Mark E. Smith|
|The Fall chronology|
Hex Enduction Hour is the fourth studio album by the English post-punk band the Fall. Released on 8 March 1982, it builds on the low fidelity production values and caustic lyrical content of their earlier recordings. Fall frontman Mark E. Smith establishes a Northern England working class ascetics built in parts from low-fi production values and the 20th century literary traditions of kitchen sink and magic realism. The album sold poorly but was well received by critics. Smith described it as an often satirical, but deliberate reaction to the contemporary music scene; a stand against "bland bastards like Elvis Costello and Spandau Ballet ... [and] all that shit."[A]
Recording began during a 1982 tour of Iceland, when Smith was inspired both by the otherworldliness of the landscape, its history and the enthusiasm of an audience unused to touring rock groups. The Fall recorded "Hip Priest", "Iceland" and non-album single "Look, Know" at the Hljóðriti studio in Reykjavík, and the remaining tracks in a disused cinema in Hitchin, Hertfordshire on their return to England. The album was widely praised on release as fully capturing their aggressive live sound. The UK recordings and later promotion were funded by the independent record label Kamera following a bitter and protracted dispute between Smith and former label Rough Trade Records. Hex Enduction Hour sold well relative to its release on a small label, and earned The Fall their first UK Albums Chart placing at No. 71. Today it is considered a hallmark of the post-punk era.
Background and recording
By 1982 the Fall had released three critically acclaimed albums, but band leader Mark E Smith felt they were undervalued and poorly supported by their label Rough Trade Records, whom he regarded as "a bunch of well meaning but inept hippies". He felt constrained by the label's ethos and worried that the Fall were in danger of becoming "just another Rough Trade band". Frustrated and believing his career was nearing its end, Smith made overtures to other labels, and found kindred adventurous spirits at heavy metal specialists Kamera records. He proposed a final album that would last exactly one hour. He already had a number of songs recorded at Hljóðriti studio in Reykjavík during their 1981 tour. The studio had lava walls, Smith said it resembled an igloo, a factor that gave it its otherworldly sound.
Smith fought that the remaining album track were recorded in a relatively ambient and open space, eventually a disused cinema in Hitchin. He had hoped that the ambience of such a space would begin to resemble their live. Kamera agreed to pay costs for the post Iceland recordings. Smith was impressed by their openness and signed, relieved to be free of Rough Trade Records. The uncertainty around a label change, and Smith's doubts over The Fall's longevity, seep into and contribute to the album's edgy and unsettled sound. Music critic John Doran described "Hex" as the work of a band with a gun pressed to their heads.
Hex Enduction Hour takes influence from the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray", Captain Beefheart and the early 1970s Krautrock band Can. Smith has said that the title was intended to invoke witchcraft, but that the word Enduction was made up; a word he just liked the sound of. His vocals are higher in the mix than on previous Fall releases and were described in 1982 by Sounds as "emerg[ing] like a loudhailer from a fog of guitar scratch". The songs were deliberately produced in a raw and low-fi approach by Smith, Grant Showbiz and Richard Mazda in a sound described at the time as a "well produced noise" that was acceptable by Fall Standards. Critic Mark Storace claimed that he "could have done a better job on a 4-track if I was pissed out of my head". Smith responded by saying that "nowadays people just can't just shut up if they don't know what they're talking about."[B] Elaborating on the purposely amateurish production values, Smith remarked that "it was all recorded in deliberately bad places...deliberately simple sort of thing. Three songs were written at rehearsal and done the next time."
Music and lyrics
The album was their first to include Karl Burns and Paul Hanley in the band's classic two-drummer lineup. Smith intended the album's lyrics "to be like reading a really good book. You have a couple of beers, sit down and immerse yourself. None of those fuckers Elvis Costello or Spandau Ballet did that". Hex Enduction Hour was written during an unusually prolific period in his career. Many of the tracks had already been dropped from their live set by the time they visited Australia and New Zealand in the autumn of 1982. The preceding single, "Look, Know" was recorded during the Icelandic sessions but not included on the album. This was characteristic of Smith's "never look back" approach.
The opening track "The Classical" acts as a statement of intent similar to "Crap Rap 2/Like to Blow" on their debut album Live at the Witch Trials. Whereas on that song Smith described himself as "Northern white crap that talks back", on the opening lines of Hex he complains that the fact that contemporary music that lacks culture, is his "brag", observing that that a "taste for bullshit reveals a lust for a home of office" and references "obligatory niggers", before accusingly shouting "Hey there, fuckface, hey there, fuckface". Pavement released a less offensive, sanitised cover of the track in the early 1990s, Smith dismissed them then and later as mere Fall copyists.[C] "Jawbone and the Rabbit Killer" depicts a nightmare folklorish tale of a poacher bored by a decades old marriage who escapes by roaming the local countryside at night hunting prey. One night the protagonist "lets out a misplaced shot" which draws the Hex of the 'Broken Brothers Pentacle Church'. The song's main focal point is towards the end when the lyrics detail a series of semi-religious, semi-pagan horrific and repeating hallucinations.
"Hip Priest" was recorded in Iceland in a single take, and is one of Smith's most personal songs, apparently written in bemusement following a recent rise in the band's stock and popularity. Its tone and "He is not appreciated" refrain are probably tongue in cheek; music critic Mick Middles said it indicated Smith's typical "belligerence but also ... faint signs of insecurity, though Mark will deny this." The track has been compared to dub but in its Northern bleakness if "it had been invented in a drizzly motorway rather than in recording studios in Jamaica." "Hip Priest" was re-recorded in 1988 in a glam rock style as "Big New Prinz" for the album "I Am Kurious Oranj". An excerpt was used in 1991 in a closing scenes of Jonathan Demme's film The Silence of the Lambs.
"Fortress/Deer Park" starts with a Casio VL-1 rhythm preset, same as used by Trio on their 1982 hit single "Da Da Da". Its lyrics form a broad and jaundiced look at English culture and subcultures in the early 1980s. It mentions [fucking] Jimmy Saville while the lines "I took a walk down W11; I had to walk through 500 European punks" are a dry put-down of the fashion-oriented.
Sample of "Winter, Part I", recorded in Iceland
Sample of "Who Makes The Nazis", recorded December 1981
|Problems playing these files? See media help.|
"Winter" comprises two songs broken by a fade out and fade in; "Winter, Part I" closes side one of the record, "Winter, Part II" opens side two. The tracks were described by Smith in early press releases as "concerning an insane child who is taken over by a spirit from the mind of a cooped-up alcoholic". The intro of part I contains lines where the narrator describes waiting, hungover, for afternoon pubs to open. The remainder of the song consists of descriptions of and encounters with a dry out house, a cleaning lady, a feminist wearing anti-nicotine and anti-nuclear badges, and a "half-wit" child. After this the lyrics move towards magic realism and ad-libbed inscrutability: "The mad kid had four lights: the average is two point-five-lights; the mediocre is two lights".
"Who Makes the Nazis" mentions the philosopher Colin Wilson before concluding that Nazis are born of "intellectual halfwits". The track contains a number of sounds played through a dictaphone, a device that was to feature heavily in later Fall albums, most notably This Nation's Saving Grace.
"Iceland" was improvised in a single take. Smith was taken by a country which he described in 2008 as still inaccessible and "totally unlike what it is now. Beer was against the law. You could only drink shit like pints of peach schnapps".[D] It consists of a two note piano figure and a banjo part, over which Smith played a tape recording he had made of the wind howling outside his bedroom window. According to guitarist Marc Riley, "He [Smith] just said he needed a tune, something Dylanish, and we knocked around on the piano in the studio and came up with that. But we hadn't heard the words until he suddenly did them." The line "Fall down flat in the Cafe Iol without a glance from the clientele" describes an incident that had happened to Smith that morning. He had tripped in a nearby cafe, fell across a number of tables. He was surprised by the lack of response from the other customers, who seemed to have dismissed him as just another drunk.
The last track of the album, "And This Day" originally lasted about 25 minutes; edited down to ten minutes to fit the album's length, it still remains one of the longest studio songs by The Fall.
Hex Enduction Hour's all-white cover with scribbles was described by music critic Robertson as "meticulously shoddy". It consists of a series of biro scribbles laid down by Smith. The markings are mostly random rhetorical phrases and sentence fragments such as "Lie-Dream 80% of 10% OR 6% over no less than 1/4 = ??????", "HAVE A BLEEDIN GUESS" and "CIGS. SMOKED HERE". In an interview with Sounds that summer, Smith mentioned that he liked art work to reflect the album content and that his graphic choices reflected his attitude to music. He mentioned how he was drawn to cheap and misspelt posters, amateur layouts of local papers and printed cash and carry signs with "inverted commas where you don't need them".
|The Quietus||very favourable|
Hex Enduction Hour was the first Fall album to make the UK Albums Chart, where it spent three weeks, peaking at no. 71. The sales reflected a surge in the band's popularity, and five years into their career brought them to the attention of a number of record labels. Critics were highly enthusiastic; according to Simon Ford, they could "have hardly been more supportive". Reviewing the album in the NME, Richard Cook described the band as tighter and more disciplined than in earlier recordings, "their master piece to date", while still maintaining their impact. He praised their having utilised recording studio techniques and atmospherics without resorting to glamorisation. Melody Maker's Colin Irwin said it was "incredibly exciting and utterly compelling". A dissenter was Neil McCormick of Irish fortnightly Hot Press, who dismissed the album as second hand melodramatic punk, and wondered if the album was "meant to be minimalist or primitive then it fatally ignores the true primitivism of the strong melody and accessible lyrics found in folk music."
Later, Record Collector described the album as a "taut, twitchy and ominous masterclass in DIY post-punk", and singled out Smith's lyrics for praise. The Quietus, in 2009, wrote of the album as "arguably ... The Fall's mightiest hour", while Stylus Magazine wrote that "Hex demonstrates the culmination of 'early' Fall: a monolithic beast of ragged grooves piloted through the embittering miasma of English society by the verbose acidity/Joycean all-inclusiveness of Mark E. Smith." Pitchfork listed Hex Enduction Hour as the 33rd best album of the 1980s.
According to Smith, the album's lyrics had a negative impact on their later career. In 1984 Motown Records expressed interest in signing the band to a new UK division and asked to hear their back catalogue. Hex was the only album Smith had to hand. The rejection letter stated that the label saw "no commercial potential in this band whatsoever". Smith believes this was due to the "obligatory niggers" line from the opening track "The Classical".
The album went out of print when the Kamera label folded in 1983, but a German edition on the Line imprint remained available, with copies pressed on white vinyl. Line issued a CD edition, flat transferred from a later generation tape. In 2002, a new edition titled Hex Enduction Hour + (adding both sides of the "Look, Know" single) was released via Smith's Cog Sinister imprint.
The album was remastered and issued in 2005 via Sanctuary Records with a disc of bonus material. Smith conceded that the remastering was an improvement, but when asked if he liked the bonus live tracks he admitted that he hadn't listened "that far".
- The Fall:
- Mark E. Smith – vocals, tape operation on "Fortress/Deer Park" and "Iceland", guitar, production, cover design
- Steve Hanley – bass guitar, backing vocals, xylophone on "Hip Priest"
- Craig Scanlon – guitar, backing vocals, piano on "Iceland"
- Marc Riley – electronic organ, guitar, piano, backing vocals, banjo on "Iceland"
- Paul Hanley – drums, guitar on "Winter"
- Karl Burns – drums, backing vocals, tape operation on "Fortress/Deer Park"
- Kay Carroll – percussion, backing vocals
- Richard Mazda – production
- Tony J. Sutcliffe – engineering
- Alan Skinner – cover design
All lyrics written by Mark E. Smith.
|1.||"The Classical"||The Fall||5:16|
|2.||"Jawbone and the Air-Rifle"||The Fall||3:43|
|3.||"Hip Priest"||The Fall||7:45|
|4.||"Fortress / Deer Park"||Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Karl Burns||6:41|
|5.||"Mere Pseud Mag. Ed."||Smith||2:50|
|6.||"Winter (Hostel-Maxi)"||Smith, Scanlon||4:26|
|1.||"Winter 2"||Smith, Scanlon||4:33|
|2.||"Just Step S'ways"||Smith||3:22|
|3.||"Who Makes the Nazis?"||Smith||4:27|
|4.||"Iceland"||Smith, Scanlon, Riley, S. Hanley||6:42|
|5.||"And This Day"||The Fall||10:18|
|2002 bonus tracks|
|11.||"Look, Know" (single A-side)|
|12.||"I'm into C.B." (single B-side)|
|2005 bonus disc|
|1.||"Deer Park" (from John Peel session broadcast 15 September 1981)||4:26|
|2.||"Who Makes the Nazis?" (from John Peel session broadcast 15 September 1981)||2:57|
|3.||"I'm into C.B." (B-side of "Look, Know" single, 1982)||6:30|
|4.||"Session Musician" (live at the Boerkeller, Leeds, 5 November 1981)||Smith, Riley, Scanlon, Hanley||9:11|
|5.||"Jazzed Up Punk Shit" (live at the 666 Club, Manchester, 15 May 1982)||Scanlon, Riley, Hanley, Smith||4:10|
|6.||"I'm into C.B. (Stars on 45 Version)" (live at Fagins, Manchester, 30 September 1981)||Kay Carroll, Scanlon, Smith||3:14|
|7.||"And This Day" (live at Main Street, Auckland, New Zealand, 20 August 1982)||6:13|
|8.||"Deer Park" (live at Main Street, Auckland, 20 August 1982)||9:34|
|9.||"And This Day (Revisited)" (live Astoria 2, London, 26 February 1997)||5:24|
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