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, Mark E. Smith, Richard Mazda|
|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 was formed from songs recorded in Iceland during days off from a 1981 tour; the tracks "Hip Priest" and "Iceland" were recorded in a single day session in the laval walled studio of Hljóðriti, Reykjavík. Fall vocalist and leader Mark E. Smith was impressed by the other worldliness of the Icelandic landscape and the enthusiasm of a local audience unused to touring rock groups. The remaining tracks were put down in a disused cinema in Hitchin on their return to England. The location was attractive to Smith because of its acoustics and ambience.
Musically Hex Enduction Hour is driven by Steve Hanley's bass lines and takes influence from the white noise of the Velvet Underground's "Sister Ray", Captain Beefheart and early 1970s Krautrock bands Can and Neu! It develops on the low fidelity production values and caustic lyrical content of The Fall's early recordings. The vocals are higher in the mix than on previous releases and have been described as "emerg[ing] like a loudhailer from a fog of guitar scratch". The studio sessions and promotion were funded by Kamera Records following a dispute between Smith and his then label Rough Trade.
It is the first Fall album to feature Karl Burns and Paul Hanley in the band's short-lived but classic two-drummer lineup. "Hex" was widely praised on release as the first to fully capture The Fall's aggressive live sound and sold well for a small independent label, earning the group their first UK Albums Chart appearance at No. 71. Today it is considered an early 80s classic and is an often referenced hallmark of the early post-punk era. Opening track "The Classical" was covered with altered lyrics in the early 1990s by Pavement, whom Smith had often accused of being Fall copyists.
By 1982 The Fall had released three critically acclaimed albums, but Smith felt they were undervalued and poorly supported by Rough Trade, 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". According to critic John Doran this unease seeps into the album's sound, which he describes as the work of a band with a "gun pressed to their temple". Smith made overtures to other labels, and found kindred adventurous spirits at the usually heavy metal orientated Kamera records.
Frustrated and believing his career was nearing its end, Smith proposed to Kamera with a swan song album lasing exactly one hour in length; they said 'no problem'. Kamera agreed to pay costs for post Iceland recordings in an abandoned cinema. Smith was impressed by their apparent openness and signed, later remarking that "They’re alright them heavy metal blokes sometimes aren't they?". He was relieved to be free of Rough Trade, who apparently often questioned him with remarks such as "What are these lyrics about? Are you a fascist?". He later said that what was going through his mind with Rough Trade was "Fuck off", while Kamera's attitude was "Yeah! Get on with it".
"Hex Enduction Hour" was part recorded at the Hljóðriti studio in Reykjavík during the band's 1981 tour, and completed on their return to England at a disused cinema in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. The Icelandic studio had laval walls, according to Smith "it was where...bards go to record their Icelandic poems. That’s why the sound on those tracks has that snap on it." He decided to complete the album in an old cinema "get a bit of a live feel to it". Summing up the choice of locations he said "we recorded part of it in a cave and part of it in a cinema".
The tracks were produced by Smith, Grant Showbiz and Richard Mazda in the Fall's deceptively involved low-fi style; later described as "well produced noise" by writer Brian Edge. Although the album was generally accepted at the time as well produced by "Fall Standards", musician and sometimes critic Mark Storace memorably claimed the production was "non-existent" and that "I 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." Elaborating on the album's purposely amateurish production values, Smith remarked that "it was all recorded in deliberately bad places -a deliberately violent LP- deliberately simple sort of thing. Three songs were written at rehearsal and done the next time. I was surprised people really liked it y'know, it's great.
Music and lyrics
Album opener "The Classical" acts as a statement of intent similar to "Crap Rap 2/Like to Blow" from The Fall's debut album Live at the Witch Trials. Whereas on that song Smith described himself as "Northern white crap that talks back", the opening lines of Hex exclaim "There is no culture is my brag. Your taste for bullshit reveals a lust for a home of office....where are the obligatory niggers? Hey there, fuckface, hey there, fuckface".
From Hex Enduction Hour (1982)
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"Hip Priest" was recorded in Iceland in a single take. It has been described as sound "like dub if it had been invented in a drizzly motorway rather than in recording studios in Jamaica." It 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 refrain of "He is not appreciated" is probably mostly tongue in cheek and has been described by music critic Mick Middles as indicating Smiths typical "belligerence but also...faint signs of insecurity, though Mark will deny this." The track was re-recorded in 1988 in a Glam rock style as "Big New Prinz" for the album "I Am Kurious Oranj". An excerpt of "Hip Priest" was used in one of the closing scenes of Jonathan Demme's 1991 film The Silence of the Lambs, although it wasn't included on the soundtrack album.
"Fortress/Deer Park" features a Casiotone intro with a brief excerpt from Trio's hit single "Da Da Da". Its lyrics form a broad and jaundice look at English culture and subcultures in the early 1980s. It mentions "fucking Jimmy Saville" and contains the notably dry put-down of the fashion-oriented: "I took a walk down W11; I had to walk through 500 European punks".
"Winter" was 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 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" is one of the album's most acclaimed songs, and mentions the writer and philosopher Colin Wilson before concluding that Nazis are born of "intellectual halfwits". It contains a number of sounds played through a dictaphone.
"Iceland" was improvised on a day off during the 1982 tour. 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 take was recorded live and 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. 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. According to journalist Colin Irwin, Smith 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.
Hex Enduction Hours white album cover, described by music critic Robertson as "meticulously shoddy", consists 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". The album 'art' was seen by many within the industry as coarse and lacking accepted layout or typographical qualities, notably HMV would only shelve the sleeve back to front on its racking shelves.
In an interview with Sounds magazine that summer, Smith mentioned that he liked covers that reflect the album's contents, and his graphic reflected his attitude to music. He mentioned how he "loved misspelt posters", the "crummy layouts..of local papers" and "those cheap printed cash'n'carry signs with inverted commas where you don't need them, things like that". He said that he put the cover together himself as a graphic designer would "never get it right".
Hex Enduction Hour was the first Fall album to make the UK Albums Chart, where it spent three weeks and peaked at No. 71. It marked a surge in the band's popularity, and five years into their carer, opened them up to a number of record label options.
|The Quietus||very favourable|
The album has been widely praised by critics. Record Collector described it as a "taut, twitchy and ominous masterclass in DIY post-punk". The Quietus described it as "arguably [...] The Fall's mightiest hour." Mark E. Smith's lyrics in particular were singled out for praise. 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 surmised that this was due to the lines "Where are the obligatory niggers? Hey there, fuckface" 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 also issued a CD edition, flat transferred from a later generation tape. In 2002, a new edition claiming to be remastered was released via Mark E. Smith's Cog Sinister imprint, but was actually just a direct clone of the Line CD, adding both sides of the "Look, Know" single.
The album was remastered from the original master tapes and issued in January 2005 via Sanctuary with a disc of bonus material (omitting "Look, Know" but not its B-side). In April 2007, a single-disc edition containing just the original album was issued in a digipak sleeve at midprice. The Sanctuary two-disc edition was repressed in alternate, expanded packaging by Universal in 2009.
In a 2010 interview, Smith agreed that the remastering of "Hex Enduction Hour" was an improvement, but when asked if he approved of the live tracks admitted that he didn't listen "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, Steve Hanley||6:42|
|5.||"And This Day"||The Fall||10:18|
|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)||Kay Carroll, Scanlon, Smith||6:30|
|4.||"Session Musician (Live)" (live at the Boerkeller, Leeds, 5 November 1981)||Smith, Riley, Scanlon, Hanley||9:11|
|5.||"Jazzed Up Punk Shit (Live)" (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)" (live at Fagins, Manchester, 30 September 1981)||3:14|
|7.||"And This Day (Live)" (live at Main Street, Auckland, New Zealand, 20 August 1982)||6:13|
|8.||"Deer Park (Live)" (live at Main Street, Auckland, 20 August 1982)||9:34|
|9.||"And This Day (Revisited) (Live)" (live Astoria 2, London, 26 February 1997)||5:24|
- The later single "Look/Know" was not included on the album. See Irwin, 1982
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- Britton, 47
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