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Old 09-14-2020, 08:06 AM   #41 (permalink)
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#6 Live at the Witch Trials (1979)

mother****ing PUNKKK ROCKKK

What's Great About it:
What a way to announce your presence! This record doesn't just kick the door in, it fires it off the hinges. It's Bombastic, it's Speedy, it's Vitriolic, it jitters with an energy that's enough to give you a stomach ache, nausea like you had a cup of coffee too many and then had 3 more(and then a line of coke).

It's at once the expected new punks debut, and totally alien. Every element of it has its own atypical personality. Marc Riley's thin and wiry playing warbles around the beat between adrenaline pumping power chords and elongated dissonant lines of Guitar Hero parody, the keys ring like the UI of a junked spaceship sounding like a more raucous take on Devo's Moog, the lofi production is somehow more lo-fier than other important '79 records (although from live takes it's easy to tell this isn't literally a live album)

the drums, goddamn these drums, they're so good the debut of MES could also be a story of the debut of Karl Burns. The only member of the group to match Marky's temperament, the drummer would be partly responsible for 3 of the top 10 albums of this list(including Hex Enduction Hour, and This Nation's Saving Grace) before finally leaving the band for good after an on-stage physical altercation with Marky in 1998.

I'm convinced he could have been a household name of 80's rock if he had a cooler head, (there were even talks of him joining PiL as a permanent member at one point), and it's on Witch Trials that he was given license to go hog wild. This is not the 4 on the floor snare heaven of your typical Joy Division student, Burns flies off the rails with attitude-laden fills and brings every acrobatic flourish to a gigantic punctuating crash. I'll admit I've only sat behind a kit once or 3 times in my life, but every time I have, I imagine myself delivering the rapid fire opening of “Crap rap/Like 2 Blow”, the punchy swagger of “Music Scene” and the thunderous racket of “The Classical”.

And finally, the man needs no introduction. Mark E. mother****ing Smith comes out the gate swinging. Scarcely is there a vocalist with such an idiosyncratic style, his delivery made additionally foreign behind his thick Northern English accent. Here he plays it somewhere between meth addled psycho and lovable entertainer.

The culmination of these elements is a band that from the very start demands to be heard. It stands out among its contemporaries, and carries the energy of big fish in a small pond through its entire duration.

There's a fierce hunger in early Fall that rings the hardest on Witch Trials. The music is clawing away from the mundane day to day of life, the lyrics echo'ing fears of inheriting plumbing as a profession (“I ran away from toilet and feces”), living on pittances from backbreaking dock labor (YAA YAA Industrial Estate), and getting caught in a drugged out cyclical lifestyle on the dole (Uhhh Repetition!)

it speaks to something great about punk in general as opposed to the romanticism in rock before it... it often captures what modern capitalist life has in store for the majority of people. Boredom and tedium, enough to drive a person mad.

The record itself though, is an exhilarating escape, an electrifying experience of unadulterated bedroom pogo, too smart for it attitude, and angry spitting catharsis.
Music would never be the same, it's The Fall.

Why it isn't higher on the list: The competition is getting stiff. This album could be higher on the list, it's a tough call. You could compare it to The Cure's debut in this way, it's not actually better or worse than what would follow, it's just a much straighter one-dimensional experience. What it does, it does perfectly. Later Fall albums would never match the sheer intensity of this first record, and that's important to note.
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Last edited by elphenor; 09-14-2020 at 08:50 PM. Reason: thx daddy
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