Thursday, 21 August 2008

THE FALL: Rowche Rumble



A snatch of real seventies Britain just as the seventies were about to be snatched away, the ominously seesawing two chord (with occasional additional flattened extras) Farfisa organ has for me always conjured up Carla Bley's organ bursting into the middle of the democratic chaos on Charlie Haden's "Circus '68/'69" except that the song's drugged-up clouds defy anything or anybody being overcome, today or next century. It lumbers like its own ghost through the brown radiogram cabinets through which "Rowche Rumble" is best heard, trebly grotesque. Smith retches and tuts through his solemn list of pharmaceuticals designed to keep the 1979 housewife shaking her vac in the hope that it's a gold elephant; in the year of Britain's first female Prime Minister, a thorough throwback to building asylums in their own minds, to stop them from getting any ideas, whatever the size. Seventy years previously it would have been straight to the asylum; now they're confined to their shiny daytime bunkers and woe betide anyone who wanted out - and equally the ruinous non-raunch of "Rowche Rumble" helps you understand exactly why the breakout had to happen - it was freedom or "no culture or love, no gamble."

The groaning Farfisa is fortified by a characteristic, handclap-assisted Northern Soul beat on the bridge, heralding yet more controlled dissonance as Smith rants against the canting anti-drug voices there to make the illusion of community more bearable - they "do a prescribed death dance/While condemning speed or grass" (MES spits out an unanswerable rejoinder of "They got an addiction like a hole in the ass") before turning to stare the fourth wall down: "Physician, heal thyself" he intones, and then "Our Government's built an expense account" before a stern interrogation of his audience which remains unutterably terrifying: "What is the fear for? Whose do you think your body is?" He confesses to previously "abusing my body to a great end" but mumbles rhythmically that he'll never never NEVER NEVER do it again like a Freddie Starr impression of the Stranglers; as the internal world burns, drums and organ (and Marc Riley as Greek chorus) do a fantastic Nutopian job of buffing the song's anger around its severely enclosed cardboard box - the tribal memes, a year ahead of the Ants and the Wows, the violent closing signature scattering Smith's 70 pounds (rather than the housewife's 70p) of Swiss gnome placebos - "Rowche" equals "Roche" - into the woeful winds of Prestwich.