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The Boston Phoenix Brutal Youth

The early Fall and Kid606

By Douglas Wolk

MARCH 13, 2000:  "BIIIIN-gooo, we have-uh mouth trouble at the front of the stage," Mark E. Smith drawls, enunciating the last consonant of every word extra hard. "Our saliva cannot be kept [he pauses] in its [another pause, then a howl] MOUTH!" It's 1977, he's 17 years old, his band the Fall are playing one of their first shows, and the audience is gobbing spit at them. This is the scenario for Live 1977, a British import on Cog Sinister, the 13th or so live album from the Fall's 23-year career, and the best: it's some of the most caustic, feral rock and roll ever recorded.

Smith had heard the Sex Pistols early on, and he seems to have decided that they weren't nasty enough or slow enough or poetic enough, and especially that they didn't seem enough like dangerous maniacs. Live 1977, the earliest extant recording of the Fall, opens with Smith screaming wordlessly into the microphone, then singing in a tone pretty much identical to his between-song babble: hectoring, tuneless, ranting like William Blake loaded on speed and armed for bear. It sounds as if Smith's voice had corroded the tape all by itself. He is fully out of control, lingering over the sounds of words. When he announces "Frightened," he gives the title three full syllables before it dissolves into an insane little snicker.

You can hear the rest of the band randomly yelling, the way people yell when they jump out a window. They're way out of tune, and they don't care (the Fall never have); they're playing sluggishly, but so hard the tape shakes with every whack of the bass drum. And as wild-eyed as Smith gets, he's absolutely in step with them. "Will ya stop fuckin' spitting!" guitarist Martin Bramah seethes at the crowd, and Smith picks right up on it: "The spit in the sky-uh! Falls in your eye-uh!"

Live 1977 is also fascinating for its insights into what the Fall became -- a few of its songs changed dramatically by the time they made it to studio recordings. "Oh Brother" is a deliberately grotesque rocker with a Bo Diddley beat, the closest thing they have to punk-by-numbers, and even so it sounds as if somebody had hijacked it to somewhere intensely weird and KO'd all but one chord; seven years later, they reworked it into a tame, perky single. "Cop It" turned up on 1984's The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, drastically altered, as "Copped It"; "Hey Fascist" didn't appear on an album until 1994's Middle Class Revolt -- by which point the chief object of Smith's scorn had changed and the title was "Hey! Student."

And there's one other never-before-heard treat: the craziest "Louie Louie" ever recorded, easily outpacing everyone from the Stooges to Black Flag. For seven minutes, they hammer the dumbest of all rock riffs to death, then pound its remains through the stage floor. Three or four of them scream the words, or whatever words come to mind, or just scream at one another, or at the audience: "COME ON YOU FUCKERS! CLAP! CLAP! AAAAAAAAH!" It goes on and on; it can go on as long as somebody's either playing duh-duh-duh . . . duh-duh or blurting something that sounds like the chorus to "Louie Louie." The tape stops before they do.


These days, wound-up teenagers don't have to assemble a band to make a huge, harsh noise; all they need is a cheap computer. Electronic troublemaker Kid606, a/k/a Miguel Depedro, wears his youth like a leather jacket. His recent compilation of tracks and remixes and last year's Don't Sweat the Technics album (on Vinyl Communications) are messy, mean beat assaults with a Twinkie fiend's attention span. They're viscerally engaging, but as far as the Kid's concerned, satisfaction is beside the point, and his beats all but eschew dancing as something boring old people do. (Flash back to 1977 and Smith sneering, "I don't wanna dance/I wanna go home-uh.")

On the new We Are All Winners (Tigerbeat6), which is credited to Kid606 and Friends, Depedro remixes or is remixed by 18 other artists -- most of them laptop fiends, plus a few young alien types with guitars (notably NYC keyboard punks the Rapture, whose "Notes from the Underground" gets an extra-harsh, extra-trebly reworking). The ones who get along best with the 606 mayhem are the ones who don't take Depedro seriously at all and gob back as enthusiastically as he does. Hrvatski's hysterical remix of "My Kitten" mangles it into high-speed dancehall ragga featuring pretty much every digital filter ever devised, complete with a synthesized voice "toasting" lyrics about the Kid. The Japanese artist Aube, who normally uses sound sources like fire, water, and the flipped pages of a Bible, reduces "R-8" to a mound of overtones and a low-end thud; Cex's take of "Catch a Lucky Star" halts its hail of clear, warbly tones halfway through so a twerpy synth voice can announce, "You know my steez." The fun of Winners isn't just in its chaos, it's in how many different flavors of chaos it encompasses. The album sounds like a party of snotty punk kids, but they're the ones with the best parties.


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