Current 93 deserve, and have had, a book written about them (David Keenan’s ‘England’s Hidden Reverse’, updated by the author last year). David Tibet’s work is not for everyone, to make an obvious point, and his histrionic delivery, religiosity and self-mythologising, could give one of his reference points, Aleister Crowley, a run for his money. But, at his best, and mainly when accompanied and assisted by Stephen Stapleton and Michael Cashmore in the 1990s, his work is among the most profound and luminous in English music of whatever genre. From ‘Looney Tunes’ (1990), through ‘Thunder Perfect Mind’ (1992), ‘Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre’ (1994), ‘All the Pretty Little Horses’ (1996), ‘Soft Black Stars’ (1998) and ‘Sleep His His House’ (2000), Tibet and his confreres hardly put a hoof wrong - this is one of the great recording ‘runs’ of them all.
I rather lost patience after the final great ‘Black Ships Ate the Sky’ (2006), although there were also a couple of good live albums and EPs from the early 2000′s to be getting on with. I didn’t get on with ‘Aleph at Hallucinatory Mountain’ and its heavy metal guitar stylings, which completely eschewed the subtlety that even the most overwrought Tibet material usually manifests (the stuff of ‘SixSixSix’, for example, a creative peak of impressively-eschatological bombast). Such is the hypertrophied nature of the Current discography that it is easy to slip behind, even though the output has lessened compared to the 80s and 90s - I need to check out ‘I Am the Last of the Field that Fell: a Channel’, which shoehorned John Zorn, Nick Cave and Tony McPhee into the mix (a true feat of eclecticism!) and also this year’s’ ‘The Light Is Leaving Us All’, which has received positive reviews on line. In the meantime, I have, courtesy of Hornsey Library, 2010′s ‘Baalstorm, Sing Omega’ (another snappy title that come un-trippingly off the tongue?). There is much more piano (Baby Dee) and cello (John Contreras) than in the heyday, and with the wonderful Alex Neilson from Trembling Bells on drums and percussion (who tends to add fairy dust to anything he contributes to): and with more obtuse, or should that be abstruse, lyrics from the ever-apocalyptic Tibet. But, after an initial airing, the record represents, for me, yet another moving account of personal revelation from Tibet, as well as yet more wonderful accompanying artwork and packaging from Coptic Cat Records. Which brings me to the final item.
The Fall used to revel in fantastic packaging for their records, and I used to anticipate their (usually yearly, at least) new releases with much excitement - they too had their run of incredible albums, from ‘Dragnet’ (1980) through to ‘I An Curious Orange’ from 1988 (the latter has been re-released and re-reviewed in this month’s Wire magazine). They were truly a wondrous band at this period, and I remain in awe at the amount of high-end material that they produced over a full decade. But although David Tibet has kept the freak flag flying in terms of design and content, the late Mark E. Smith had truly lost it by the time of The Fall’s last album, the ambiguously (?) titled ‘New Facts Emerge’. Some reviews may have glossed over the faults of this record, perhaps in deference to the passing of Smith earlier this year, but, for me, it merely confirms the precipitous decline of his band, which had in reality been occurring ever since ‘Middle Class Revolt’, as far back as 1995. I parted company with The Fall in 2013 with ‘Re-Mit’, an OK-ish collection of Smith’s increasingly-coarsened lyrics and delivery, but ‘New Facts…’ is merely a depressing confirmation that Smith had become to believe his own narratives of authorial omnipotence and omniscience, to the detriment of anything worth more than a cursory listening (despite us all kidding ourselves to the contrary.)
A friend of mine has very recently become rather obsessed (as one does) with The Fall, after an initial exposure to this most addictive of groups. He has taken a scatter gun approach to listening to their work and has come at it from a multi-temporal approach. I treat ‘New Facts Emerge’ as I would treat a pissed-up elderly relative who I’m fond of due to previous kindnesses offered - discreetly ignore the indiscretions of recent years, and remember the charismatic figure of previous times who could hold both his drink and his pen, whilst frequently causing us to hold our collective breath.