The first full-length album of The Fall, “Live At The Witch Trials”, is not actually a live album. Emerging out of a two-day studio session at Camden Sound in North West London during a sickly December of 1978, Witch Trials amounts to the sinister foundation of the band’s diverse sound. Every song explores drastically different styles and wild terrain, leaving much to decipher over its eleven tracks.
“Frightened” has magnetic attraction / repulsion that shifts between Martin Bramah’s skeletal guitar, Yvonne Pawlett’s plastic keyboards and the lurching rhythm section of Marc Riley and Karl Burns. Mark E. Smith’s mesmerizing bark and eerie lyrics warp the cosmic context with each repeated non-chorus. “Rebellious Jukebox” takes yet another turn and showcases the band’s more melodic leanings.
One gets the sense that The Fall are in a time-travel hallucination (from 19th century witch trials to a scathing critique of the late-70s punk scene) where the band’s snot-nosed scrabble afflicts the shape of pop to come. As Smith dictates, “We are The Fall, northern white crap that talks back.