Sound — 7
"Hex Enduction Hour" came out in 1982, a very prolific time for The Fall - it was their fourth album in 3 years. After basically taking the rest of 1980 and 1981 for touring, the band hit the studio to record what some consider to be the very essence of the band. With a strong influence of his passion for krautrock, Mark E. Smith usually pushes the instrumental part of The Fall's albums a little beyond post-punk's standards, and this album is no exception. You can hear tape loops, piano, organ, xylophone and unorthodox percussions playing a significant role in the song structures here, in contrast with the usual rawness and simplicity of the genre. It's also very noteworthy that the album has two drummers playing at the same time. This reinforces the vigorous rhythm and deliver of "The Classical" and "Mere Pseud Mag Ed," for example, in which you can hear "traditional" drums and weird percussions merging into each other to complete the dynamics of the song. This feature also comes in handy in the song "Iceland," in which a slow, quiet percussion paves the way for the song in its entirety. When all the aforementioned elements meet the guitar work, the result is often a lot of cacophony. Lots of guitar noise and nonsense riffs fighting with the disagreeing bass lines are completed by dissonant organ gibberish everywhere through the album. You've got that right, early The Fall is not quite the band that cares about melody. This characteristic is more present on the album's Side A though. Side B is not as loud and noisy as the A, except for the last song, "And This Day." "Just Step S'ways" for an example does not really go too far away from a regular punk song, and the drums almost silence for 10 minutes, during "Who Makes the Nazis?" and "Iceland," to give way to more atmospheric, but not less dissonant guitar rhythms. Production and mixing of the album is just loud all the way. Looking at it from a technical point of view, it's poor. But I think it can be forgiven, considering the low-budget of these bands at the time, the expensive studio time and the purposely loud way that Mark E. Smith likes his songs (the bass guitar is actually louder than the guitar itself on this album smile, bassists of the world!) In other words, it can be a good production, depending on the way you look at it. Nothing better to complete cacophony and absolute chaos than a non-amusing work at the sound tables! It surely fits the atmosphere of the album and The Fall's music, overall.
Lyrics — 9
Credit must be given to Smith on this aspect he is a truly gifted lyricist. He focuses a lot on describing scenarios and situations that were common to the working class of England, as well as the locations. You can often hear mentions to Manchester, The Midlands and so it goes. His vocabulary is pretty heterogeneous, too. At some points, you will hear him mentioning intellectuals like Colin Wilson and then pack the next line full with popular slangs. If you can picture a tired working class man going to the pub, getting into an altercation with someone or having a bad impression of the people in there or of the band that is playing, you can get quite the picture on what some lyrics here are about, since that's pretty much how Mark is. Some of the lyrics here are based deeply on his personal experiences, and that's where the abundance of details comes from, but they also point out at the exterior world. In "Fortress," for an example, he mentions the time when he was invited into a BBC Radio Session by a bunch of "left wing kids" to discuss politics. With such a style, he hits at politic movements and, in other points of the album, at Thatcher's government, which was pretty much painful for the working classes of UK and which Mark E. Smith was quite fond of. He is also an avid criticizer of the British press at some points, which remains, to this day, very sensationalist, by the way. The most notable examples are "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed." (the title of the song speaks for itself, I guess "you mere pseudo magazine editor!") and "Who Makes the Nazis?", an almost obvious hit at the exaggerated right-wing position of some presses. The chaotic music serves greatly as the ground for this kind of keen lyrics. In fact, the very simple song structures, wide repetition of riffs and melodies and the constant usage of basically one musical idea per song actually come all together to reinforce the idea of "background" music for Smith's narratives. As a singer, Mark E. Smith is very unorthodox. Since the band's sound is also widely based on dissonance and noise, he makes little efforts to create vocal melodies. His singing does not really strays away from the regular sound of his strong, deep voice, and when it does, he puts on mental voice screeches repeating over and over again. In this album, particularly, he alternates between following rhythm patterns and riffs and not following them at all, preferring to just let his words flow according to his will.
Overall Impression — 8
Contemporary post-punk bands like Gang Of Four and Wire also shared The Fall's interest in dissonant guitars and simple song structures, but none of them took the melody chaos so seriously. Due to the particular aforementioned characteristics of the bands sound itself and the album, it's hard to not say that the identity of The Fall is printed on this album, but not more or less than it is on works like "Grotesque" too: a bunch of ugly musical ideas followed closely by Mark E. Smith's rants on the British popular culture, the everyday struggle of the average working man and on the press. Also, the influence of this album and other early The Fall works on the '90s alternative scene is pretty big. The biggest example of their legacy is Pavement their early EPs and the debut album "Slanted and Enchanted" sound like a bastard son of The Fall. It can please the ears of diverse fanbases noise rock fans, post-punk fans, krautrock fans, etc. The very loudness and cacophony of the album is what makes it so broad. Highlights: "The Classical," "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed.," "Who Makes the Nazis?"