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Against community; for control – a fucked up community strategy that works?

Most [music] bands seek to nurture a community and see it as part of a core fan base that provide them with food and a roof over their head.   Not ME Smith.  The Fall forums, the ‘official’ Fall forums which have been a lively and spirited place to lurk, have been stopped and stripped of their ‘officialness’ [it now says the ‘unofficial Fall site’] because ME Smith objected to something someone said.  You’ll have to dig around to find what, and I’m not 100% clear I know exactly why myself.  But the thrust of his action seems to be about control, or the lack of it.  Smith doesn’t want to divest himself of any form of control over what is communicated; he’s a bit of a fruitpot about this sort of stuff and giving a voice to the ‘people’, the fans to say what they want, just ain’t right and proper.  [And it’s consistent with Smith’s previous radical thoughts about the future of distributed media and the internet.]  The new ‘official’ site doesn’t allow forums.  It’s a bit of brochurewear and info and consequently will not usurp the newly unofficial site as the main space for discussionand ‘real’ news. 

But it got me thinking about the nature of a community.  Smith’s antagonism has only served to restruture the group dynamic, give it a bit of fizz, stir up the ‘constitution’ slightly and generally make the whole thing more interesting… in my opinion.  Perhaps there’s a strategy there… it’s a screwy one that clearly works particularly well with people who like to be subjugated and generally abused, and for whom this is perhaps a form of therapy.  Rock. On.

2 Comments
  1. It is exactly the same strategy that Smith has used with members of The Fall over the past 30 years. He maintains a tight control over what they do.

    Has it worked? Would the Fall’s music have been better if Smith had not been such a control freak?

    It’s hard to imagine it any other way…

  2. In terms of his band what he exercises is more than control. It’s a deliberate antagonism that fuels creative energy. I’ve only seen them live once but the abiding memory is of Smith gradually building up the level of pissed offness amongst his musicians to fuel that sort of taut, pent up, spilling over sound he ends up with. It’s that as much as anything that makes them unique. Even on the now unofficial board there’s a few good examples of spoof lyrics which demonstrate the possibility of emulating Smith’s approach as a skewed wordsmith. I’m sure musically it’s possible to emulate a style. cf Pavement and assorted others with shades of influence. But I’m not sure anyone can emulate the anatagonised energy. So maybe he’s just applying the same approach of getting in yer face online. The new site seems to have a few nice bits of goading of ‘old skool’ fans:

    “Question:
    What shall I wear if I go to see The Fall? Or does it not matter ? – asked by Dave
    Answer:
    Wear exactly what you want….don’t be surprised if you are surrounded by chin-stroking old farts with no hair wearing obscure Fall T-shirts from the 1980s. Feel free to knock these old duffers out of the way and get down the front and mosh. Be comfortable, be individual. Don’t be a sheep.”

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