Right from their inception last year and as the name quite possibly suggests, HOUSE Of ALL was home to various alumni of the cult Mancunian post-punk band, the Fall. Whilst there are more than 60 named individuals who could legitimately lay claim to having played in that group, such was its ever-changing line-up under the mercurial stewardship of Mark E. Smith, there were actually only five former members of the Fall residing in this particular abode.
The quintet were founding Fall guitarist Martin Bramah (guitar and vocals) – whose idea it had been to form a band of former Fall musicians – bassist Stephen Hanley (who had spent 20 years in the Fall between 1978 and 1998, thus making him that band’s longest-serving member after Smith) and his brother Paul Hanley on drums. Simon Wolstencroft, the HOUSE Of ALL’s other drummer, managed to clock up 11 years in the Fall during the ‘80s and ‘90s. And guitarist Pete Greenway was the most recent recruit having served time under Mark E. Smith for a decade right up until the band’s dissolution in 2018 when the routinely unpredictable frontman sadly passed away.
But please do not think that HOUSE Of ALL is some sort of continuation of the Fall. When news first broke of the new outfit’s existence any such suggestion incurred the immediate wrath of Mark E. Smith’s family and estate who said “(they) in no way endorse or wish to be associated with HOUSE Of ALL.” They went on to add that HOUSE Of ALL’s very being was “…extremely offensive and very misleading to the wider audience of Mark E Smith and the Fall.”
HOUSE Of ALL, though, are at great pains to point out they do not play any Fall songs, sticking resolutely to their own self-penned material and a couple of other notable covers. They also stress that they “didn’t set out to cause any offence” adding that “we only have the best memories of Mark and this has been done very much as a homage to what he taught us.” It does appear, though, that since then a more amicable resolution has been reached between the band and Smith’s family.
The original quintet released HOUSE Of ALL’s self-titled debut album back in April followed shortly thereafter by a series of inaugural live dates in the UK. By the time of this tour, though, Pete Greenway had to temporarily step back from touring. He was replaced by Phil Lewis whose image (along with the four remaining original members of the band) now adorns the cover of HOUSE Of ALL’s follow-up release, Bay City Pistols, which contains five tracks recorded live on the first tour plus three vastly reworked remixes by outside producers of songs from the debut album.
When you get four musicians playing together who between them have racked up more than 40 years of working under the exacting creative conditions demanded of them by Mark E. Smith, something was bound to have rubbed off and it is undoubtedly true that certain similarities can be drawn with the Fall. This is probably no more the case than on the second song of the evening, ‘Ayenbyte’ (the opening track of the debut album) where Stephen Hanley’s twisting basslines, the double drumming, splintered guitars, and Martin Bramah’s venomous vocal intonations (albeit far more decipherable than those of Mark E. Smith) are vaguely reminiscent of Perverted By Language-period Fall.
But such comparisons are ultimately not only well wide of the mark, but also rather tiresome. For all of their indelible, shared history the HOUSE Of ALL are very much of the present. By the time they have reached ‘Harlequin Duke’ and ‘Magic Sound’ the handbrake is well and truly off and these songs are lavished with an irresistible combination of melody and a God-almighty thunderous groove. As the guns of this double-fusillade are eventually silenced it comes as no surprise to hear an admiring voice from the crowd affirm, “you’ve still got it, Steve.”
‘There’s More’ is equally colossal and accurately foretells the immediate future as there is still ample time for the concluding ‘Aim Higher’ – which does exactly that – and an elongated encore (taken without the band even bothering to leave the stage) featuring two exquisite covers that seamlessly blur into each other. First we get HOUSE Of ALL’s rabid interpretation of Wet Leg’s ‘Ur Mum’, retaining much of the original’s dynamic anger but adding a further dimension that takes the song way beyond those confines. And then it is the turn of a blistering, ear-splitting reading of Can’s ‘Uphill’ which serves to underline the transformative power of music and HOUSE Of ALL’s place in their very own right.
Photos: Simon Godley
A few more photos from HOUSE Of ALL at The Crescent in York