The Meaning Behind The Song: “New Puritan” by The Fall
The Fall, an iconic post-punk band formed in 1976, produced a vast discography that challenged musical norms and captured the essence of the times. One of their most notable songs, “New Puritan,” released in 1984, continues to perplex and intrigue listeners due to its enigmatic lyrics and distinct sound. In this article, we will delve into the meaning behind “New Puritan,” dissecting its lyrical content, musical composition, and its significance in the broader context of The Fall’s repertoire.
Lyrically Subversive: Decoding “New Puritan”
“New Puritan” confronts societal norms, satirizes conformity, and challenges the concept of individualism. Mark E. Smith, the frontman of The Fall and the song’s lyricist, employs his unique stream-of-consciousness lyrical style, making it difficult to pinpoint a definitive interpretation. However, there are several key themes that emerge from the song’s lyrics:
1. Criticism of Consumerism
Smith indirectly criticizes the rampant consumerism prevalent in society, characterizing it as a soulless endeavor. Lines such as “he’s a fastidious dresser” and “he’s got an Alfa Romeo” suggest an emphasis on material possessions and appearances, which serve as an empty facade for existential emptiness.
2. Rebellion Against Mediocrity
“New Puritan” can be seen as a rebellion against mediocrity and conformist attitudes. The line “he leads a new art school” signifies a rejection of traditional education and a desire to challenge established norms. The song encourages listeners to break free from societal constraints and embrace their individualistic tendencies.
3. Paradox of Identity
The lyrics depict a paradoxical representation of identity. The line “He’s a believer not a creator” suggests a dichotomy between belief and creativity, reflecting the struggle between conforming to established ideologies and pursuing originality. This dichotomy highlights the delicate balance between embracing societal norms and staying true to oneself.
Musical Composition: The Unique Soundscape of “New Puritan”
Aside from its thought-provoking lyrics, “New Puritan” stands out for its distinct musical composition. The Fall’s post-punk sound merges elements of rock, experimentalism, and repetition to create a sonic experience that perfectly complements the song’s theme. Here are some notable musical aspects:
1. Driving Basslines and Percussion
The song features a powerful and relentless bassline, courtesy of Steve Hanley, which serves as a driving force behind the track’s rhythmic intensity. Coupled with tight percussion, it creates a foundation upon which other instrumental elements can flourish.
2. Dissonant Guitars and Jagged Riffs
Throughout “New Puritan,” The Fall utilizes dissonant guitar riffs and angular chord progressions. These atypical guitar patterns add an edgy and discordant quality to the song, contributing to its overall abrasive and rebellious nature.
3. Sonic Chaos: Experimental Overtones
The Fall experiment with sound manipulation, incorporating unconventional techniques such as tape loops, distortion effects, and scattered vocal samples to create a sense of sonic chaos. These experimental elements intensify the song’s subversive nature and reinforce the lyrical themes of rebellion.
The Influence and Legacy of “New Puritan”
Despite being over three decades old, “New Puritan” continues to resonate with audiences and hold relevance within the post-punk genre. Its enduring significance lies in its ability to capture the zeitgeist of the time it was released and provide a critical commentary on societal norms that remains applicable in contemporary society.
Notable musicians and critics have praised “New Puritan” as a groundbreaking track that epitomizes the essence of The Fall’s artistic vision. Music journalist John Robb once described The Fall’s music as “a post-industrial blues that broke out of the bounds of rock and roll,” pinpointing the band’s unique ability to defy categorization.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What inspired the lyrics of “New Puritan”?
While specific inspirations for the lyrics remain unconfirmed, it is likely that Mark E. Smith drew on his observations of societal norms, consumerism, and the struggle between conformity and individuality.
2. What is the significance of the title “New Puritan”?
“New Puritan” can be seen as a play on words, juxtaposing the concept of a puritan with the emergence of a new movement or mentality. It serves as a critique of both puritanical attitudes and the conformist behavior inherent in contemporary society.
3. How did “New Puritan” fit into The Fall’s discography?
“New Puritan” aligns with The Fall’s reputation for experimental and anti-establishment music. It stands as a seminal track within their expansive discography, exemplifying their unique musical style.
4. Did “New Puritan” achieve mainstream success?
While “New Puritan” did not attain significant mainstream success, it gained a cult following and endured as one of The Fall’s defining songs. The band’s ever-loyal fan base continues to appreciate its significance.
5. How has “New Puritan” influenced other artists?
The Fall’s experimental approach to music, exemplified by “New Puritan,” has influenced numerous artists across various genres. Bands like Sonic Youth, LCD Soundsystem, and Pavement have acknowledged The Fall as a significant influence on their music.
6. Were there any controversies surrounding “New Puritan”?
No notable controversies arose specifically related to “New Puritan.” However, The Fall and Mark E. Smith were known for their confrontational and unapologetic nature, which sometimes resulted in clashes with record labels, critics, and certain individuals within the music industry.
7. What does the song suggest about the cultural climate of the time?
Through its critique of consumerism, conformity, and mediocrity, “New Puritan” reflects the cultural climate of the early 1980s. It exposes the disillusionment and desire for rebellion that permeated society during that period.
8. How did the media and critics respond to “New Puritan”?
The media and critics were largely enthusiastic about “New Puritan” upon its release, praising The Fall’s unconventional approach and lauding the song’s subversive qualities. It garnered positive reviews and cemented the band’s reputation as pioneers of the post-punk movement.
9. Are there any live performances of “New Puritan” available?
Yes, several live recordings featuring “New Puritan” can be found, showcasing The Fall’s ability to transform the song’s studio version into an electrifying live performance.
10. What other notable songs are there in The Fall’s repertoire?
The Fall has an extensive discography, with notable songs such as “Totally Wired,” “Hip Priest,” and “Cruiser’s Creek” also receiving critical acclaim and shaping their distinctive sound.
11. Was “New Puritan” a commercial success for The Fall?
Although “New Puritan” did not achieve significant commercial success in terms of chart positions and sales figures, it remains a beloved fan favorite and an important track in The Fall’s legacy.
12. What impact did The Fall have on the post-punk genre?
The Fall’s music and their relentless exploration of unconventional ideas significantly influenced the post-punk genre. Their experimental approach and subversive lyrics pushed boundaries, inspiring future artists to challenge traditional music structures and conventions.
In conclusion, “New Puritan” stands as an iconic song that captures the essence of The Fall’s artistic vision. Its subversive lyrics, distinctive musical composition, and enduring influence solidify its place in both The Fall’s discography and the broader post-punk movement.