The Hip Priest Is Dead: Mark E Smith passes at age 60

Mark E Smith defies explanation. It’s like trying to explain the word ‘nature’ or ‘time’ to someone that doesn’t have any conception of the English language. How are you meant to describe that impish, wise old man who is at once more different than anyone you’ve ever known, but at the same time, bears similarities to anyone you’ve met in a pub in the North of England. You’d try to explain that he often eschews niceties like melody in favour of brutal, disciplined repetition, and his delivery is somewhere between a bark, a croak, and a snicker. For those of us of the faith, and those of us fighting the good fight, this is what we love and cherish about Mark.

Of course, we all thought Mark would outlive us all somehow. We thought he’d be like a wizened Mancunian Tithonus, crawling out of the wreckage of whatever bomb dropped by whichever tyrant or demagogue in the year three thousand and whatever, messily lighting his cig and ambling towards the nearest watering hole to recruit new members of The Fall. In a way, it seems slightly immaterial or even irrelevant to write about Mark Smiths’ passing because our minds have been made up, and we all know about him, and hold his music and his personality dear to our heart. We all have our stories, our legends, or even myths that we hold close to our hearts. We hear and hold dear stories about Mark the angel, or Mark the devil, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, or a wolf in sheep’s.

He’s embedded into the fabric of our lives, from the albums that hark back to times past or present, interviews (the verbal skewering of Lauren Laverne is a personal favourite), books, beloved YouTube videos, musical collaborations, and or plain folklore. It’s hard to write an obituary on people like Mark, or Lou, or David, or Leonard, because their influence on people is already so clearly crystallised, already iron-hard, resolved, plain, and simply done. The influence that Mark E Smith had on so many lives is impossible to measure and in a way, thankfully so, because to measure his music in limits is to remove some of its genius. His influence, like his music and himself, remains an angry, resolved, yet unresolved, amorphous, paradoxical mess of dedication and purity. Also, he’d fucking hate everything I’ve just written – bit sloppy.

Will Ainsley

Feature Image courtesy of Pitchfork