In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking our favorite songs with “fall” in the title.
Much like Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark and Simple Minds, The Psychedelic Furs owe much of their legacy—and the popular misconception of that legacy—to John Hughes. If the band is remembered among the broadest swaths of the American population, it’s likely for “Pretty In Pink,” the song that Hughes paid homage to in title, if not in spirit, with his 1986 movie. If The Furs are granted a second thought, it’s probably for “Love My Way,” another soundtrack song, this one from 1983’s Valley Girl, that has surely cemented the group as reliable purveyors of melancholy, yet heart-on-sleeve ’80s New Romanticism for angst-ridden girls and the fluffy-haired sensitive lads who love them.
And yet, singer and chief songwriter Richard Butler laced these and nearly all of his songs with a broken cynicism that went even deeper than his cracked smoker’s croon, and that might be overlooked by those who are only familiar with the band from the movies. “Fall,” from The Furs’ 1980 self-titled debut, captures that wry mistrust of emotion at its absolute spikiest. The early Butler’s voice sounds like an even more curdled Johnny Rotten here, bleating over the honk of Duncan Kilburn’s saxophone (which is more reminiscent of X-Ray Spex than the amorous coos it would conjure later). It’s a reminder that The Furs began as a band full of art-punk fury—and the lyrics are practically a direct rejoinder to all those dewy romantic comedies that would soon fill the band’s coffers.
“Marry me and be my wife / You can have me all your life / Our love will never end / Parties for our stupid friends,” Butler sneers, his bland, perfect wedding day descriptors of white dresses and gold rings giving way to black walls, heart attacks, dead trees. To “Fall” is to collapse, the enervating surrender to a lifelong sentence of conformity that leaves you lying prostrate on the lawn of your happy home, overwhelmed by the finality of it all. “We will be a part of structure,” he continues. “We will live our stupid dream.”
The way Butler writes it, falling in love is a suicide leap—and yet, the way he sings cannot help but be oddly romantic. “Fall” is a sarcastic valentine, but it still expresses love, perhaps the only way a dyed-in-the-wool cynic knows how. I thought about having the DJ play “Fall” at my wedding reception. In deference to everyone else, we went with “Love My Way.”