When The Fall came calling, I wasn’t really ready. It was the mid-90s so fifteen, sixteen, seventeen albums and about 300 keyboard players into Mark E Smith’s revolving door of musical tyranny. Free Range I knew to be magnificent, The Infotainment Scam I had figured as patchily brilliant - Ladybird, Glam Racket, Why Are People Grudgeful? the best of it - but I was too green by half to delve any deeper.
Sometime in ‘95 I chanced my arm at the weekly bunfight when the new releases would be handed out to anyone who felt suitably qualified to review them for the student rag. On the plus side it was free music, on the down side you didn’t always get something you wanted to handle, let alone listen to, let alone write about, let alone write about with any passion or enthusiasm.
I mean seriously, what in heckity-what was I supposed to write about this?
Hilarious to me now, in a post-Spaced world, but bafflingly awful to a quiet and dare I say nice undergraduate with a penchant for Nick Drake, Britpop and Tindersticks.
In a less performance-arty way, I had a similar problem with Cerebral Caustic by The Fall. I had no feel for its scattergun sounds; I couldn’t find the album’s centre of balance or a way in, through Smith’s ranting and the punk-glam guitars. Listening to it now for the first time in ages I’m struck by how much more interesting - how approachable - it is. Accommodate Smith’s drawl and you can pick out hooks, melody, and on tracks like Feeling Numb sweetly contrasting vocals from the returning Brix Smith.