Johnny Waller, "The Power And The Passive"
Sounds, October ?, 1981
North London Polytechnic College (October 19, 1981)
IN THE realms of dynamic Fall performances, there is only one thing worse than an audience that gives them a hard time -- and that's an audience that doesn't give
them a hard time!
Combined with a cavernous hall, the like of which usually hosts school assemblies. and an early erratic sound, the dull Poly crowd seemed unmoved that the first three songs gave off the stale aura of a routine sound-check.
Occasionally the band themselves just looked tired. The material was drawn virtually en masse from the 'Hex Enduction' LP, lacking the light relief/instant appeal (ie easy way out) that a 'Totally Wired' or 'Rowche Rumble' might have brought to a set that once or twice threatened to be submerged by the same severe intensity with which serious young men with poetry books and Mark Smith haircuts so identify.
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'The Classical' crashed in on a rumbling, rough-edged bass gutter-swipe, guitar and keyboards alternating, now Toytown, now jugular-savage, with the wordSmith ranting/incanting/chanting "I've never felt better in my life" as that rollicking, tumbling dual-drum pattern smashed around the hall, a distant echo of Adam and the bloody Ants' once vitality. And it was brilliANT!
Unless I collapsed through dance-fatigue and missed them, they didn't play 'Jawbone And The Air Rifle' and 'Who Makes The Nazis' (as they did at Hammersmith Palais only a month ago), but new outside-chance chart shot 'Look, Know' surpassed the recorded version and set me up for the marathon nerve-jangling finale of 'And This Day' which, quite literally, seemed to go on for ages and no-one wanted it to stop.
Throughout its coarse course (ten minutes? half-an- hour?), it spanned the horrendously mindless thrash and the hypnotic relentlessly involving vortex of careering walls of noise, a Fall exhortation/exultation becoming increasingly ludicrous. Smith playing guitar, Riley wailing harmonica, me shouting and dancing ...
It seems incredible that the Fall still haven't had a hit single or broken up. They've harnessed the Big Beat that now demands the former, but seem to be losing a degree of the caustic humour that has prevented the latter. The band/audience tension that used to be so electric is being replaced by a too-easily conferred passive awe which might soon see the band back in Hammersmith, at the Odeon!
Strangely enough, I've a feeling that's when the fun will really begin!