William Leith

Melody Maker, July 19 1986, p. 16




MARK SMITH is a bad man, and we are good men, and we love the bottomless perversity of our interaction: he tries to surprise us by doing the things we half expected him to do all along, and we love hating the fact that he is never surprised at our adulation. On this fetid night his band hammer out a beefier set of broken rock shapes than usual and bugger off sooner, but the cerebral focus of the gig is the cat-and-mouse encore strategy: they wait until we're queueing for our coats before they come back on again. That's the first time. Then they disappear and put up the house lights and wait until there's a bottleneck at the door and then they're on again. I, for one, try to wish I don't want them to keep coming back, but it doesn't work.

Sarky Mark and Brix, who looks like a Starbird, and the rest of their ungainly straggle have fallen upon something profound and brilliant here, something which has the effect of forcing our reactions to them to inhabit, not the usual reference points, but the gaps in between. Profound? The further The Fall fall the harder they are to fathom.

And being at the bottom means being fundamental and debased at the same time: tonight, as they scuffed their Clark's Commandos on rock'n' roll's face, they could have got away with anything - monetarism, platforms, anything at all. Just listen to the tearing drums and the sound of Mark's thin contempt and the way the guitar-break in 'Cruiser's Creek' is on a continuous loop of yearned-for mistiming. Every time you see them is the best. Naturally you have to be utterly pretentious to say anything about them.