Jon Wilde, "Extricate"

Melody Maker, February 17, 1990, p. 32



EXTRICATE    Cog Sinister/Phonogram


'We've got repetition in our music, and we're never gonna lose it (The Fall, 1978)

THE scoffers and sceptics insist that The Fall have never moved on, as if rock'n'roll was ever a safe route from A to B and back again. They contend that The Fall continue to plough the same narrow furrow. One Melody Maker reviewer recently compared them to Status Quo. Another remarked that they are like, "a giant truck stuck in the mud, accelerating hard and moving nowhere at the speed of light." As though this group is merely a dogged survivor, still making a nuisance of itself on the rock fringes.

Those of us who have been paying attention know better. Now in their thirteenth great year, The Fall are rock'n'roll's coolest iconoclasts, the white crap that will not stop talking back. They took up residence in the underground from the start. Along with Wire, they were the most confrontational noise to emerge from the punk revolt. For these last 13 years, The Fall have moved crabways and crossways and around in a wide circle, meeting the old Fall coming and going. They were born, like all great rock'n'roll out of clumsiness and chaos. Repetition was their rap, but it never became their trap.

The Fall have never "progressed" in the conventional rock sense. But, with each new release they appear to have shifted position and gained momentum. Their regenerative energies ore extraordinary. They seem to possess this enormous power of renewal.

Always The Fall, but always "new", always radical. When they make albums as definitive as "Dragnet", "Hex Enduction Hour", "I Am Kurious Omni" and "Extricate", it is tempting to conclude that The Fall occupy the heart of post-Pistols rock'n' roll and that almost everything else is peripheral, not to mention illiterate.

"Extricate" is their first without Brix since 1982's severely underated "Room To Live". It is also their first with Martin Branah since 1979's "Live At The Witch Trials". The opening "Sing! Harpy" confirms Smith's announcement that this would be his hardest collection of songs. Certainly, one would have to go back as far as "Frightened" or "Psykick Dancehall" to find a more urgent-sounding Fall. Similarly, "I'm Frank", recalls the tough, scabrous textures of 1981's "Slates" and finds Smith sending up the whole cock-rock tradition with some hilarity ('Gimme gimme it slowly baby, give it to me gently baby aagh").

"Bill Is Dead" is the album's real eye-opener. In his 13 years as Fall fuhrer, Mark E has burrowed through the drainpipe we call the human condition, leaving hardly a nerve-end unscathed. He has been mysteriously silent though on matters of the heart. There's more than a nod, musically, to Lou Reed's "A Gift" (off "Coney lsland Baby"). When Lou sang, "I'm just a gift to the women of this world," one assumed there was plenty of irony in his soul. No trace of the usual sarky scurrily when Smith sings of rising off pink sheets, renewed and aglow - "Came twice, you thrice; these are the finest times of my life, this is the greatest time of my life." The first full Fall confessional I guess. Or at least as confidential as they are ever likely to be.

The single, "Telephone Thing", is the kind of entropic funk fallout that the witless and useless Stone Roses probably thought they were giving birth to when "Fools Gold" dropped out of their pimply behinds. In the hand of a group as resourceful, nay visionary, as The Fall, it becomes a thick, frayed knot of nervous energy. A taut tale of paranoia and conspiracy that embraces all the usual cryptic ties, signs, codes, signals, patters and plots.

After Beefheart and The Birthday Party, is there any group that threaten the mental and emotional stability of the listener more than The Fall!

Smith warns on the inner sleeve that "Extricate" is The Fall as it should be, not as it is perceived. "Its simplicity will confound all bores, imitators and anxiety mongers," he scrawls. It is as simple as this. Another magnificent Fall LP. Possibly their finest yet. Cooler than fuck"