Helen Mead
New Musical Express, March ?, 1990



THERE'S NOTHING so boring as a popstar playing hard to get. The obligatory ego massage of five minutes of (hopefully) crescending applause before the encore. Mark Smith left his lectern three times in all, each time to return, just as The Hac Staff lost hope and put up the houselights.

Mrs - that's Mummy - Smith has popped off to the toilet during one of her son's such preening sessions, but due to a non-hierarchical queueing system is caught 20 yards short of her vantage point in the DJ console and takes a regal swing around the ladies when The Fall launch into'Victoria'.

Mrs Smith is not the only lady present with a handbag - or bouffant hairdo for that matter. One girl crushed at the front during the usual male bonding rituals crawls her way out of the melee between open planted legs in some weird re-make of primary-school party games - only to find she's left her crocodile purse behind. And has to go all the way back in on all fours to retrieve it!

Not the sort of behaviour usually observed on the Hacienda dancefloor. But there again this isn't just any old night out with the Vegemite disco kids. Tonight they eat Rambo sausages, not spinach pate and cracked wheat salad. Food to weigh you down with enzyme-threatening carbohydrates, not sparky, light-weight dancing matter.

Clint Boon wanders about gushing enthusiasm for the "new Fall" and wishes that the Inspirals were as cool as Mark E. And the only pair of Joe Bloggs flares in attendance adorn the ankles of 808 State's Graham Massey. But then The Fall - as they take pains to remind you these days - hail from Salford, not Manchester. Salford rave on.

"Helen you'd better learn to spell repetition if you're going to review The Fall!" quips Kevin Cummins. I don't know what he's talking about, but it makes the rest of the office laugh, so it must be a good line. A casual witty observance from the NME old school weaned on 12 years of Mark E and Joy Division anecdotes, to the new, ie those of us who know no better and are getting hot under hooded baggy tops for an album that might as well be The Fall's first for what the others mean to us.

... And tonight the kids are going mad for it. They treat The Fall like pop stars. Think if The Stone Roses can instigate a flares revival, Mark E Smith - tonight modelling the black prototype - could start his own button-down-collar shirt business and Marcia "all- women" Schofield might push the female section of the population back towards emphasising their busts, thigh searing mini skirts, and long hair - lots of it - worn shaggy and loose.

The way Marcia looks - sexy, glossy, curvy, soft and desirable is the complete opposite of what The Fall sound like - which is a compliment to them both because it is their supreme essence - the element intregral to their formation and attractiveness. Mind you, all that wouldn't stop you fucking to 'Extricate', in fact there would be something intrinsically pleasurable about the meshing of logic and lust. That's why you always keep one foot on the floor when dancing to The Fall.

The will is strong. Very strong. The mass of bodies held on the string of the next powerful chugging chord. It's like playing pinball as the wah wah hits the organ, punches Smith in the stomach until the machine is one synchronised board of flashing lights. Sparking off everything and everybody, except a smile on the master's face. He probably preserves that chiselled look of an impassive gargoyle even when he comes. I'm not sure if that's happy or sad. Fighting to preserve what he thinks is himself. Body contorted, like a limping Rumplestiltskin trying to exorcise the Devil.

And he does. Propelling the spirit through 'The Littlest Rebel', the slamming 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' intro of 'Sing, Harpy','I'm Frank' and its buzzsaw intensity 'Telephone Thing', the first song that really (w)rings sweat out of the clothes. Probably like 'Hit The North', 'Dead Beat Descendent', 'Fiery Jack', 'Bremen Nacht' and 'Mr Pharmacist' - because they're more familiar. Personally, after several plays of'Extricate', I'd have been happy with a verbatim recital, though the vocals were given less prominence and the fury guitars were much more wah-hup live, it was still the kick-arse delivery of 'Black Monk Theme Part I' with it's Shaun Ryderish "Youyouyouyouyou you know I hate you baby" that dug the grit up from the grave and made it worthwhile to have Mark Smith spit in your eye. Because if it shows one thing, it is that out of the doldrums comes passion. And passion's always intensely irresistible.