Melody Maker, November 17, 1990, p. 21
Norwich Waterfront (Oct. 26, 1990)
RUTHLESSLY AND efficiently putting down insurrections but retaining the support of the idolising masses, Mark E Smith's Fall dynasty has always led a charmed existence as the band that can do no wrong. But even the unrestrained delight of an audience gobsmacked at seeing The Fall in such an intimate setting in the wake of the latest reshuffle - and Smith's consummate professionalism - can't disguise an essentially ropey and complacent performance.
Marking their biggest leap forward since perhaps 'This Nation's Saving Grace', the 'Extricate' album demonstrated The Fall's almost unique ability to become yet more extraordinary as they become less esoteric. But after tonight's slaughtering of 'Bill Is Dead' and 'Popcorn Double Feature', even repeated mumblings of the old mantra that "Mark Smith is The Fall" are unable to erase the feeling that perhaps this time they've got it wrong. Giving Martin Bramah and Marcia Schofield the flick has deprived them of more than just some choppily percussive guitar phrasings and deft keyboard work. Relying heavily on the rudimentary rhythms of the pre-'Extricate' era, only 'Wrong Place, Right Time' and 'Dead Beat Descendant' rise out of the quagmire. At other times their self-evident frustration sets your teeth on edge. A floundering 'Hit The North' has bassist Hanley grimacing as the subtleties are pummelled out of it, while 'White Lightning' has the veins in his neck bulging as he desperately tries to inject some energy into proceedings.
But just to prove what a bunch of contrary bastards they can still be, 'Arms Control Poseur', combining a relentless bass drum with Smith's diffident sneering, soars above the melee, shattering any doubts as to the band's continued well-being.
As irritable as ever (Mark Smith's only comment was to compare the trendy utilitarian decor of The Waterfront to that of an open prison), The Fall's lip cuts more ice when it's backed up by more than just Smith's mouthings. The stonking irony is that a disappointing Fall gig remains worthy of two of most other bands.