Dave Jennings, "C.R.E.E.P. Show"
Melody Maker, September 8, 1990, p. 42
458489 A SIDES
At last--my dream Fall record. I've always enjoyed Mark E. Smith's professional abrasiveness in small doses, but found his relentless negativity too much to take on album, where any semblance of melody frequently seemed to be considered surplus to requirements.
The Fall have an immense back catalogue, and almost every song was made to weave another strand in Smith's personal cocoon of contempt, by sneering at some small thing or other. But in the period framed by this compilation, they nevertheless made some killer pop singles. This was doubtless largely due to the influence of Brix Smith, a Californian and thus a natural-born sun-drenched pop person.
Mark E. has always run his band in much the same way that Margaret Thatcher runs her Cabinet, ditching anyone with too strong a mind of their own. But he couldn't do that to his wife and so Brix remained to push her other half in the direction of coherent commercial communication, at least until that fateful day when she first set eyes on Nigel Kennedy's Aston Villa boxer shorts.
Her glamour-puss image signalled her desire for pop-stardom long before she became The Adult Net and tried to grow up to be Deborah Harry. Brix's co-compositions, things like "C.R.E.E.P." and "Couldn't Get Ahead" are easily the most listener-friendly Fall originals here.
The covers of little-known, but instantly infectious, songs that put The Fall into the Top 40 also probably had much to do with Brix; she has attempted the same strategy much less successfully as The Adult Net. Whatever, it's a joy to hear again those withering, merciless,thrilling readings of "There's a Ghost ln My House" and "Victoria".
Though everything here naturally has The Fall's customary distorted vision and grubby edge, it nevertheless reveals a surprising degree of diversity. These 17 tracks see them venture into rockabilly ("Rollin' Dany"), dance music (the inspired "Hit The North") and English literature (Smith's unique interpretation of Blake's "Jerusalem", as arranged for brisk drums and Duane Eddy guitar). There are also less familiar things that are unique and beyond categorisation. The relentless, compelling "Living Too Late" is perhaps the most surprising track of all, largely because Smith's lyric for once describes a character with a degree of sympathy and compassion.
Most of the rest is a collection of lyrical poison pen letters and abusive graffiti, sweetened just that crucial little bit by the woman whose manicured beauty always looked so out of place in the group photos. The fascinaing work of a uniquely twisted talent.