Andrew Collins, "New Big Prinz of Darkness"

New Musical Express, April 11 1992, p. 38




Welcome to Getting Away With It IV - The Final Conflict, Only Mark E Smith could do this. He slopes on stage, hangs his appalling black leather jacket on the end of a cymbal stand, then moves into the anti-spotlight.

These are the Nihilistic 90s - we're used to lead singers not talking to us much during their gigs - but only Mark E Smith wanders offstage during songs, strolls round behind the drumkit as it takes his fancy, squats on the floor, back to the audience, still singing, still curdling the air with that unmatchable voice like a washing machine with some vibrators and a squeaky toy going round inside it. He is, on many levels, the one and only.

And therein lies the difference. Joining the congregation at a Fall show is altogether dlfferent to the bouncy merchandise castle that is today's cutting-edge youth-rock experience. Inevitably, the audience are an autumnal bunch in winter coats, not prone to movement or demonstration. Mark's only words are a fanfare: "Greetings. We are The Fall". There is almost an unwritten deal between band and consumer - we know what to expect, and as long as a new album arrives every year, prompt, we will turn out in our coats to watch the antl-show. This is antl-prostitution, anti- promotion, the anti-lie.

A 'backdrop' (ie that paintbox amoeba/flower off the sleeve of 'Code: Selfish' on a bedsheet, and 'The Fall' rendered by a senile signwriter between two anachronistic 'pink' pylons) is our up-front entertainment. Now honed down to a four-piece, the Fall Group 1992 live, it strikes me, are like Wire (old blokes in black and grey) fronted by Tommy Cockles or Professor Yaffle, the wooden woodpecker off Bagpuss. Jumper tucked defiantly into his trousers, Smith prowls his own realm of dusk with his hands clasped behind his back. Quite, quite transfixing.

A rousing "Everything Hurts", a softer "Time Enough At Last", the current big rave 'Free Range' - and it all ends with a drawn-out Techno-epic Birmingham School Of Business School. Yep, the new album is hung out in its virtual entirety, with 'Mr Pharmacist, 'Idiot Joy Showland, 'High Tension Line' and 'Pittsville Direkt' thrown in for retro zeitgeist fun. Highlight is a robust, relentless 'New Big Prinz', fast becoming my favourite Fall song of all time. And that's a lot of all-time.

Very occasional supplementary synth from David Bush adds a spooky fifth dimension to some stuff (laser guns ahoy on 'Free Range'!), but all in all it's a workmanlike exercise. No frills, plenty of thrills. Work that one out! You're left with a warm, grateful glow - the difference between having a decent Sunday dinner inside you as opposed to a low-cal, micro-ready-meal lasagne - and a real sense of 'punk', which may well surprise yer exhausted Senseless Things fan, but it shouldn't.

Being old doesn't necessarily mean being Jim Kerr or Eric Clapton. It can mean Mark E Smith, anti-hero for the anti-Popkid. You have been watching...