Stephen Dalton, "Live At The Norwich Trials"

New Musical Express, April 1992 (live: Norwich Sound City, Norwich Waterfront, April 21 1992)


Difficult to imagine the world-weary Fall were once young, but equally hard to envisage them ever running out of beer-sodden, fag-fuelled breath. Sour and dour, Britain's most unlikely rockgods - four chunky dockworkers and a vole-faced foreman with literary pretensions - arrive cloaked in darkness. It never gets much lighter either, with muted blue and green shades bathlng their conspiratorial huddle.

And yes, of course, they are magnificent. Every tune as harsh and rudimentary as raw pig-iron but dramatic as Macbeth's murder scenes, every beat-poetry collage sparking with dry contempt and sociopathic observation. Not that many words are discernible to non-devotees these days, since Mark Smith's slurred sneer elected to dispense with consonants altogether. Well, almost.

This is not a contractual-obligation Fall show. Dismembering his bulging scrapbook with venomous gusto, stage-prowler Mark removes his casual jacket when the half-track armoured personnel carrier which is 'Free Range' trains its gargantuan gun-sights on Norwlch. The slapshot sarcasm of 'Married, Two Kids' gets a sneering update ("went to the Freddle Mercury benefit") but an achingly expansive 'Time Enough At Last' and confessional 'Edinburgh Man' provide eases in a desert of scorn.

Can they possibly put a hobnalled foot wrong? Not really, but 'Idiot Joy Showland' lumbers and creaks somewhat, while 'Big New Prinz' and 'Birmlngham' are both stretched to epic dimensions which even their solid foundations can barely support. But the world's greatest rhythm section remain unstoppable, steamrolling through Radio 1's curfew and ploughing grimly on into the night, finally crashing to a steaming halt astride a wired and unexpected encore of 'Deadbeat Descendant. The Fall, bemused and aglow, are still enjoying the finest days of their lives.