Dele Fadele, "Tales of Cryptographic Oceans"

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS, March 14, 1992, p. 31

"Though proud of the way I've avoided prison.../ When the cell door slams / I walk to the wall.../ These are the words of success expectation / These are the words of complete disorientation."


Those plangent couplets, strewn casually through a still-unreleased Fall tune, 'Words Of Success Expectation', show the grizzly demons Mark E Smith and his ever-changing crew have been wrestling with for the past 15 odd years. Despite critical laurels and garlands, real and lasting commercial success has always eluded The Fall and subsequently they've become bitter, cynical and twisted as opposed to mellowing with age. Last year's 'Shiftwork' seems to have been the final straw, albeit a caustically melodic one. 1992 sees the bouquet of barbed wire, emblazoned 'F- You", that even the uninitiated will find hard to ignore.

'Insect posse will be crushed.' ('Dangerous')

You see, while the hair-farmers continue to search for the Neanderthal men in their pithy selves by hiding behind grunge, The Fall have set up a stall that gleefully displays a diverse array of musics all stamped indelibly with that proto-rockabilly swing. They've thrown down the gauntlet by experimenting with Techno machinations and spicing the results with braying, crying, howling guitars plus subsonic booming bass. 'Code Selfish' is harsh and uncompromising, although there is a doffed cap to melody amongst the steaming rubble, the detritus.

"20001 / Also sprach Zarathustra / It pays to talk to no-one / Europa / Faction / Proliferating across the earth." ('Free Range')

'Birmingham' is the sour preamble, an almost throwaway opener, as the real vitriol starts with 'Free Range' which finds Mark E Smith supposedly ruminating on the demise of the Berlin Wall and the USSR, but in reality returning to his pet subject, Nazis.

The Fall are nothing if not topical and through word-association, cut-ups and plain observation, not to mention eavesdropping, some of the best lyrics in the English language flow. 'Return' is a plea to an ex-lover to "Come back". "Time Enough" displays Mark's solo attempt at singing instead of sneering and snarling and talking, and 'Immortality' is Techno being shagged by The Fall's steamrolling rock machine.

Wait. It gets better, deeper. The self-explanatory 'Two Faced' is like sprinkled sandpaper, all repetition, repetition, repetition, while 'Just Waiting' is a dipsomaniac kiss, railing against complacency: 'The prisoner is waiting for a prison break/And the surfer is waiting for the time". You just want to scream 'God Bless The Fall' when 'Dangerous' stops and starts and bubbles like the best reggae and when 'Gentlemen's Agreement' sounds so wistful although concealing a resigned shrug at betrayal of trust, rhyming 'together' with 'intemperance'.

The surprises come last. First in the form of the masterpiece 'Married Two Kids' which updates 'Living Too Late' and contains a critique of conformity and the breeding instinct (free range, again, a groovy metaphor). And last but not least with 'Crew Filth', which is just a drunken Mark E Smith having a laugh at the expense of some unfortunate Northerners while cocktail jazz Fall plays in the background. Way in the background. 'They were always behind you/ You had to keep your back to the wall/ And watch your wallet,' conceals hints of homophobia, or perhaps, homo-fear, but you've got to see it as either a joke, or the most resolutely low-tech Fall number since The North Will Rise Again'.

Pssst, lookee here. 'This is the winter of your mind," a savage, brooding, non-breeding triumph. Of the will? No way! A triumph of the imagination. (9)