Dave Jennings, "Infotainment Tonight"

Melody Maker, April 24, 1993 (p. 34)




THIS is an outrage. Mark E Smith has been in this game for 15 years. The laws of capitalist economics demand that each new "alternative" youth entertainment icon should be scrapped after a quick financial killing has been made, so that new models can be marketed. So what the fuck does he think he's doing here, making some of the best music of his life in 1993? Isn't the recession bad enough as it is.

It's almost as if having been shown the door of Phonogram Towers for supposedly producing unsaleable goods, he suddenly felt inspired to make a hit record as the ultimate parting V-sign. "The Infotoinment Scan" is the most light- hearted Fall album ever, the concentrated vitriol of the past replaced by good-humoured piss- taking. The great "It's A Curse", skipping along on its rapidly pulsing bass-line and lovely splintered piano, could be some kind af apology for past grumpiness: "I do not like your tone/ It has ephemeral whingeing aspects.../ I am not unguilty of using it."

You'll gather from the above extract that Smith has lost none of his distinctive way with words. This album is dotted with his trademark piquant observations, from the jokey conspiracy theory encapsulated in the title of "The League Of Bald- Headed Men", to the withering pop-cultural commentary of "A Past Gone Mad". Smith still seems as irritated as ever by most of what he sees around him. It's just that, these days, he sounds like he's decided to laugh all the fuckwits and bastards off, rather than letting them get him down or wind him up.

The messy, throwaway thrashing of "Lost In Music" is fun, but it's still among the weakest things here. More effective musical mischief comes in the form of the deadpan, semi-acoustic reading of the ancient Jess Conrad horror, "I'm Going To Spain", and the lurching glitter-stomp of "Glam Racket". The latter boasts a particularly arresting lyric - a coolly detached dissection of some media darling, which Smith insists has nothing to do with a certain hinged friend of ours. But how else can one interpret the key line, "you are entrenched in Suede"?

The Fall have flirted with dance technology before, and almost consummated the affair on "Code: Selfish". But, directly after the token, disjointed weird-out of "Light/Fireworks", this album contains two of their most convincing attempts at party music - the choppy cover of Lee Perry's "Why Are People Grudgeful?", which recently appeared as a single, and the giddy dancefloor remix of "...Bald-Headed Men", retitled "League Moon Monkey Mix". What's different here is that, at last, Mark E Smith sounds like someone you'd actually want to have at your party. The unique worldview and the pithy putdowns are still present and correct, but now they're all the more effective for being delivered with a sly smile and a sprinkling of tangy, melodic sweetener.

I can't realy argue with the immodest self-review secreted in "Paranoia Man In Cheap Shit Room" "... Man in his early thirties/At the zenith of his powers".