Tony Fletcher, "Taking The Fall as Insiders, Outsiders Go Fashionable"

NEW YORK NEWSDAY, August 24, 1993, p. 45 (gig review)

THE FALL Enduring British Outsiders At the Grand. 76 E 13th Manhatten Friday night. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion opened. By Tony Fletcher


Perhaps the last adjective The Fall would ever like to wear is "fashionable." Uncompromising, enduring, influential, aggravating, maybe, but the British band has built a career of some 17 years, and as many albums, by railing against the trends, remaining steadfastly outside the "hip" scene like a petulant child refusing to join the party.

But with the independent rock scene consistently growing in stature, derivative bands such as Pavement selling well and The Fall itself becoming steadily more commercial (by its own peculiar standards), the band has indeed become fashionable. The group's first New York concert in several years follows a change in record labels, after two albums that were not released here. The show easily sold out and was eagerly attended by a devoted following. The Fall did not disappoint. Its trademark sound -- primeval rhythmic rock, somewhere between mutated rockabilly and cathartic two-chord drones -- is dictated by the long-term musical partnership of rhythm guitarist Craig Scanlon and bassist Steve Hanley (adequately backed on this tour by drummer Simon Wolstencroft, keyboard player Dave Bush and percussionist Karl Burns).

But The Fall's undisputed leader is Mark E. Smith, a wry commentator on life's small print who rarely sings, preferring a haranguing spoken delivery in which his voice drops down the scale at the end of every acerbic line.

Together, the group delivered a little over an hour's worth of undiluted Fall rock for those who have acquired the often bittersweet taste. While very early Fall shows saw Smith performing with his back to the audience as that month's line-up worked its way through yet-to-be-recorded material, on Friday Smith faced his followers head-on, and the set focused on the current album (in this case, the excellent "The Infotainment Scan"). But there was never any light cast on Smith as he wandered the stage; and he offered not a word of introduction or acknowledgment. The Fall's statement was clearly supplied by the music itself.

That statement can be as hedonistic as a cover of Sister Sledge's "Lost in Music," as cutting as the assault on Suede and fellow rock revivalists in "Glam-Racket," as curious as the taped tribal rhythms played before and after the show or as catchy as the 1988 single, "Big New Prinz." That, and a finale of "Hit the North" were the only notable oldies from the group's extensive catalog of unlikely British hits, but The Fall has never been prone to looking back and dragging a live show much past the hour mark. This did not prevent an enraptured audience from loudly demanding more until 10 minutes after the last chord had rung out. The reaction was due credit to a band outside for so long it might now be in.