Stephen Dalton

? MAY93 (album) The Infotainment Scan


The Infotainment Scan

Fallwatchers might have expected serious new directions after the band's recent severance from Polydor, but their Permanent debut finds human word-processor Mark E Smith digging further into familiar obsessions such as burgeoning technology, urban paranoia and the woefulness of younger bands.

Misleadingly trailed as Smith's belated response to Techno culture, little here actually progresses beyond previous computer-rock outings on and around Shift Work or Code: Selfish. Sure, the Fall trademark of dirty great bass-driven riffs are outnumbered by mechanoid rhythms and shimmering studio confections, but these remain mere trimmings tacked on to a deep-rooted garage punk stance.

Although it maintains established quality thresholds this collection lacks the sheer muscularity or sense of purpose that it would need to qualify as vintage Fall. Too much sounds rushed and inconclusive, like the scrappy scat-poem 'Fireworks' or the run-out groove from last year's Legend of Xanadu cover.

A cod-French assault on mighty disco classic 'Lost In Music' borders on throwaway novelty, while prowling glitter-stomp 'Glam-Racket No. 3' snipes pettily at Suede and their ilk, the latest twist in Smith's man-to-boy sneering begun in anti-Madchester anthem 'Idiot Joy Showland'.

What saves The Infotainment Scan from mere curiosity status are two simple straightforward asides amidst all the frazzled machinery and grizzled cynicism. 'I'm Going To Spain' is a gorgeously melodic gusher of sunny optimism, even ending on a cheeky flutter of maracas, while the current single 'Why Are People Grudgeful' belts cheerily along on its fragmented bluebeat chassis.

This is the closest that The Fall have yet come to a carnival mood, and it is proof that terminal sourpuss Smith doesn't always need to take the piss. Fine music some times flows from hope and contentment. (7)