Ben Thompson

Independent on Sunday, May ?, 1993

Clapham Grand (15/16MAY93)


Mark E. Smith the philosopher-prince of Lancastrian roses, The Fall, is sole guardian of his own personal English folk tradition nasal sarcobilly. He and his band are not known as purveyors of visual pleasure, but there is a ramshackle beauty about them at the Clapham Grand. Above the stage, two giant handmade banners proclaim "The Fall" with a helpful arrow pointing downwards. There are two drummers, a television, bass-player Stephen Hanley, guitarist Craig Scanlon, a computer screen and some keyboards - these last mystifyingly enclosed within a large frieze of an MFI kitchen with paper clouds floating above them and pampas grass beneath.

In the middle Smith cuts his usual reptilian dash, but he's less venemous than usual, more benign. On stage he often gives the impression that he'd rather be down the pub, but tonight - perhaps soothed by the sound of his own voice on the between-song backing tapes - he seems almost happy to be here. One hand hooked gently around the outside of his trouser pocket, he leads the band through most of their excellent current album, The Infotainment Scan, and returns for four encores. The sound, like the stage, is a well organised clutter, Ska and disco elements are cleverly welded onto a sound garage-rock chassis. "I do not like your tone", he mithers memorably at someone, possibly himself, "it has ephemeral whingeing aspects" but there's a few miles left yet in this beautifully customised ego-vehicle.