Andrew Collins, "The Infotainment Scan"

Select, ?? 1993


Governments fall, seasons segue silently into one another, Morse is on an endless loop, the earth continues to die wheezing, and it's very easy to ignore, isn't it? And then The Fall put out another album and you remember why you live.

Time cannot tarnish them, age does not lessen their impact, changes of line-up (and, indeed, label) serve only to consolidate Mark E Smith's unfathomable vision. There's even Pavement now, a kind of Nicorette patch version of The Fall's full-strength, but these things are academic; exterior forces serve only to tickle the Smithmeister.

Hence, while The Fall appear to operate squarely on their own terms, sending out scrambled messages from inside a bunker of Smith's own making, you'll suddenly get a track like 'Glam Racket', with its alleged pop at Suede: ("You are bequeathed in suede/ Entrenched in suede"). Yet its documentary value is whisked into a surreal mess by confounding references to anything Smith bleedin' fancies; in this case, chocolate, Viz, Xanadu, Clearasil, shell's satire, but not as we know it. By the same rule, the opening 'Ladybird (Green Grass)' might well be about rock festivals -- speculation is futile, but fun.

Like 'Code: Selfish', self-produced with Simon Rogers, 'Infotainment' (their 17th LP!) has a crunchy and rich sound. Off-kilter noises, feedback, backward loops, synth flatulence, multi-tracked mumbling, out-of-control reverb, radio interference -- your Fall album is infected with apparently random detail, while catchy, regal mainstream guitar and keyboard riffs sail through it like royalty on a press visit to bedlam. The elegance of 'Service', the rough grain of 'It's A Curse', it's Victor Meldrew with tunes: incensed, grumpy, dignified, mad as a fish. Plus, since 'Telephone Thing's pivotal embrace of disco, the dance-tinge has been in full effect, resulting this time around with squeally techno signatures throughout, and a truly spectacular revival of Sister Sledge's 'Lost In Music'. A fitting jewel in another crown.

The only way to judge a Fall album is against the last one (it's more consistent) and your own favourite (OK, not as visceral as that). Never mind Suede, when does The Fall backlash start? Well, not here.