Between 1978 and 1985 they were the best band in Britain. They were unique. Now, most...
Nick Reynolds 2002
Most of this double CD is really entertaining. It's a chronological collection of John Peel sessions starting with the very first Fall session in 1978. There are lots and lots of good jokes. Mark Smith really enjoys himself on the jolly country and western of ''Container Drivers'' or the rollicking fable ''New Face In Hell''. ''Hip Priest'' is hilarious, with Mark singing ''he is not...appreciated'' in a ridiculous falsetto. He's taking the mickey: out of all singers and out of himself.
He sings ''Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul'' in the clipped, nervy tones of Noel Coward. It reminds you how clever, how witty, how well thought out the song is. Smith is not a grumpy, incomprehensible ranter. You can hear every word, every brilliant detail.
The music varies. The early line up is driven by the powerhouse drumming of Karl Burns and the unique scratchy guitar of Martin Bramah. Later it can be a bit rough and ready. It's held together by Smith's riveting performances; the way he attacks the likes of ''New Puritan'' or ''Deerpark''.
Then suddenly the CD leaps forward nearly twenty years: two sessions recorded in 1995/6.
Smith slurs and rambles and you can't work out what he is saying. No amount of aggressive shouting from Brix Smith can disguise the fact that he seems to have lost his ability to focus or edit. There are pointless cover versions and unfinished gibberish. The only decent track is a not bad cover of Captain Beefheart's ''Beatles Bones 'n' Smoking Stones''.
It seems perverse to include these later sessions when continuing in chronological order would complete a picture of the Fall at their peak. But Smith can be contrary and perverse. And is he any more perverse than obsessed Fall fans (like me) who will buy this CD?
I have a love-hate relationship with The Fall. Between 1978 and1985 they were the best band in Britain. They were unique. Now, most of the time, they're not very good.
Happy memories leave a bitter taste.