The Fall Light User Syndrome
So after a comparatively long wait for a Fall album, came LUS. Expectations were not high - the last album had been the execrable Cerebral Caustic and there were a few unhealthy stories about the band. Craig had gone (slovenly appearance and failure to maintain equipment) and were the band about to split? Following a dodgy gig at the Hacienda it all looked a bit grim. What do they do? Come out with one of their most complete albums (give or take a few songs).
The cover pic shows them looking cooler than shit, staring out the camera in sepia. Bennett back on production and Julia Nagle in on keys and guitar. Starting off with a guitar sparking like a grindstone and a deep rumbling bass, "DIY Meat" is the perfect start to an album. Everything hammers away at once while MES continues his anti-neighbour grudge match from "Black Monk Theme." Completely brilliant - who else would sing about dodgy builders? They have cheese - not me!
"Das Vulture And Ein Nutter-Wain" follows up, with a song no-one else on this planet would even attempt. Oblique vocals in a cod-German accent wobbling about over a determinedly one note bass. Completely unlistenable for anyone normal, but the smile that came over Steve Hanley's face when they played this live gladdened the heart. Carry on clown. Paint your face and close your mouth.
"He Pep!" is a triumph. Circling keyboards and a clanging guitar right up front, so MES has to howl his vocals over it like he's been locked in the bog. Simply superb, this song is just so angry. Brix' backing vocals fit perfectly. I can play this song over and over, getting louder each time, and at the end I'm just shouting along. No more toast grilled on the heater..
Next up the wonderful "Hostile." Lucy Rimmer draping some great backing vox over a fascinating but indecipherable history. Beautiful rolling song this, which many more people should've heard. And now we're old, elite of the damned
Yee har. Next up is Karl crooning over "Stay Away," a bastardisation of J. Paycheck's "Cocaine Train." Not everyone likes this one, but I reckon it's hilarious. Everyone chimes in, dogs bark, trains whistle, and the C&W frontline groove is absolutely terrific. Great singalong stuff in the car. It'll freeze your brain.
Let the sideshow begin. Another brilliant pop song then rolls up with "Spinetrak." Wonderful guitars with Brix' sliding Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhs and chorus. Completely opposite to "Don't Call Me Darling," and one that has never ever got on my wick, no matter how often I've played it.
And then we get the "Pushbike Song"-like "Interlude" running into one of the all-time Fall classics "Chiselers/Chilinism." The one they played about with for a year in various forms before putting it out in well, several parts. Rattling rolling drums again, a niggling one-note keyboard, and some honest-to-God riffs in there. Cut up into several bits at different speeds, then we get the Bohemian Rhapsody moment as everything stops and Mark steps out into the dry ice to chillingly slice up MES-a-likes. Non-Fall fans hear this bit and hoot in derision, but it sends the shivers down my spine still. The Fall's attempt at prog rock? Ah well maybe, but it's excellent. Mr Grumbly in his white Ferrari, is short
Then they bung in another bleedin' classic. "Powder Keg" could do with the bass turning up just a little, but again it's nothing that any other band could sound like, whilst still becoming almost a pop song. The lyrics seemingly skirt around Enniskillen, bombs going off, which bought MES another bout of pre-cog publicity when half of Manchester city centre was devastated by a bomb a couple of weeks after release. I don't buy this - I go with Andy Richardson's view of it being about the Manchester drug scene. His radioactive radiohead drips with powder.
"Oleano" - this always sounded like it would grow on me, and it's never really managed it. Great "Arrrrghhhhhh" scream in it though as a bizarre tale unfolds about Captain Birdseye or something. Arggghhhhhh!
Another classic, who'd have believed it, with "Cheetham Hill." A tale of urban kerb crawling with guest vocals by Mike Bennett. Siren keyboards giving way to a swinging little number as we all observe the comings, goings and seedy excuses of backstreet Manchester. Well I tell yer...
Out of the last five tracks, there's only really "Oxymoron" that I think deserves much attention. "The Coliseum" is okay in its own way, and is well regarded by some, but I reckon it stumbles along a bit without going anywhere really. "Last Chance" and "J. Drummer" could've happily been laid to rest on B-sides, and "Secession Man" is just a bit terrible really. There are some big fans of "Secession Man," mainly down to the cheesy keyboards, and at least the band did have a stab at it live but I'd rather they hadn't bothered.
"Oxymoron" though - much underrated. It stood out a bit more on the later remix, but on its own it makes a perfect Fall intro. It rumbles along like Peter Gunn, while a deranged Mark shouts out "Mr Moody's scruffed up," just like "He Pep Part Two."
Although it can reasonably be argued that LUS should've been a little shorter, with maybe four songs being pensioned off, it contains one of the highest percentages of genuine Fall moments of any of the albums. I reckon the production is brilliant - it's almost poppy, but not with the erasing sheen than was given to things like Middle Class Revolt. Everything is LOUD. I suppose in comparison to the rest of the Fall canon it sounds quite conventional, especially when compared to the experimentation that emerged with the following Levitate, but I love (nearly all of it) to bits. They managed get the guitar sound together, Brix is just right, the various guest vox are great, and MES is genuinely pissed off.
Check that out.
Also see our Fall tribute
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