The Fall A Part of America Therein, 1981
One thing interesting about the early '80s Fall was their predilection toward opening their U.S. shows with songs as boring, brooding, and/or torporous as the drive that probably got them to their gig's destination. It's not hard to picture Smith, after the 8 hour trek from L.A. to S.F., saying to the rest of the band: "Gawd what a hellish-ah ride-ah... We're a working band, cock. Let's bloody open- ah with-ah 'Cash-ah n' Carry'., you know.. I'm a fucking psychic, fuck off! That'll bloody teach 'em to place their cities so far apart-ah." I heard once they opened a show in the midwest with the plodding "Tempo House," and by the time the song was three minutes in, most of the audience had left. Now it all makes sense...
So it's not hard to imagine the agony of the poor Chicagoans that had to sit through the performance of "N.W.R.A." which leads off A Part Of America Therein. For the uninitiated, you can just picture someone dragging them to the show with: "Oh you'll just love them, they rule!...I'm so excited!" And then ending up seven minutes into this song looking for an excuse to leave. Being not much more than a drum beat and a skraking whine, it's easy to see why they never quite caught on in the U.S.
Conversely, this is actually quite a compelling version of "N.W.R.A." I never really got into the Grotesque version of it. Passed over whilst home-taping, ill-fit for car-stereo use, this version is a perfect re-introduction to the early-M.E.S. long-rant format. At the end you're treated to the wry Smith wit when he apologizes for Riley's keyboard breaking down by snarling "...so yer getting somethin' unique." And then offering a 50-cent refund. What a card.
For the balance of the 8-song document (sides split up between North and South U.S...ish), it's pretty much the usual Fall of that era. A brilliant version of the great "An Older Lover" (played very deliberate and richly grueling), mixed in with a mealy "Lie Dream...", a tolerable "Cash n' Carry," and a basic "Hip Priest." Nothing bad, just eehhh. For those who have seen the Perverted By Language Bis video, this album includes the audio of the amusing "Totally Wired" footage. A brief chuckle picturing Burns dropping a stick in the first few bars.
The main reason to hunt down someone you love and steal their copy--besides the excellent tunes previously mentioned--is the un-cut-in-half rendition of "Winter." The mood captured on Hex is present here. This came as a bit of a surprise, seeing as Hex is probably their second-best album; hard to picture that tune working so well out of context.
From what I hear, this is a pretty difficult album to track down. If it were to come down to either this or Fall In A Hole, I would suggest this record hands down. Right down through the cover artwork and the performances, the crowd noise, and all other aspects, this record blatantly displays the merits and weaknesses of a band which hasn't completely developed its persona slogging it across the bars and clubs of a massive, uncaring country. An 8-song album that feels like an eight hour drive through America's nowheres.
Also see our Fall tribute