The Fall Perverted By Language
This album always reminds me of one thing - the Velvet Underground. Now I know that the Velvets have been canonized and lionized, even though they haven't done anything interesting in 28 years or so- personally, I'm tired of hearing about them. But try to imagine that the original V.U. had been able to stay together, to grow and to respond to contemporary influences - had that been the case, they might have been able to make an album like this one that Marc Smith and his cronies cut in 1983.
The album starts with "Eat Y'Self Fitter". The music is intentionally minimal yet oddly catchy, built around simple, jagged rhythms; the lyrics are of course totally appropriate, and probably more relevant to us in 1997 than they were in 1983. Smith can really hold forth like a modern-day poet when he's at his best; since the heyday of Lennon and Dylan, except for Captain Beefheart I can't think of anyone in rock who ever did more striking things with words. This is 'poetry in motion,' the kind of stuff that many of us aspire to but few can actually acheive on this level.
Then the band blast into a 3-minute slice of brilliance entitled "Neighborhood of Infinity". It's just killer linear groove. The two drummer lineup (Karl Burns and Paul Hanley) is still in effect, and infuse this track with real strength and power. But this is just a prelude to the 8-minute-plus "Garden." In this droning tone poem Smith holds forth about pretension, being sodomized by presumption, and a jew on a motorbike... I make no claim to actually know what he's on about here, but the sustained atmosphere of the piece is amazing, and it has a killer change in it which is almost orgasmic.
Side 1 concludes with "Hotel Blodel", an unusual piece on which Brix (who had just joined the band) sings, Marc recites, and a violin strikes the occasional ominous figure above what is basically a meloncholy pop backdrop. This sounds like something which could have been poppier to start with, but which was transformed into a more gothic piece. Side 2 opens with "Smile"; I've never especially liked this extremely minimal piece, although it is impressionistic in some dark way and is a vehicle for some interesting yelping by Smith. The next track "I Feel Voxish" is a bit of a linear chugging drone lacking in character; not really my cup of tea.
To make sure that you do play Side 2 of the record on occasion though, the band next run through "Tempo House". This is probably the best piece on here and definitely a Fall masterwork. Steven Hanley gets a brilliant bass figure going on top of some sloppy, groovy, percolating drumming by the Burns/Hanley duo, and Marc gets started on top of that. Marc Smith is a man who usually has a grudge up his sleeve. He sounds happily peeved here and holds forth about god-knows-what in his idiosynchratic, rather brilliant style. This track was recorded live in some setting (in a studio I think) and really gets it going and keeps it going for well over 8 minutes. I wish the track were longer, actually.
The album finishes with "Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot," a strange guitar-driven piece which displays kinship to the Velvet Underground's music, in case you didn't believe me when I referenced them a while back. And in the end, this album reminds me of the Velvets not only because of the guitar sound, but because like the early Velvets music, this album is centered around words and poetry. The Doors pursued a lyrically-centered shamanistic approach back in their time and Patti Smith did some good work in this area also. But nobody ever held forth in more stylish fashion than Marc Smith does on this album. This record is totally non-commercial, art for the sake of art- and it's a keeper.
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