From: Chip Cox Date: Tue, 18 Apr 1995 14:16:04 -0400 Two short reviews from the Times and the Glasgow Herald and then a longer piece from The Scotsman: THE FALL Cerebral Caustic Permanent PERM 30 With 20 albums in 17 years Mark E Smith shows no sign of running out of puff. His 1995 model is no rerun of last summer's Middle Class Revolt: this Fall splatters the standard guitar-driven rants with radio interference, kazoos, horn samples and harpy-ish female backing vocals. At times, the songs drift into a hard-edged reverie, with Smith rambling like an idiot savant on seven pints; at others, they start to sound like some sarky Mancunian revenge on Tamla Motown. Never, of course, do they remind you of anybody else, which in itself is reason enough to explore the untidy world of The Fall. Again. RS. Glasgow Herald Cerebral Caustic, the Fall (Permanent) * "Go back, go back to your disease-control room!" is narky Mark E Smith's opening injunction, delivered in withering Mancunian tones to an uplifting sneerabilly back-beat. But hark, Mark: you are our disease -- and thankfully your art is beyond rational control. The Fall are unstoppable; essentially unchanging; unbending, and unfathomable. Unload your wallet in their direction. The Scotsman IN HIS 35th year (his 18th year at the helm of The Fall), Mark E Smith is in a unique position. A man who can by no stretch of the imagination actually sing, he can, however, justifiably claim to lead the greatest band in Britain. To emerging indie bands, he's an elder statesman figure, regarded with roughly equal mixtures of fear and reverence. To the music press he's a living legend, renowned for his single-minded musical vision and contrary opinions - the curmudgeon it's OK to like. His extraordinary lyrics (samples: "Stomachs gnawed as Trak of fame debuted on KGB pantomime TV show one Friday," or the pithier "buffalo lips on toast, smiling") may have won praise from high culture mandarins, but even this does not do justice to Smith's service to music. Using garage, punk, primal rockabilly and avant-garde rock as raw material, Smith fashioned music of intelligence and wit, inventing a new genre - country & northern - along the way. A mischievous slogan went with it: "prole art threat." The Fall's intimidating stance and articulate social commentary were a lot less easily digestible than The Clash singing about white riots. Few supposed that these uppity northerners would outlive almost everyone else of their generation as a vital creative unit. Taking compilations into account, the newly-released Cerebral Caustic is The Fall's 28th album. Some - such as Slates, This Nation's Saving Grace and Extricate - are masterpieces and not even the lowliest are without their moments of inspiration. Live, with the long-standing core team of drummer Simon Wolstencroft, bassist Stephen Hanley and guitarist Craig Scanlon, The Fall are one of the more compelling outfits around. The secret of staying a force to be reckoned with after 17 years, it would appear, is never to look back. By casting a selective eye over his back catalogue, Smith could put together a staggering set-list, from early singles Totally Wired and Fiery Jack through Eighties peaks such as Cruiser's Creek and US 80's-90's to latter-day chart hits Free Range, Glam-Racket and Behind the Counter. Instead, Smith keeps his steely gaze on the future, dropping songs as soon as band and audience get too comfortable with them. Big New Prinz, a rousing number from 1988, is the furthest back they'll go, and then only occasionally. Gigs around the time of their last- but-one album, The Infotainment Scan, were heavy with cover versions. This was not, according to Smith, a sign of creative drought but an attempt to "kick the band into a different angle. You've got to work with these musicians. A lot of musicians would gladly do Totally Wired every night. You just can't have it. Even if it falls flat on its face, I think it's better." Nor is he afraid to sack band members as soon as they incur his displeasure - even if that happens to be in the middle of an Australian tour - but there's no bar to them returning to the fold. Brix Smith, Mark's ex- wife, who added a dash of glamour to The Fall's image, and more than a hint of radio-friendliness to their music, plays on the album, as does Karl Burns, back for a third stint with the band. "He's a professional," notes Smith approvingly. "I feel a lot better than I have for a couple of years about the group, actually," he says. "I think the possibilities are getting endless again. We've got a bit more jump to it. It's a lot tighter. You do get hidebound to certain things, like The Fall sound. I want to get away from that. I always do, I always try to." Typically rumbustious, riffy and rough-edged, Cerebral Caustic has The Fall sound - "Always different, always the same," as their champion in radio- land, John Peel, described them - but there is still plenty of room for variation within that. Brix has brought her sense of melody back with her, even if it is sabotaged by her ex on the album's weirdest track, Bonkers In Phoenix, in which her part is speeded-up and dive- bombed by volleys of ugly synthesiser. The song is about rock festivals, and Smith "just wanted to get over what it's actually like at them - for someone like me, anyway. It's always bands playing at half-pace while people are shouting." Already, and perhaps this could only happen in the wonderful and frightening world of The Fall, a folk group has asked permission to do an a cappella version. "To be honest," says Smith of the new album, "it was very diary-ish, and it wasn't a nice time for me personally. I'm OK now, but I thought it would be nice to get it down really fast. Whereas Middle Class Revolt was more like a comment on society - people moaning about how they can't be solicitors any more, they have to queue up with everyone else." This "topical" album was pushed through the manufacturing process and into the shops at top speed so that The Fall can move on to pastures new. Their three-year-old association with independent label Permanent Records (The Fall have passed through the hands of nine record companies) is proving satisfactory on that score. Smith speaks of getting back to the old ways of releasing two LPs a year. "That's what I don't like about a lot of record labels: they want you to take two years nowadays to make records. Theoretically, you can turn round an LP, apart from recording it, in six weeks. Artwork and everything. They want the band to spend at least nine months recording it, then they want six months to work out a marketing strategy, then they want six months to sit down about something else. Meanwhile, you've got a six- or seven-piece band hanging around for virtually two years." It sounds like Mark E. Smith's vision of hell. Cerebral. Caustic. And with a Trojan work ethic to boot. No doubt about it: there's another 28 albums in this man, for sure. "I THINK there's a lot of resentment around everybody nowadays," says Mark E Smith. "I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing." Good news without a doubt for fans of that esteemed British institution The Fall, as it gives Smith the perfect excuse to sharpen his quill and pen a few choice words on the subject. Such as, perhaps, Or perhaps the situation might only call for a restatement of the eternally enigmatic "yarbles". Chip cox@law.missouri.edu