WE'RE AN AMERICAN BAND
Apologies for crap Grand Funk Railroad reference.
The Fall, Exeter, 27th March:
(Thanks to the mighty Spike for taking The Old Blokes on a coach outing to this.)
I was just about to say that I never, ever thought that having a (partly) American incarnation of The Fall would work (roll out usual lazy journalistic cliches about The Fall being quintessentially Northern English, Blake's "Dark Satanic Mills" filtered thru Rockabilly n Protestant Work Ethic blahblahblah, "they've not made a decent record since 'Hex Enduction Hour'" (snooozzzzzzzzzze)...), then I remembered he once fucking married an American, fer Christsake. Gawd, that seems sooo long ago now.
What I really like about this line-up is that it's come the closest yet to tapping into Smith's love of classic 60s US Acid Garage-Punk: this bunch like to play around w/ fizz and fuzz and rumble. Guitarist Tim Presley does this great bob n swivel move while he's playing and his style taps into that whole Nuggets sensibility, I think...'Spanners' Barbato certainly has the beard and the chops for it: he looks and sounds like a cross betwn one of The Magic Band or maybe The Moving Sidewalks (Texan Psych Scene ZZ-Top precursor). The opening number (listed elsewhere as "The Insult Song", but I think it was actually "Senior Twilight Stock Replacer") certainly sounded like some sort of Blooosy sku-whiff take on Beefheart...if it was "The Insult Song" then it's been radically overhauled. And did they really tackle Zappa and The Mothers' "Hungry Freaks, Daddy"...fucken hell.
Expert knob-twiddler: Smith's acts of apparent random amp-sabotage are actually attempts to re-mix the band live from the stage...as well as sewing seeds of uncertainty and tension amongst his musicians (wh/ then enlivens their performances), he is, in fact, altering the tonal/textural quality of the music (acting as a human filter, if you like) and, in some cases, dropping certain channels from the mix completely, like an electronic-music producer/mixer suddenly knocking out the bass-line or the top-line to achieve a particular effect. At Exeter, Smith's choices were all spot-on, rather than drunken miscalculations...at one point he completely muted the guitarist, suddenly and spectacularly highlighting their twin bass-gtr n drums Motorik-pulse...this version of The Fall certainly seem more prone to taking the music up and down to different plateaus: in places it felt like a Garage Rock version of Circle.
I'm really warming to the album now...a def. improvement on the last one...the mix on the vinyl (which I've got) is radically different to the CD and took me a while to wrap my ears around..."Fall Sound", "Reformation!" and "My Door is Never" are already classics that have been transformed into juggernauts in a live context. I wish I'd got to see the new line-up tackling "Blindness", tho....apparently, this hasn't been dropped and was wheeled out earlier in the tour. Smith ended up performing an encore of "Reformation!" back-stage in his underpants (a vision I'd rather not have!), prompting comments about colostomy-bags from Farmer Glitch...
Not the best fall gig I've attended (tho pretty high up), but I left thinking (yet again) that this might potentially be their best line-up yet.