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Music review: The Fall/Liverpool O2 Academy

On the opening night of Liverpool Sound City, Mike Chapple finds Mark E Smith is still hitting all the raw nerves

Published on May 20th 2010.


Music review: The Fall/Liverpool O2 Academy

THE Fall's Liverpool connection goes back a long way.

I remember seeing their very first incarnation way back in, oooh, must be 1978, at Eric's, just after the release of their first single, Bingo Master's Break-Out.

Imagine that Tom and Jerry cartoon where the relentless march of ants bounces the hapless feline out of a tree and you may get an idea of what this powerhouse is all about

I was so impressed that afterwards, the then cub reporter ventured into buying frontman Mark E Smith a pint - being careful to first remove the blob of gob from the bottom of one of the club's infamous plastic glasses.

"Cheers, mate!" responded the affable one who was destined to become a god among the likes of Peelie and a welter of scals in donkey jackets.

Almost 30 years on, and many Fall gigs later, I interviewed him while he languished on the settee of his Prestwich home waiting for early doors at his local to open.

The Eric's gig was mentioned and although he politely apologised for not remembering being bought the pint - the bastard! - he recalled the night itself very well.

"That was the first time we ever played Liverpool and we kept coming back after that," he recalled in that laconic Salford drawl. "I always had a soft spot for the place because no one would give us a gig in Manchester at the time. But Liverpool always seemed to have faith in us."

Ah, bless him, I thought, he's a big softie really.

So I told him so, adding that his image as being a miserable git prone to stage punch-ups and stubbing the odd lit cigarette out on an offending journalist's bonce (read the hilarious account on the web of Smith's outrageous showdown with lads mag Loaded) wasn't entirely fair.

"Hish, hish, hish, hish!" he chortled Mutley-like. "You wait until it's five o' clock, Mike, and I've been in the alehouse all f***ing afternoon."

All of which would give the impression that the founder and only surviving member of The Fall after more hirings and firings than a Pol Pot suicide squad is professionally shambolic. Well, not much - and certainly not in current form.

To quote the title of a song of his, the old boy is Fit and Working Again. The new album, Your Future Our Clutter, is one of the most accessible since 1993's Infotainment Scam. That's without selling out the familiar Fall rumble that's a beacon of light in these times of X Factor drivel.

A lot of it might have to do with the security that after nigh on 30 studio albums in just many years he's finally found a band he's happy with.

When we last spoke two years ago, the line-up which had sprung up around Smith and his third wife Eleni Poulou on keyboards was guitarist Peter Greenway, Dave Spurr on bass and drummer Keiron Melling. And, gulp, wonder of wonders, they're still there.

At the time Mr E Smith confided: "This lot are the best. I can't stand anyone behaving like they're in the bloody Rolling Stones or any of that 'I'm a rock star' nonsense." Quite.

After storming sets from Widnes's Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies and Manc doom-mongers Gabrielle's Wish, The Fall duly took to the 02 Academy stage with the customary silent disdain we've grown to know and love.

None of this "Hiya Liverpool. Its great to be back. Are your ready to rawk?" bobbins. Not even a solitary menacing "We are The Fall" introduction before laying waste to the planet. There was work to be done and The Fall got down to it, Smith casting aside his leather jacket and rolling up the sleeves like a navvy, only in his case it was two microphones instead of a pick axe that were being wielded.

The extra mic assistance unsurprisingly made no difference - you could barely hear a word he was ranting on about as the band blasted through some of the highlights of the new album. Purists may sniff at this apparent disregard for the niceties of traditional tuneful rock caterwauling, but Smith has embraced the art of the non-singing rant and made it his own, a raging urban poetry designed for grumpy old/young men/women everywhere.

Even Eleni, in Yoko fashion, gets in on the act with a high pitched squawk that would shatter a wine glass from 100 metres. It was certainly a remedy for clearing the wax from the eardrums.

But it's the fire-storm that's kicked up by the blistering Spurr/Melling rhythm machine and the quasi-rockabilly overlay from the impassive Greenway that really grips one by the curlies and makes The Fall, in full flow, a might unstoppable juggernaut.

Imagine that Tom and Jerry cartoon where the relentless march of ants bounces the hapless feline out of a tree and you may get an idea of what this powerhouse is all about.

It's exhilarating to be in its presence and it's what that sad old dame that now passes for rock music should still be all about.

Basically, Smith and his acolytes have tapped the primal motherlode and are still pumping it out for us to gratefully suck it up.

So long live The Fall - the resulting hangover and the aggravated tinnitus currently ravaging the now cleared lug holes have made the experience all worth while once again.

8/10

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