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The Fall – Dragnet (Cherry Red)

I’ve said before when reviewing the reissue of the ‘O-Mit’ EP, that it wasn’t until hearing the Infotainment Scan album that The Fall resonated with me. Well, this is the re-issue of their second album Dragnet and I can’t understand why I didn’t embrace them with open arms before 1993. This is the work of a genius mind, alright so it may feel as if the songwriter is at times barking random words, but I’m sure Mark E Smith knew the direction his words were heading.

The Fall were a post-punk group formed in 1976 in Manchester, although only Mark remained a constant member until his death in 2018. Although the band underwent several stylistic changes over these years, the unchanging factor was always Mark’s distinctive vocal and often cryptic lyrics. These coupled with an abrasive guitar-driven sound, I now realise, were very moreish. If this floats your boat, then this album might be the one for you, although having released 31 studio albums, you can take your pick, but would urge you to listen to this one. Imagine 31 days in the month and you could choose a different album each day, before returning to the first, then repeat. This is what I would call heaven.

Released on the 26th of October 1979, it commences with the ‘Psykick Dancehall’, this and the following number ‘A Figure Walks’, possess an almost surf-rock feel, quite a distance from their post-punk roots. These tracks feature an urgency, supplied by the band’s accompanying backdrop and illustrated by Mark’s random lyrics. The occasional crash of a cymbal sheds light on a darkened room, a room in which the singer snarls words into a microphone. This is the picture I have in my mind, resurrecting Smith from his resting place. His 31 albums may never see him rest but feel this may be his wish. Always a presence, always performing.

I love the number that follows, having been a former student of print, ‘Printhead’ kinda hits the spot, with a raw guitar, I can almost see the strings being thumped along with the tempo. ‘Dice Man’ follows, as Smith sings “I am the dice man/I take a chance huh/do you take a chance huh?” and no he isn’t performing his best Abba impression. This is a number that seems to dismiss my theory that Smith is barking random lyrics, that was until he begins to sing “Do all these musicians have a social conscience?/Well only in their front rooms” and we’re back to the Mark we all love, as the gritty guitars continue to strike out. You’ll love the following number ‘Before The Moon Falls’, as a guitar is strummed with a gentle caress, Mark sets the scene of private detectives, back from a pilgrimage. I’m sold, my mind is already making notes on the canvas. I see this as a graphic novel, set in the failing light of a northern town, where else.

Through ‘Your Heart Out’, which features a sublime chord progression, with B flat moving to major chords F and C during a chorus which changes throughout the song. It’s ‘Muzorewi’s Daughter’ that next takes my attention, as Mark touches on African politics. I love the point at which his vocal squeaks as he sings “Muzorewi’s Daughter”, bringing immortality to this Zimbabwean bishop and politician, who oversaw the country’s transition to independence in the early 70s, the singer’s wish to educate himself I find of immense interest, his composition perhaps more so.

The song ‘Flat Of Angles’ is next and possesses a very familiar rhythm, again with an almost surf-rock feel, again my theory that Mark barks random lyrics is reduced to dust. There is a story here if you find the right time to interpret his words, but in the meantime would suggest you bask in the music that plays alongside, this is a valid pastime in itself. Returning to the sublime, ‘Choc-Stock’ is up next and feel this speaks to and of a youth, who from the ’50s finally saw that freedom was for them. I’m probably making more of the song than Mark intended, but that’s my interpretation.

The final two tracks, from ‘Spectre Vs Rector’, to ‘Put Away’ display a band experimenting and having fun, with the tools at their disposal. These are fantastic examples of one of Manchester’s finest sons. His lyrics might seem unearthly, but his music is unchallenged as great dance tunes for that ‘Psykick Dancehall’. As a latecomer to all that is The Fall, this is a great album, although I’ve yet to listen to one that isn’t and with 31 albums I’ve got plenty of homework ahead of me.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.