The Fall #1 USA: New York Coney Island High
Great I give The Fall a duff review and end up on the next Fall album in a song called "Yank Wax"· 'Man with frog name/What's in his ears?Nihat's in his ears ?" Or end up on the business end of one of MES's cigarettes, or get fired. Ah, but one advantage of not being in The Fall is that Mark ESmith can't f1re you, as he has done Craig Scanlon (the tersest gu itar ist in rock), Marc Riley and a host of others. If 1997 and 1998's personnel trends are any indication, MES's hanging JUry is giving way to a hanging judge, as he announces to the world, "If it's me and your Granny on the bongos, it's a Fa ll gig". Doesn 't exactly make for a fu n ride in the van for the group, or much of a show, as seen at Coney Island High (which is neither 1n Coney Island, nor a high school )
After interminable opening sets by local groups, The Fall 98 ambl ed out and worked up an intro for The Marquis Arriving with a welcome "Ah-ehl " and sporting a shiner on his right eye, Smith started as he meant to continue, the anti leader who drew the eye but rejected any responsibi lity for putting on a show. With a twitchy gravitas copped, it seemed, from both Johnny Cash and John Quincy Adams, he chewed air, blinked and checked that his mic was plugged in abou t 1000 times. The tics even enhance MES's profile as one of Rock's True Somethings, number one in a fi eld of one: the dissolute rock librarian. Loo king some ten yea rs older than he is, MES still managed to exude menace while he stood there wobbling. Again, not exactly a rock show, but definitely worth a trip out of the house.
transformed (or mulched) stormers like "Masquerade" and "Scareball " into endurance tests, can ing the main riff to death without working up any steam Two chestnuts, "Hip Priest' and 'Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul ", saved some face, allowing Burns and Han ley to lessen the burden of figuring out what to do, ie get soft here, stop · here, then get loud. The mighty ' Inch" devolved into power chord mush, stea ling what could have been the evening's finest moment as MES woke up to yowl ' The house is falling in'" The key to the disarray was probably the obvious, seen best halfway through the set when MES announced that the group'would take a ten minute break. With grim fury, Hanley threw down his bass and stormed off, while the rest of the group followed , no happier After a crisp four minutes, they returned, maybe happy to have their pep talk over with, but no more primed to rock As someone in front of me said, ' i t's going to be a short tour" .
Even if he hadn't dragged everyone off stage for reorientation, dictatori al flourishes abounded. When things got especially lost, MES would drop his fist onto Nagle 's keyboard for some Sun Ra clusters, turn up Tommy Crooks's amp and occasionally leave the stage, di recting Crooks to finish singing the song at hand. To add to the general discomfort, his directions were right; Nagle was well south of rocking (or present) and Crooks was never loud enough, until he gave in for the final number, "Behind The Counter', and let his amp work a bit
The Fall seem to be running on inertia, the primal rock 'n' ro ll dream materialising in the studio, ironically, but chased from the stage by one too many hip lectures. SASHA FRERE-JONES
The Fall #2 USA: New York Brownie 's
We think we've come for a Fall show: riff, repeat, rant, repeat .. We don't know that we're about to witness a theatre of cruelty extravaganza the likes of which don 't often grace a group's performance more than once.
Like the shows at Coney Island High a few days earlier, the first date of the group's two night residency at the tiny Brownie's club begins with 'Spencer Must Die' And again like the Coney Island shows, the group have been vamping the song's central riff for a long time before Mark ESmith wanders on stage, looking like he's got one foot in the grave and the other in the nearest bar. He seems less interested in singing than in annoying the rest of the group as much as possible, by leaving the stage and twiddling all the amp dia ls. The group is sharp, tight, loud, and pretty clearly about to snap. Smith is not exactly unwilli ng to goad them into it During "Hip Priest" he absents himself again, sings a few lines, hands the microphone to an audience member (who knows the words ), gets back on stage and mimes along. The end vamp is drawn out until Smith fin ally gets bored with i t The group's patience is being tested to the limit
In the middle of ' Free Range", Smith starts messing with Karl Burns's drum kit it's the last straw. Burns stops playing, leaps over the drums at Smith and pins him against the wall, knocking over the bass rig in the process. Steve Hanley separates them Burns makes 'Fuck you , I quit' gestures and stalks off stage. Somebody from the audience grabs a mic and starts yell ing, "Come back here and play, you fuckin' cowardl I paid 12 dollars for thisl Get back up here and play your fuck in ' drumsl"
Meanwhile, the rest of the group is, a little ludicrously, attempting to keep the song going
After a few minutes of chaos, things settle down again. Burns is back; Smith gives a completely incoherent speech about how a cab driver pulled a gun on him earl ier and "these three fuckin' Scotsmen were talking backstage about it' Now it's his turn to leave. The group plays "Levitate" No Smith. They start "Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul". Our boy reappears, launches in to the song and nearly clocks Hanley with the microphone Hanley somehow keeps smil ing gamely. Smith manages to completely mangle Hanley's and Tommy Crooks's amp settings Now Crooks seems to be kicking Smith hard.
After a few more songs in this vein Crooks inaudible, Hanley way too loud and bassy, everybody slightly out of sync - the two of them down their instru ments on "He Pep' and head off, followed by Burns. But Mark isn 't done yet He gets keyboa rdist Julia Nagle to play "Powderkeg", and improvises a monologue about how "words are the ultimate means of sel f- expression, I saw it written in The New York Times . and the owner of the Brownie's club just hoped it made three figu res. ' Smith picks up Crooks's abandoned guitar, lets it drop WHUNKI - picks up the bass, stares at it, and tosses it into the drum kit - CRASH I drops his mic on the floor - WHUN KI and leaves. Less than 24 hours later, he will be arrested for allegedly beating up Julia Nagle.
On the way out, my friend says, "I'm coming back tomorrow, and I wanna see some blood ' The next night we find a sign on Brownie's door "FALL SHOW CANCELLED - MARK ESMITH IS IN JAIL." DOUGLAS WOLK
Shedding his tweed jacket after a sort-of rollicking "Ten Houses Of Eve", MES revealed a dark sh irt with big red roses woven into each shoulder, a nod perhaps to Country stoics who also like to alternate brilliant vocals with no-show performances. He earned his stoicism, moving in time with the music only twice, pounding the microphone during "I'm A Mummy" and shimmying, a little, during "Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul ".
The Fall 's Implicit musical manifesto has always embodied a touch of 'What chords?' mulishness, an anti-techn ique belief in the power of garage rock's grimy thunk to raise up the visceral rock moment to defeat filigree and Steve Hil lage both. But this group was, more plainly, just at odds. MES's· voice, that voice, held the crowd 's respectful attention for a good wh ile, as the group struggled through what sounded like a live rehearsal. Karl Burns thundered and Steve Hanley tried to lock with him while guitarist Tommy Crooks played inaudible power chords from other songs and keyboa rd ist Ju lia Nagle fought to stay awake, yawns and all. The group
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The Wire 71