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The Fall


The Infotainment Scan + 21




The Fall CD coverOriginally released in 1993, The Fall's Infotainment Scan marked their split with Phonogram records. The Fall's first major record label partnership did little to facilitate promised success. The band split from Phonogram and Infotainment was the first release after the band bailed on the majors. The album became the only U.K. top ten album that The Fall ever produced. The album is now re-released by Sanctuary Records giving a second chance at recognition for The Infotainment Scan.

The new release contains two-discs. The first disc contains the original album release and the original CD release bonus tracks of Why Are People Grudgeful?, their cover of the Lee Scratch Perry song, and their own League Moon Monkey Mix. Disc two contains outtakes, remixes and Peel sessions, as well as, Mark Goodier Sessions (another BBC Radio One DJ). Disc two also has the original release of the 12" EP Why Are People Grudgeful? Along with three other tracks; Glam Racket, The Re-Mixer and Lost in Music. Lost in Music was originally recorded in the disco era by Sister Sledge and appears as the ending three outtakes on disc-two.

Like Castle's re-release of The Fall's early classic, Hex Enduction Hour, the liner notes are presented by Daryl Easlea. Easlea is becoming the resident Fall liner note contributor. Easlea glows about the InfoScan record and touts the release as one of The Fall's greatest efforts-to-date. The foldout insert gives you all the pertinent information on the Scan record and good back information on the bands dilemmas and tribulations in dealing with the Phonogram label. You also get a lot of keen and biting quotations from the lyrical genius-leader of The Fall, Mark E. Smith.

The band on the Infotainment Scan is the long emeshed line up of Scanlon, Hanley, Smith and long utilized sit-in member, Simon Rodgers. Controversy encircled the release of the Info Scan album. The group was choosing a more produced sound. The addition of a drum machines and disco-fied beat was a shock to Fall purists. But these recordings were done on their own time and on their own cash. Cut at the long utilized studio Cargo, now owned by Peter Hook of New Order, you can't question the validity of the sound The Fall created on The Infotainment Scan. The band is to blame. They created this on their own terms. Maybe the fact that it was a top ten U.K. album made it a sell out to any Fall aficionado.

The sound of keyboards, computer elecronics and drum machines, affectionately coined by M.E. Smith as "techno shit", was first created for the album Code:Selfish by Simon Rodgers and Dave Bush in Bush's home studio. On InfoScan the sound became more refined and added to the opaqueness of the Scan recordings. Once again breaking new ground and changing with the times the sparse and wide-open spaces of early Fall compositions was now thick and dense guitar and drum walls. With Smith's signature sarcastic delivery and The Fall approach to composition it is always The Fall. Smith said it was the clearest thing The Fall ever recorded. But unfortunately Infotainment Scan had a limited retail appeal after its visit to the top ten and squelched the releases validity.

The album starts with Ladybird (Green Grass). Entering slowly with a drone and backward masked sound effects and electro-drumbeats this sound is alien to The Fall. Heightening this fact is the big bottom bass. It is a rock steady rhythm with a funk accent. The guitar is far more treated then the bare chords of early Fall material. The plucking lead guitar is a staple Fall guitar-part to many a Fall song but here it is not the typical sour notes. It is a clean sound that is almost ÒdumbedÓ down for a mass sound appeal.

Lost in Music is the second song, a Sister Sledge disco song. A song I first heard on a Mute 12" by Nick Cave's girlfriend, at the time, Anita Lane with Nick Cave adding backup vocals. One assumes that it is pure camp but just under the surface is a deeper sensibility. The first sound is, again, electronic but now repetitive notes. The electronics fades into a telephone message tape in French. Smith's vocals come in with a delivery of his poetic slur as the sound stirs into a disco sound ala The Fall. The band has adopted the disco but certainly kept the composition and experimentation they are famous for. If anyone has been Lost in Music, Mark E. Smith has. The song is about true passion and a driving force that propels the desire. Few have the passion and dedication then Mark E. Smith and The Fall. Disco music had some good lyrics that were stunted by the disco image. Smith is serious yet ironic and that keeps us guessing on the intent.

Glam Racket is The Fall doing a dense rock number. The sounds are separate layers densely applied to an old refrain of Fall compositions. Smith's delivery and the band's back up vocals containing Smith's voice makes for easy mapping with all the landmarks of The Fall's sound. The sentiment is pure Fall. Smith ranks on Glam Rick the media man whore. The song was thought to be referencing the band Suede but Smith's states that to be self-unflattering, "If they looked deeper into the lyrics they'd be insulted". Sounds like The Fall and it sounds like, The Fall.

The song I'm Going to Spain opens with a Catherine Wheel/Oasis open chord strumming. The sound is again bright and alien to The Fall. Never has Mark E. sounded like a pop balladeer. It is still Smith but the sound is so poppy and indie. New wave organs are silly but the off-kilter style combinations and spruced up production makes for an enjoyable, multi-level listening experience.

Paranoia Man In Cheap Sh*t Room begins with droning, sustained guitar that breaks into rolling techno drumming and big chords. When Smith's vocals come in, the rockishness and electronics are just a back drop for seminal Smith ranting. The guitar work is recognizable despite its treatment and cleanliness. It is classic Fall in an un-classic dressing.

Service, track 7, is my favorite on the CD. There is something different going on in this song. Maybe it is the electric piano, the electronic horn bursts, the disco beat, but I like it. Smith's vocals are subtly delivered with far less of his venom being spitted. The tune is the least dense of all the songs. There is a rare beauty and sweetness to this track. I have never heard The Fall so poppishly sentimental. The change is nice and in the context of The Infotainment Scan it works. They have used the technology to create something intrinsic.

League of Bald-Headed Men has a name that just makes you think of The Fall. The sound is vaguely Black Monk Theme from the Extricate album taking rock steroids. It is The Fall's construct hitting the gym and getting pumped up and pounding as the basis but is still a Fall track. Smith's lyrics are sly and slick as ever.

A Past Gone Mad starts with whirling keyboards and then goes big, real big. Booming and technological the sound is most dense. Soaring guitar notes echo around a speedy electro-techno beat. This is The Fall for the fog and lights of the club floor. Massive. Odd. The ending comes abruptly with a carnival ride, joke-in-a-bag laugh track that is scary but also making light of what you have just heard. Something totally un-Fall like but still, The Fall.

The final album track is called Light/Fireworks. An ending that plays more like an electronic experimentation with Hex Enduction-style Smith vocals that sound more like free associative poetry than a true song. The ending is a bit odd but after all the thick electronics it is a nice ease out that still keeps with the electronic theme but far more minimal and experimental than the beat infused Scan tracks.

The two bonus tracks are from the original CD release. The Lee Perry cover, Why Are People Grudgeful, is the better of the two. Already sounding like a Fall title, Smith makes the track his own. There is a subtle dub quality to it but the song is far a field from the Perry original. A nice track the more it is listened to. League Moon Monkey Mix is a mish-mash of beats, robotic electronics and is another dance floor ready beat driven track. Smith's vocals call out from behind all the beat-tronics and the sound is really odd. Smith proves that he can bring this style, If HE wants to.

The bonus CD contains the outtakes and mixes. You get 19 extra tracks that consist of Peel sessions of the era, Goodier sessions, the original Why Are People Grudgeful 12" single and the alternative tracks and outtakes.

The Peel sessionÕs tracks are great including their cover of The Sonic's Strychnine. The first song of the first CD is the first Peel track, Ladybird (Green Grass). I think I like it more than the album track. It is less electronically treated and is a more clean, straight-ahead rocking. It just sounds more Fall like. The addition of the Sonic's cover is interesting in a time of experimental electronics. The Sonic's were raw and bare rock. The Fall work the cleaned up sound with a little electronic indulgence. Service is also on the Peel sessions. ItÕs a nice version. Paranoia Man is more like the album track than any other rendition in this session in Peel's studio. This version is good and more loosely delivered than the album version with a fun little bridge with Smith's vocals and weird robotic bird sounds.

The Goodier sessions are only two album tracks, Glam Racket and A Past Gone Mad, and two non-Scan tracks, War and 15 Ways. Glam Racket is fantastic and more Fall-like than the album version. It is delivered with more acrimony than the album version and Smith is really delivering the disdain. War is a primal drum track that has a background of strange non-musical electronics. 15 Ways is a much brighter track and is The Fall's original version of the male take on 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover by Paul Simon. The song is lyrically interesting and has an easy delivery that makes for a lackadaisical listen. The Goodier session ends with A Past Gone Mad. The mix is slightly off with too much emphasis on the odd electronic embellishments than the instrumentation in the song.

Four Permanent Single tracks on the bonus CD are OK. The versions on this Permanent 12" release were all reworked for the InfoScan release. There are nice moments but the album versions are better. Glam Racket. The Re-Mixer starts like a Tackhead song with the industrial disco beats syhth bass. It breaks and comes back with the recognizable sing speak recital of Smith's delivery. The synth-violin sound is really interesting as it careens into and bounces off the electronics and echoing Smith. With so much going on for the ear to latch onto and a great beat to carry the song it is an absorbing listen. The end is just Smith reciting from poetry of found, repeated text which lends to a great transition into The Fall's cover of Lost In Music.

The outtakes and alternative versions are demos and various mixes of Lost in Music. A Past Gone Mad is hard to distinguish from the album version. The second cut, Instrumental outtake, is a really nice acoustic guitar instrumental with Smith just humming in the background. It is very lo-fi and has a nice contrast to all the electro-batics that permeate this release. You also get the instrumental demos of Service and Glam Racket. Service is a nice instrumental but gets dull where Glam is more sinister and dark. On Glam you just keep waiting for the vocals to come in. You do get the sampled background. mix-in vocals and the song has more drive and appeal than Service's instrumental demo.

Three mix versions of Lost in Music end the bonus CD. I don't need to hear more of the song. The camp wears off. The hip irony of The Fall doing a disco song wears off. I really don't need to hear this song again. If you are interested in the nuances of how a song is mixed and constructed then what is on the cutting room floor as opposed to the band's chosen album version, enjoy but after five versions, I am done.

The Fall may have disappointed a great deal of fans from the adoption of electronics and clean production but on listening to The Infotainment Scan it is really a well-made album. The Fall are known for experimentation and after so many years performing it is not so abnormal that they adopted the technology of the time and make it their own. The band's brush with Phongoram and the A&R men telling them how the band should sound became tedious. But when they left the big label and were on their own they decided to adopt the technology and sound being pushed on them. The Fall introduced the technology and production on their album and showed what they could do with computers, keyboards and synthesizers and big-time production.

The true Fall fan knows that the band is ceaseless in their appetite to digest and release styles and approaches. After so much experimentation why not choose the mainstream for their next experimentation. The irony of The Fall adopting a commercialized sound is pretty radical and experimental. A true Fall fan also knows that the band really works on what they do. It is not an attempt to please the masses or even their fans. They are there to extract what they can from the palette of inspirations that they layout and create their art from.

In true Fall fashion the band has made an album that is a commercial sound that was often pushed down their throats. When they finally adopted those techniques and sounds the result is an album that lyrically lambastes those asinine A&R men, mainstream media members, label men and reps that the band was constantly being jibed by for not adopting a more pop sound. The Fall were attempting to beat the "artists" that make commercial drivel at their own game. The prize being that they adopted the mainstream, of the time, and still can be The Fall and prouce a record that makes you think. When was the last time pop crap made you think? The Fall have taken the pop of the time and turned it on its ear and was a top ten U.K. album. That sounds like The Fall and this IS a Fall record.

---James F. Kraus, March 15, 2006