Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., Dec. 13, 2002
The FallA Part of America Therein, 1981 (Castle/BMG)
The FallTotale's Turns (Castle/BMG)
The FallPerverted by Language (Castle/BMG)
The Fall came out of the Manchester art-school scene in 1977, played a handful of gigs, spit out a 7-inch or two, then went on to be extremely popular in Europe while being absolutely ignored stateside. This trio of discs collects a wad of the band's early studio and live recordings from 1979 to 1983. Frontman Mark E. Smith, whose adenoidal sputtering perfectly matched his skeletal frame and gaunt face, had then and still employs today the sort of metal-on-rust vocalisms that can ruin a perfectly good party. Craig Scanlon's tin-can guitar and its irritatingly repetitive jangle-noise invariably resulted in scabby foreheads for all when coupled with the sort of willfully obscure lyrics Smith strip-mined from his coal-tweaked soul. Totale's Turns is live with God-awful acoustics and utter crap recording that renders it barely there at the best moments. Nevertheless, it somehow manages to capture the band in its early, dismal anti-glory, as does the equally abrasive A Part of America, which includes the Slates EP. Only 1983's Perverted by Language, with the endearingly warped "Eat Y'self Fitter" (Captain Beefheart would be proud) and Steve and Paul Hanley's sibling rivalry rhythm section, which seems to revolve around a single note/beat for the duration of the track, feels like an honest-to-goodness Fall album. Then again, when you're dealing with one of the UK's greatest musical eccentrics, finding any early material that doesn't immediately make your ears take cover behind the davenport really ought to be noted in the "plus" column.