Friday, February 18, 2011

The Fall - Dragnet

Dragnet (1979) ****

The Fall's second album steps sideways from the pure punk ravers of the debut for a more grindingly rhythmic attack that is at once more murkily underproduced and feigning towards classic rock stylistics:  "Flat of Angles," slide guitar-fest could almost pass muster as an Exile-era Stones outtake.  The songs are less immediately hooky than the debut, as the emphasis starts to stray more on overall sound:  this one's got a dank, murky, underproduced cellar-dungeon atmosphere to recommend it.  In other words, it's a Fall album in that it sounds like all the other Fall albums except that it sounds uniquely unlike all the other Fall albums.  Lineup changes:  minus Martin Bramah and plus Craig Scanlon, who introduces a more scratchy and clanging style as opposed to Bramah's high-end glass sharding.  More importantly, in steps Steve Hanley on bass, who would provide many an awesome rhythm'n'hook line to Mark E.'s rants for the next couple of decades. 

It's more rhythmic, as I said:  the opener "Psykick Dancehall," would be nearly disco-danceable if not for the lo-fi production and scrappy guitar racket; as such, it's just danceable.  More doomy, too, as tracks like "A Figure Walks," and "Before the Moon Falls," creep along with a lovely dark menace; Mark was right, funny how the power of repetition can make a slow brooder quite hypnotic if treated right.  There are punk ravers, "Printhead," "Dice Man," and "Choc Stock," listed chronologically and in order of quality (funnily enough), less inspired and less of'em than on Witch, but pogo-screech fun enough.  I kept misinterpreting the tribalistic "Muzorewi's Daughter," as "I'm Mussolini's dog-ah!" until I actually glanced at the title.  I still have no idea who Muzorewi is; all I know is, the trick of alternating plodding red injun rhythms on the verses before leaping into fastly, forcefully shouted choruses works darn swell.  "Your Heart Out," is the standout for many listeners, because it's got the prettiest melody, one, but I think that most listeners are fond of it mainly because, two, Mark E. declaims out these self-descriptive lyrics: "I don't sing, I just shout / And all on one note."  But perhaps the centerpiece is "Spectre vs. Rector," a nearly eight-minute experimental piece that starts out as a typical slow Fall plodder before, a few minutes in, disintegrating via tape technology into a splice'n'dice effort: a multi-song suite, if you could call it that, and the first lengthy experimental Fall track.  I'm still not sure if I like it.  The final song, "Put Away," I can't quite remember, probably because it falls unenviably as the followup track to "Spectre vs. Rector".

Oh yeah, there are bonus tracks, a whole extra disc of them, but only four are necessary: "Rowche Rumble," "In My Area," "Fiery Jack," and "Second Dark Age," which I all reviewed on the Early Years comp.  They could have easily found room on Disc 1 for these four bonus tracks, but to justify adding an entire bonus disc, they stretch it out with rehearsal tapes for all of the above four songs.  So, goody, you get not one but five run-throughs of "Rowche Rumble" (one a false start)!  It's called a rip-off, kids. 

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