Monday, February 28, 2011

The Fall - Perverted By Language

Perverted By Language (1983) ***

First album punk, second album post-punk, third album rockabilly, fourth album noise rock, fifth album shit, and this the sixth album is art rock.  Art groove rock, I should say; only three of the original eight songs (let's ignore bonus tracks until the end of this review) are under five minutes, and surprise, surprise, they're also three of the best tracks.  "I Feel Voxish," throbs with one of the catchiest and danceable post-disco bass lines of their entire career, and at a relatively swift 2:42, "Neighbourhood of Infinity," is even better and my choice for best cut on the album.  "Hotel Bloedel," drags on too long at 3:48, but the melody is lovely, and the scraping violin gives it an Amon Düül II-ish touch.  That track also introduces the presence of the lovely and talented Brix Smith, who lullaby-sings the melody with buried-in-the-mix vocals while even-more-murkily-buried Mark E. recites behind her a tale of Civil War ghosts.  Her influence on the band is going to prove crucial, but not on this album, not yet - aside from "Hotel Bloedel," she barely registers as a presence.

The rest of the tracks linger on far too long.  The problem is that art-rock and primitivism on the whole do not mix:  if you want to perform an eight-minute epic, it helps if you know how to play your instruments well.  Basing a song on one basic nagging guitar riff might have worked if "Garden," had been halved of its ridiculously bloated 8:45 length.  "Smile," is equally primitive, but it works because it's built as an ascending-in-intensity & volume rhythmic assault, and stands out as the album's most excitingly driven track.  "Tempo House," and "Hexen Definitive/Strife Knot," close the remaining sixteen minutes of the album by seemingly going on forever, as both tracks are built on rhythmic vamps whose groove never gets groovy or hypnotic.  Repeating the same four notes of bass for eight minutes doesn't work either, Mr. Hanley.  But to get to those final tracks, first you have to make it past the hurdle of the opening track, "Eat Y'Self Fitter," one of the most annoying tracks in Fallstory (or anybody's).  Oh well, at least its admixture of a heavy bass line and whistling woodwinds sortakinda reminds me of prog-era Move.

Now, the bonus tracks, which are again shoved upfront.  Except for "Pilsner Trail," which concludes the CD, and sucks.  "The Man Whose Head Expanded," is passable faux-psychedelia, and its B-side, "Ludd Gang," is a slice of rockabilly that's even better than the A-side.  The other single included here, "Kicker Conspiracy," is a faux-humorous faux-epic accounting of English soccer hooligans abroad in Italy or Granada or wherever drunk British sports fans throwup and start fights and generally give U.K. tourists the foul reputation they have on the Continent.  The flipside, "Wings," once again dabbles in paranoid psuedo-mystical ramblings about ghosts and time travel, just as in "Hotel Bloedel."  It's got a nice riff and thumping beat to it.

In short, as it mostly consists of length, experimental vamps and grooves, it's one of the Fall's least accessible albums and certainly not a good starting point for entry.  However, a lot of seasoned Fall fans rate this a lot higher than I do and consider this one of their essential classics.  But then again, what do they know - there's a reason I refer to'em as Fallnatics.  Discrimination ain't one of their long suits.

Ooo, lookee below!  First appearance on national TV with John Peel and that dude who played boogie-woogie piano on "Cool For Cats"! 

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