Room to Live (1982) **
So Hex Enduction Hour was apparently too polished for Mark E.'s liking and thus he rounds up the band, throws'em in the studio, and bashes this lengthy EP/LP hybrid (36 minutes, long enough for an album for me) out quickly to capture an off-the-cuff, loose feel. As if previous Fall LPs weren't loose and off the cuff enough in the first place. Predictably, it's a disaster, the first Fall album not worth your money or downloading time. The songs are underwritten, mostly hanging on one repetitive riff and dragging on for four or five minutes, and not hypnotically, but boringly. "Detective Instinct," is the worst offender in this category, as Mark simply mutters the title chorus as a hook for nearly six minutes, while the band trods behind him musically adrift and directionless. Too many of the songs sound like they were written on the spot, and even if they weren't written in five minutes, they were certainly performed in five minutes with no rehearsal, as even a cursory listen makes clatteringly clear. Mark's vocal melodies are still as strong as ever, which suggests that he had these songs formed in his head before he stepped in the studio; however, he did not give such forethought to the band's music, or apparently give them a chance to brew up some interesting chords and changes to match Mark's lyrics & vocals. "Marquis Cha-Cha," shows the failed potential: with its attempt at Latin rhythm and compelling lyrics about the Falklands War, it could've been an ace tune if given more time to develop and a band that had played it more than once. "Joker Hysterical Face," which opens the platter, also shows potential, with its intriguing politicized lyrical sloganeering and sharp little guitar hook/riff. "Papal Visit," on the other hand, is completely unsalvageable, and by far the worst-ever Fall track so far: six minutes of hideous scraping violin while Mark mumbles unintelligibly about Pope John Paul II. The CD does have two bright spots, a pair of bonus tracks that were originally released as a single and by themselves making the album not totally unworthwhile for Fallnatics, as they are actually produced and fully developed songs that are a million times better than anything on the album itself. "Fantastic Life," is overproduced synth-pop, of all things, the Fall's first foray into such waters. Even better is "Lie Dream of a Casino Soul," a cheeseful of keyboard garage pop in which Mark contemplates cutting his dick off because it got him into too much trouble. The reissue adds a few live cuts as bonus tracks, but so what, who cares, they're not all that worth hearing. A serious step back from the sound of Hex, but hey, they've got fifty albums, they're allowed a dodgy one or dozen.