I am Kurious Oranj (1988) ***
This is music for a ballet. I wish I could come with an opening sentence different from what every reviewer who's ever written about this album has opened their piece with, but "The Fall" and "ballet" is so jaw-stroking a juxtaposition that I need add no additional spice. I've learned from experience that overspicing can ruin many a soup. Always better to underspice when cooking because you can always add more spice later. Anyway, this is indeed a kurious piece of product for the Fall, in a number of ways. It follows in the same style as the last album, but with more emphasis on the musical side of things - songs are no longer merely catchphrases while the band desultorily plunks along, there are some actually interesting musical ideas going on. But it's a half-step forward, half-back as this is thus far the most wildly inconsistent Fall album: while the successful tracks are as good as any random Fallmusic, the other half are total crap. I realize that some fans try to defend the fact that around 50% of this album is objectively worthless by citing the fact that much of this is incidental music for a ballet and thus must be taken in context, but when is that an excuse? I'm not renting a DVD of the ballet (if such an item even exists), I'm listening to a CD sans visuals. The music has to hold up as music. Good thing that the good songs are a major improvement over The Frenz Experiment's. There's quite a bit of creative recycling over past Fallmusic on this album (see, familiarity with a band's back catalogue is crucial for a reviewer): the opening track reworks "Hip Priest," (and is repeated itself in reworked form as the closing track); the second track throws in lyrics from even further back, Slates' "An Older Lover, Etc." ; and what track from the preceding album does "Last Nacht" remind you of? Well, at least "Last Nacht," is a vast improvement, and not just because it's much (thankfully), much shorter. Mark E. is not merely self-plagiarizing: after getting out of his system a spoken-word rant criticizing dog owners, "Jerusalem," sets lyrics copped from William Blake to a melody lifted from an Olde English hymn, while Mark rants sarcastically about welfare-leeches blaming all their personal ills on the government. Other worthwhile tracks include the pretty instrumental title track; the funk-monster, "Wrong Place, Right Time," which may or may not have been inspired by the Dr. John chestnut of similar titleage; "Cab It Up," in which Mark E. semi-raps mostly indecipherably but I do make out a clear reference to "texting it uptown," - holy shit, in 1988?! Then there's the sea-shanty-ish, "Van Plague," recounting a tale of sea-borne plague - how come no one ever mentions this tune? It's my favorite! And then, like I said, there may be moments here and there, but I'm not going to waste much time dispatching such disposable crap like the dead-dull acoustic balladry of "Guide Me Soft," which sounds like a two-year old picked up the guitar line, or the excruciating cut'n'paste mashup of "C.D. Win Fall," which recycles "Hip Priest," one time too many, or the three or five other crap tracks I haven't mentioned yet.
Hits or misses? Yes, O Yes.