Code: Selfish (1992) ***
As exciting and artistically a triumph as the 'whatever' lackluster album cover, this platter ain't too bad after a few digs in, but by no means essential (unless you're a completist, which all Fallanatics are by definition). Balancing a tasteful measure of bracing techno-influenced guitar-rock with dollops of the smooth, tuneful Fallmuzak we were introduced to on the previous pair of LPs, the Fall break no new ground here and a great deal of this comes across Fall-by-rote. Not that there aren't a handful of velly gouda songs-ah on-ah here-ah - if only the opener, "The Birmingham School of Business School," didn't drag on for six minutes, but it's the Fall in their patented draggy-repetitive-hypnotic mode, so what the hell - but you do have to be in the mood for the Fall in their draggy-repetitive-hypnotic mode. Nice little nagging guitar lyrics and Mark's singing (ha ha ha) with passionate venom, a nice return to form after the sleepy mumblings of Shit-Work. And hey, look, there's a Hank Williams, Sr. cover! It's not that great. Maybe I'm just getting burnt out on this band, but listening to this seems like too much of a chore. Or maybe they were genuinely releasing sub-par material during the first half of the '90s. It's hard to be objective in this case. After enduring a couple dozen Fall albums, you'll understand the dilemma afflicting my critical facilities. Or is that 'faculties'? Anyway, I should mention two standout tracks that make the cut of my three-disc Fall mix-volume. "Free Range," was the big hit single (well, in the U.K., and only a minor dent on the charts) and deserved to be, and ranks among their classic dance-rockers. It's driving! It's scratchy! It's got Mark pitching it up to a voice-cracking squeal! It pays to talk to no one! No one! "Gentleman's Agreement," sounds exactly like "Don't Bring Harry," era Stranglers. Hey, wait - it is "Don't Bring Harry"! With different words! Still a nice little piano ballad, and despite the obvious source inspiration, works dreamily enough to earn its spot as the album's #2 track. "Return," and the aforementioned "Birmingham..." and "Two Face," vie it out for the remaining Top 5 slots in a back-alley rumble. "Married, 2 Kids," a fun rockabilly goof. "Crew Filth," is nothing more than 5 minutes of random cussing, and "Everything Hurtz," is as painful as a hangover (maybe that was the intention). 13 songs. About half of them are good. Get it if you see it cheap, but only after the other fifteen much more essential Fall CDs. No, I'm not going to list them in order of greatness. Read the site.
P.S. One thing I've noticed about the Fall is that NOBODY can seem to agree on what their best and worst albums are. I've never encountered a band whose fans and critics are so all over the place in regards to their ouvre. But one thing we can agree on - "Free Range," what a song! Whoop dee whoot!