The Infotainment Scan (1993) ***
Operation: Mindfuck. Well, that's the most memorable line Mark E. comes up with this time round. I don't know if it's a Queensryche knock or not, and neither do I care. After a string of sub-par releases featuring a noisy '80s guitar-rock band awkwardly and sometimes successfully, but mostly unsuccessfully, attempting to update their sound for the electro-techno baggy-pants '90s, the mother-rawkin' Fall are bee-ack, hobgoblins! It's not so much that the opener, "Ladybird (Green Grass)," a social commentary on the stupidity of open air concert festivals or somewhatever, is one of my favorite all-time Fallgreats - it's not - but it is really good, hanging on a neatly memorable ascending garage-rock hook. No, it's more likely the second track, a cover of Sister Sledge's disco classic, "Lost in Music," which performed Fallstyle - well, need I say more? Has to be heard to be believed. And yes, that's a way of saying that it's really, really good. Track #3 contains the most fully realized original Fallsong on this particular platter, the Glitter-ish glam-stomp that is entitled, naturally, "Glam Racket." It's not exactly a racket but it sure is glam. Half truth in advertising. I was this close to giving up on the band, and here they prove that they can make an excellently listenable and catchy and varied album's worth of music, without merely rehashing past glories but exploring new directions in Fallsound.
Well, for a three-song stretch, that is.
After that, the album grows frustratingly inconsistent. It's not that I mind the corny Aussie-C&W cover, "I'm Going To Spain," with its shimmery shoe-gazish guitars enticing enough (hint hint hint: await brighter guitar textures to come! Specifically: next album!), but it is a cornball slice of Antipodean-redneck pop, after all. "Paranoid Man in Cheap Shit Room," boasts one of the greatest song titles ever, but it's only half as good as its title threatens. Which isn't to say it isn't good. But how could it possibly live up to that title? Anyway, no more sitting on the cheap shit fence: it's a good'un. Not a great'un, but one of the better ones on this album. Conversely, "It's a Curse," is twice as good as its completely banal title threatens to entertain. Which isn't to say it's all that great, but it's a nice little garage driver. "Service," and "A Past Gone Mad," venture even further into techno-dance territory, and they're good. Still a little too awkward to shake up Madchester ecstacy raves, but they keep on improving with it. Maybe eventually they'll get the hang of making some great dance music (hint hint hint redux). "Why Are People Grudgeful," is a throwaway ska/reggae cover (maybe that's why they shoved it all the way back to #11 - man, is this the most frontloaded Fall album ever). As usual with their "fuck you, casual pop listeners, here's our token Zappa-esque Revolution #9" experimental tracks, "Light/Fireworks," is certainly interesting....for one, and precisely one, listen. OK, maybe two or even three repeat plays, but hardly deserving of more than that. And the slight novelty rant, "League of Bald Headed Men" did not warrant recursion as "League Moon Monkey," - see, one's more garage-rocky, and the latter's techno-spacey! Ah, feck off, Mark.
In other words, in sum, in toto: goddamn bloody feckin' inconsistent. But there are enough good to great moments to offer hope for the future. Hint hint hint tre três trois.