Review Summary: I've sold my car, thrown in my job..
In the spring of 1993, The Fall unexpectedly found themselves hipster critical darlings, sending that year’s The Infotainment Scan
to the #9 spot on UK charts. Though the album is markedly more commercial in sound, its acrid moods, doused in Mark E. Smith’s patent lyrical sulphur, might suggest that its sudden short tryst with radio appeal was due to little else than the recycling of trends, and the fact that the rising tide of alt. rock bands often credited The Fall as obscure inspiration. To fans and followers however, Infotainment Scan
’s success contained little mystery.
Most everything clicks on the album’s top half. Opener “Ladybird (Green Grass)” is a plait of twitchy starts and stops, Smith by turns assertive and imploring. The song never loses its kick after rushing out the gate, and still stands as one of Mark E. Smith’s finest latter-day moments. The kraut-toe-tap of Sister Sledge’s “Lost in Music” hits just as hard, and from there, Infotainment Scan
races through one off-kilter walloper after another.
The production of Infotainment Scan
, more robust and strident, was the band letting go of the scrappy, rugged leanings of their past work. Given that their writing was starting to gain a new, albeit warped level of ambition, the benefits are made instantly obvious. Whereas the first of their 90’s output, Shift-Work
and Code: Selfish
sounded wispy and detached, here the songs feel like they’re catching up with The Fall’s growing scope. Smith even turns in an unorthodox melodic performance, as the band take on “I’m Going to Spain,” originally penned by UK soap actor Steve Bent, and infamously considered to be one of the worst records ever made.
Thinking back to it, The Fall’s knack for staunch abrasion made them prime candidates for industrial music, and so their first full-bodied dabbles in metallic disco turn out propellant and stirring, making for some of the album’s strongest moments. They bury “Paranoid Man in a Cheap Sh*t Room” in a swirl of concentric momentum and “Glam Racket” pulses away in its relentless proto-march.
After deploying all of their new arsenal from the outset, The Fall begin stumbling, and so the second half of Infotainment Scan
bottoms out somewhat. This is where the glossy production starts hampering proceedings. The album’s blemishes, which previously would have hidden in the weedy charm of lo-fi production, become glaring sores. The closing trio of tracks range from aimless ambience to wilting electro-dance, and end Infotainment Scan
’s victory trot on a limp note.
The Fall’s sudden chic draw didn’t last long, and by the time Middle Class Revolt
came out the following year, they were already being relegated back to punk’s ‘old mean dogs’ status. It was their second and last drift through the public eye, the band themselves staggering on unbothered, amid a mess of resentments, smashed-up gear and broken pint glasses.