Originally released in 1990 on Phonogram records Extricate is the 13th studio album to be released by the Mancunian punk band The Fall.
The line up
The line up for this recording were -
Mark E. Smith - Vocals
Martin Bramah - Guitar, backing vocals
Craig Scanlon - Guitar
Steve Hanley - Bass guitar
Marcia Schofield - Percussion, keyboards
Simon Wolstencroft - Drums
Plus help from -
Kenny Brady - Fiddle
Charlotte Bill - Flute, oboe
Craig Leon - Backing vocals, organ
Mike Edwards - Guitar
Cassell Webb - Backing vocals, organ
There are a couple of interesting things to note about this line up of the band. Firstly is the return to the band of Martin Bramah who hadn't played with The Fall since 1979. The second most noticeable change in the line-up is the absence of songwriter, guitarist, Singer and Mark E Smiths ex-wife Brix Smith.
As there have been many re-issues and variations of this album I have reviewed the vinyl version which is the basic tracks that the reissues add to. There are 10 tracks on the album
Reviewed in the order that they appear on the album -
Sing! Harpy -
The song starts with lots of scratchy violins that really grind and irritate. The song then starts and it's an awkward two note song that skips along to a slightly off beat drum sound. Mark puts in a good vocal performance and I think the lyrics are about a girl from a circus selling cannabis, though it's hard to tell!
I'm Frank -
This track is possibly the first Fall to feature a flute. The song has a whistle along catch line and a catchy guitar hook line that make this quite a pop sounding song. There aren't many lyrics in this song at all, in fact most lines revolve around variations of - "Gimme gimme gimme it slowly baby"! When the band performed this live on BBC's Late Show Mark said that the song was written by Craig Scanlon and it was a tribute to Frank Zappa!
Bill Is Dead -
The most exposed and tender song written by the band. It's a slow song with delicate guitar chords and sweeping strings. Mark sings his heart out about the aftermath of the death of his father. It's a beautiful and fitting tribute.
Black Monk Theme, Part I -
The first cover version on the album is a cover of one of Mark's favorite bands - The Monks. The song swings back and for over a repetitive tune whilst a irritating fiddle or violin wails over the top.
Mark sings in a stutter style and despite improving on the original I do find this song a little lacklustre.
Popcorn, Double Feature -
Another cover version and this time it's of a Searchers song.
The music to this song is really close to the original and the string sections give the whole track a commercial feel. This song was the second on the album to be released as a single, probably due to its radio friendly sound. Mark sings the song quite well and doesn't stray much from the original lyrics which are about comparing the madness of the modern world to an unfolding movie plot.
Telephone Thing -
This track is a real ode to the Madchester scene of the 1990's. It has a deep repetitive dance bass line and loads of wah wah guitar and synthesizers over the top. Mark sings the tale of phone tapping and privacy exploits and even manages to name drop Eastenders actress Gretchen Franklin in the lyrics. The track was also released as a single with a longer more dub based version included.
The track is a short and happy sounding pop song. It's not until you hear the lyrics that it is in fact a song about a nuisance neighbour -
"Hilary, where's the sixty quid you borrowed off me for the gas?
I won't give you a kiss"
Chicago, Now! -
In my opinion the albums best track. It's slow and repetitive with the distorted bass hook line from Steve Hanley being the key instrument. The lyrics are quite minimal with Mark stating "Do you work hard? You don't" in a jibe at the laziness of work culture (whether he is referring to his band or to the general public is the question). This lyric was later resurrected in the song "Blindness" from the "Fall Heads Roll" album released many years later.
The Littlest Rebel -
This is a quaint and quirky little pop song that has a very sparse sound to it. The guitars are thin and reedy, the drums pop along like an old Motown record and to add a little edge there is some out of key harmonica being played throughout. Marks' singing on this song really adds to its charm. It's a short but sweet song.
And Therein -
This song shuffles along and sounds familiar to the traditional song "Do the hucklebuck" which the band had already butchered many years ago in the form of "Hassle shmuck". The song sounds restrained with brushed rhythms and acoustic sounding guitars.
Extricate came at a difficult time in Marks career with the loss of his father and the divorce from his wife. The album sounded different as a result of the latter and the rock edge of Brix's riffs is apparent in their absence. The album demonstrates a much more commercial sounding and conventional Fall and there are no real outbreaks of menace or madness on this record.
That said, the sound is pleasant enough and the musicianship good. Chicago Now , Bill is Dead and Telephone Thing are classic Fall tracks and deserve to be up there with the best, but the rest of the songs unfortunately wash pleasantly over me.
Price and availability
A remastered reissue of this album was available from www.amazon.co.uk for £9.98 at the date of writing (29th September 2008).
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sing! Harpy
2 I'm Frank
3 Bill Is Dead
4 Black Monk Theme
5 Popcorn Double Feature
6 Telephone Thing
8 Chicago Now
9 The Littlest Rebel
10 And Therein ...
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Telephone Thing
2 Telephone Dub
3 British People In Hot Weather
4 Butterflies 4 Brains
5 Arms Control Poseur
6 Arms Control Poseur
8 Black Monk Theme
10 Theme From Error Orror
11 Chicago Now
12 Black Monk Theme
14 Whizz Bang