Originally released in 1982 on Kamera Room to Live is the 6th 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, Violin
Paul Hanley - Drums
Craig Scanlon - Guitar
Karl Burns - Bass guitar, Drums, Guitar
Steve Hanley - Bass Guitar
Marc Riley - Guitar, keyboards
Adrian Niman - Saxophone on "Room to Live"
Arthur Cadman (Kadmon) - Brief guitar on "Hard Life in Country"
The line up is worth of a mention as it was the last album by the band to feature Marc Riley (who no works as a successful TV and Radio presenter).
There are 7 tracks on the album
Reviewed in the order that they appear on the album -
Joker Hysterical Face -
The song is a brilliant opening song for the album. The song sounds solid and heavily works around a catchy guitar riff. The whole mix of the song has a compact and lively feel to it. Marks vocal delivery is focused and powerful and the song addresses familiar topics of recession, crying children and strangely 3-2-1 presenter Ted Rogers.
Marquis Cha-Cha -
The only track on the album to also be released as a single see the band in carnival mood and the whole track has a salsa beat to it.
It's quite a busy track musically with lots of additional percussion.
Mark's vocals are on form as he sing's about leaving home in the UK to become a broadcaster in South America -
"It is a good life here,
Football and beer much superior,
Gringo gets cheap servant staff,
Low tax and a dusky wife"
Hard Life in Country -
The track starts with Mark in conversation about the sound being reedy with a bloke named John (I assume it's the producer John Leckie). The song then kicks in which has a booming bass riff and very sharp and acute piercing guitar. The drums are minimal and offer little more than a bass drum click track and the odd crash cymbal. This song is all about the lyrics and Mark has a barrage of lines to spit through. I think Mark is explaining the dislike of having to live in the countryside rather with the interference of nosey neighbors and hedgehogs at his feet!
Room to Live -
The albums title track is a blinder. The two chord repetitive riff provides a great playground for Mark to unload a plethora of great lyrics. The song addresses people's need for networking and company whereas by contrast Mark wants space; room to live. The lyrics capture the feel of the early eighties perfectly -
"There's a D.H.S.S. Volvo estate,
Right outside my door,
With a Moody Blues cassette on the dashboard"
The wailing saxophone on this song also gives the song a quirky edge.
Detective Instinct -
The song is really loose and sounds like it could fall apart at any time. The bass line rumbles throughout and echoed guitar riffs interject at in odd unison. When the swing drum beat finally drums in the whole proceeding sounds disjointed and awkward. You can even hear the drums of a Casio VL-Tone keyboard in the mix (the type used on Trio's Da Da Da hit song and also by The Fall themselves on The Man Whose Head Expanded single). The vocals are loud and ambiguous as ever although they appear to be about an ex-convict turned detective!
Solicitor in Studio -
It's only a two chord song but the complex bass line really lifts the song. Despite the sparse repetitive musical drone Mark is on vocal form and really makes the song a classic -
"Young dicks make TV,
Get 'em away from me,
Young dicks make TV,
Loads of hair-style ideals"
That lyric always makes me smirk as they had performed the song on Granada TV's local news show which was at the time presented by Richard Madeley. Mark's dislike for Madeley's blandness was later resurrected in the song "Past gone mad" many years later.
Papal Visit -
The most painful song (if you can call it that) that I have ever heard. Lots of atonal scraping violin sounds are underpinned by lots of crashing tribal drum sounds and a soundtrack that sounds like a shop floor of a clock making factory. The lyrics are half spoken and half sung and skirt around the subject of the Popes UK visit in a writing style unique to Mr. Smith!
The song is a really odd and slightly disturbing ending to the album.
The albums predecessor "Hex Enduction Hour" was considered at the time to be the bands defining record and was going to be a hard record to follow.
Apparently the plan was to record a single and the recording session ended in some improvisation and resulted in these seven tracks.
I think the album is a success as the lyrics capture Mark at his lyrical and vocal best. Mark definitely had a lot to say and the scratchy awkward backing music proved a perfect vessel to deliver his thoughts.
Price and availability
A reissue of the CD including 6 extra bonus live tracks was available for £2.98 form www.amazon.com at the date of writing (24th September 2008). A bargain!
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Joker Hysterical Face
2 Marquis Cha Cha
3 Hard Life In The Country
4 Room To Live
5 Detective Instinct
6 Solicitor In Studio
7 Papal Visit
8 Town Called Crappy/Solicitor In Studio
9 Hard Life In The Country (1)
10 Detective Instinct
11 Room To Live
12 Words Of Expectation