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Released in 1993 on Permanent records The Infotainment Scan is the sixteenth studio album to be released by the Mancunian punk band The Fall.
The line up
Usually I omit line ups from my reviews, but with The Fall they have had so many line-ups with each member adding an element of uniqueness to the band that I think its is an important inclusion -
Mark E. Smith - Vocals
Craig Scanlon - Guitar
Steve Hanley - Bass guitar
Simon Wolstencroft - Drums
Dave Bush - Keyboards
There are 12 tracks on the album. The CD release is identical to the Vinyl album release except for the addition of 1 extra track (League Moon Monkey Mix).
Reviewed in the order that they appear on the CD -
Ladybird (Green Grass) -
A great thumping reverb drenched drum beat and a great bass line from Steve Hanley start the album off. On top of this strong backing are techno whizzing and whirring noises from keyboardist Dave Bush. The guitar and vocals join in simultaneously and you immediately get the feeling that Marks heart isn't in the song and that he is reading the lyrics rather than singing them. This is a great shame as the version of the song that they had recorded in a session for the John Peel show was much less lacklustre.
Lost in Music -
A relatively straight forward (well as straightforward as The Fall can get!) cover of the classic Sister Sledge song. Mark does struggle to hit the higher notes, but Craig Scanlon's funky guitar playing and Dave Bushes synthesizer pads make the song a passable cover version albeit a strange choice of song.
A thumping glam rock beat, not dissimilar to tracks by The Glitter Band, drudge throughout this song. Mark lyrically assassinates a character referred to as 'Glam Rick'. Many Fall fans are convinced that the lyrics are having a dig at Suede singer Brett Anderson, but personally I think Mark is referring to glam wear in general when he declares 'You are entrenched in Suede'. Overall the song is bouncy and fun.
I'm going to Spain -
This is a painful cover version of S Bent's song. There are no redeeming points to this song. Cringe worthy lyrics and dodgy synthesizer harmonies make this cover version almost parallel in quality with the original!
It's a Curse -
The harmonics of Scanlon's guitar on this track sometimes are in the same ballpark as U2's the edge. I think if Mark had made this comparison he would have erased it! The song, which is bouncy and musically compact has a great vocal from Mark and is one of the more focused songs on the album.
Paranoia Man in Cheap Sh*t Room -
The undisputable jewel in the crown f this album. The music screams nineties Manchester at you. The almost techno pop synthesizer's are topped with great shaking percussion and a really catchy guitar loop. Marks lyrics are excellent too and sing a tale of a man who is a prison in his own room and clutched in the depths of Paranoia. "By bed replica shooter" and "Drops his head when girls pass in the street" help to conjure up a mental image of this fictional character.
Mark opens the track with the question - "Why do have a cloud in your eye?" over a soulful piano chord. The song then proceeds to describe a morning walking through the streets of a city (presumably Salford) and reflects on its influence in a sombre mood. The music is very un-Fall like and is based heavily around a piano pattern of minor chords and choral stabs of brass. Overall it is quite a laid back, relaxing and reflective song.
The League of Bald-Headed Men -
The song which has a bar chord heavy riff is almost traditional rock in its feel. Mark suggests that he is surrounded daily by a plethora of follicle challenged men. He mentions School mates, Business advisors and even members of the band (At this point in there career it was only bass player Steve Hanley that had a receding hairline!). It's a good track although the synthesizers are too low in the mix and their have been far better live renditions of this song.
A Past Gone Mad -
The keyboards are really loud and dominate this fast electro song.
The lyrics are a gripe to people who always look to their past instead of the future. The statement is affirmed by the opening lyrics of - "Serial killers were always a bore in my book, Along with Spangles and soccer books".
Light / Fireworks -
You'll find an odd combination of tracks here. It starts off with a backward bass synthesizer and Mark grunting "Cog, Cog Control" and cheerful lyrics such as "Light up a cigarette, cos it might be your last". This track quickly mutates in a keyboard and drum loop that sound like a kids toy keyboard. The sound is very distant, possibly being played on a cassette player. Over the top of this Mark reads a poem about fireworks illuminating the sky. This section ends and then an instrumental of "The Legend of Zanadu" fades the track to an end.
Without doubt the most bizarre track on the album.
Why Are People Grudgeful? -
This song was also released as a single. Unlike the single release which was keyboard heavy this is a far more stripped back song and the guitar work is much louder. The song has a Ska beat and see's Mark in good vocal form. The influence of Lee Scratch Perry's song Grudgeful is obvious throughout.
League Moon Monkey Mix -
An addition to the CD (the track wasn't on the vinyl release) is a slow techno reworking of 'The league of bald-headed men'. In my opinion it is far worst than the original mix and could have happily been left off the CD.
This album is rather polished in production and the electronic presence of Keyboardist Dave Bush really binds the songs together well.
The term techno garage rock is penned in many reviews and it definitely could be perceived as that. However the odd lyrical slants and vocal delivery of Mark E Smith make this another album that deviates from the standard rock genre and requires a few listens to appreciate. Personally I would have preferred the album if a couple of the cover versions had been omitted; that said there are plenty of strong songs on this album that outweigh the poorer tracks and I would recommend this album.
Price and availability
A reissue of the CD with additional tracks was available for £4.98 from www.amazon.com at the date of writing (4th September 2008).
Copyright M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Ladybird (Green Grass)
2 Lost In Music
4 I'm Going To Spain
5 It's A Curse
6 Paranoia Man In Cheap Sh*t Room
8 The League Of Bald-Headed Men
9 A Past Gone Mad
11 Why Are People Grudgeful?
12 League Moon Monkey Mix
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Ladybird (Green Grass)
4 Paranoia Man In Cheap Sh*t Room
7 15 Ways
8 A Past Gone Mad
9 Why Are People Grudgeful?
11 The Re-Mixer
12 Lost In Music
13 A Past Gone Mad
14 Instrumental Outtake
17 Lost In Music
18 Lost In Music
19 Lost In Music