Cog Sinister 842.2041, released 19 February 1990.
Transitions can be difficult. As can divorces. As yours truly can attest. And attest again. Our Hero Mark E. Smith had to deal with both when he and Brix split in July of 1989.
History Lesson: Smith met Brix (nee: Louise Elise Smith - so yeah, she's Brix E. Smith, cool huh?) in Los Angeles during The Fall's spring '83 U.S. tour. Great fucking tour, btw. I saw them in Madison, Minneapolis and Chicago, and you can enjoy a recording of that very same version of The Fall on the superb Austurbaejarbio bootleg, which catches our boys in full effect at a February concert in Reykjavik. One cannot underestimate or undervalue the effect that Brix had upon the band. And trust me, it's not like Linda McCartney with Wings. When Brix replaced Marc Riley on guitar, The Fall became a Rock Band. Where the old Fall noodled, scraped, jangled, and droned, the Brix-era Fall crunched. And cranked out some classic tunes and lps - I mean, think about it: Perverted by Language (our next visit), Wonderful and Frightening, This Nation's Saving Grace ("My New House" is all her's), Bend Sinister....unless your are a complete codger like myself, those albums are "The Fall". What's more, in the midst of all this, she had a pretty fakkin great pop band called Adult Net. And she was a total babe.
So it's pretty clear we have a lot of things on the 'plus' side of the equation, but eventually Ms. Smith's occasionally caustic ways ran afoul with Mr. Smith. Or the other way around.
Ergo, when it's 'over', Our Hero not only needs to attend to his personal life (with daily near toxic doses of Kronenburg and Bushmill's no doubt) but also needs to find a bleeding second guitarist. Cos as cool as Craig Scanlon is, he has never played a note even close to the same key as the rest of the song. Ever, god bless him. Scrape scrape scrape. So who turns up but none other than Martin Bramah, the original (ca. 1977) Fall guitarist, after the failed efforts of his brilliant (no: genius) band (with Una Baines, also orig. Fall) The Blue Orchids. More on them next month too.
Extricate, one the face of it, seemed doomed to fail. We have a new band (Julia Nagle also begins her tenure on keyboards) and we have Our Hero's nagging interest in 'electronic bits' culminating with collaborations with the cuts and breaks crew Coldcut (who would soon invent Ninja Tune) and dub guru Adrian Sherwood (who would actually give the album it's most Fall-like song "The Littlest Rebel). Instead, it kisses the eighties goodbye with a kick in the ass and reinvents The Fall as: itself.
From the opening violin wail cum Stooges 1969 sludge "Sing Harpy" (hmm, Mark, a little bitter?) Extricate asserts and convinces.
"I'm Frank" continues the old-skool crunch without any pop apologies, and it in turn becomes an almost perfect pop song.
"Bill is Dead" will make you cry with it's unaffected sentiment and beauty. Almost a true country song, Mark E. Smith abstracts his sorrow over his father's recent death, and the bliss of finding a new lover, all in about 10 lines. The truth and the irony:
These are finest times of my life
This is the greatest time of my life
This is the greatest time of my life
These are the biggest times of my life
We then are greeted with the antiBrix 'I haaaate you baaaybaaaay" of "Black MonkTheme", immediately deflected by the Velvety "Popcorn Double Feature", which I believe was the first single off the album. Kool string sounds too. Followed by the dirgecrunch of "Arms Control Poseur", where harmonica and guitar are compressed and distorted beyond recognition, yet Mark E. is firmly in control of the disorder, appearing in three distinct sonic guises: distorto vox a la Gibby Haines megaphone, sampled vocal loops, and some sort of semicogent talky commentary over the top and alongside. Brill. Coldcut introduce their cut and paste funk with "Telephone Thing" which Smith fucks up totally with his rapper's delight. It's really really good, and along with the title cut, hard not to both smile and bootyshake to. "I hear your telephone thing listening in..." Never has paranoia been so much fun. "Hilary" is a Kinksish romp, and lightens the mood for the next'un "Chicago, Now!" I remember precisely hearing this song the first time on the car radio (much like my introduction toNew Orders "Temptation" a decade earlier), driving one spring evening in 1990 through the streets of Long Beach (Cleveland in the case of New Order) listening to Deirdre O' Donaghue's 'Snap' on KCRW (and she'd play Go-Betweens and Nick Cave and Jah Wobble and Spacemen 3 - those were the days). The sinister rumble of the bass, the wiry jangletwangle of the guitars, the very dubious keyboard riff, "Do-o youuu uh work hard? you do-on't ssssss. Chicago noooooow -uh" Damn, I thought, I really still do luuuuv The Fall. Before I get all misty-eyed, let me tell you about the rest of the album. The aforementioned "Littlest Rebel" could have almost come straight from Grotesque, and features Scanlon at his snakelike best. "And Therein" has become a durable country 'n northern standard for The Fall and was played to huge cheers at the last U.S. tour. The reissue of Extricate actually gives us it's title cut, previously only available as a single. It's actually barely a song, but in the best possible way- kinda like James Brown's "Hot Pants". The Fall just funkily crunch along with some biggie badass bass and drums and gnarled guitar, and Mark E. Smith simply adds a snotty "Extricate" here and there. And that's it. Right on!
I hadn't listened to this album in about five years, and upon returning to it I discovered, once again (again), that I really still do luuuuv The Fall. And so should you.