“Dragnet” by The Fall - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1979Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Continuing a late 70s trend, The Fall were the latest of the new breed to deliver two albums in the same year, with October’s “Dragnet” following just 6 months after the debut. But, as fans of the group were beginning to realise, six months is a long time in the life of The Fall. Three are out, three are in and Mark E. Smith, already, is the sole original member, unabashedly cocky in tone as he mocks “I am a Dice Man, a balls on the line man, do you take a chance, baby?” Roadie Steve Hanley (19, bass) and his pal Craig Scanlon (19, guitar) are drafted in, with previous bassist Marc Riley shifting to guitar. New drummer Mike Leigh is “rescued” from the cabaret circuit, completing the ad-hoc five-piece. The debut had been rough and ready by 1979s standards, and it might have been expected that a certain amount of polish might be the natural progression here. Contrarily, the head-honcho decided that the debut, in fact, had been too polished and that the follow up should be rougher and rawer again. Dig the new lo-fi breed. And so, the restless top-cat laid down part two of the great manifesto… do not try to second guess The Fall.

Greatness abounds on this set – Smith’s lyrics and phrases are imaginative and evocative and, already, this new group have developed a great feeling for just how to support the lively and unpredictable recitations of the wordsmith. For my money, there are four bona-fide classics on-board. First of these is “A Figure Walks”, a six-minute thriller built on a jittery rhythm, in which we are being stalked by a shadowy figure who is never quite revealed, but has “nails of pointed yellow” and “hands of black carpet”, so that’s probably for the best. Even our bold front man sounds like a bag o’ nerves, as he stutters along. Good job Smith. The aforementioned “Dice Man” musically screams BO DIDDLEY, as we continue to get little tantalising glimpses of just where The Fall are coming from. “They say music should be fun, like reading a story of love” sings our man “but I want to read a HORROR STORY”. Another for the growing manifesto, eh? This augurs well for the future. As if underlining this very statement, the magnificent “Flat Of Angles” bursts in like The Magic Band ’67 psychotically riffing the same refrain from “His Latest Flame” to the point of insanity. In this story song, bloke kills wife, goes into hiding and becomes a prisoner of his own head. This sounds like a job for Dragnet man. Utterly bizarrely, all of this tension is immediately broken by the worst track on the LP, “Choc-Stock”, which, to be fair, is probably just about the best kazoo-led rockabilly nursery rhyme of the year. Don’t be categorizing me into no scene, ye hear?

By this point, most casual New Wavers will have run for the hills which is just as well, coz “Spectre vs Rector” which follows would probably have them jumping, head-first, out of 4 storey buildings, otherwise. In actual fact, the deal-making / deal-breaking onslaught of this track is carrying the baton from the debut’s “Music Scene”, in that it’s trancing-out and riffing relentlessly. From what I can gather, Spectre possesses rector, Rector becomes spectre. Enter inspector. It's now a case of Detective versus rector possessed by spectre. A hero from the mountains arrives, ultimately saving Inspector, but Rector lies dead. Clearly, a horror-fiction would not be beyond Mr. Smith if he so desired. The music veers between creepily grotesque, becoming hopefully lucid, such as the eight-minute tale demands; this is sheer excellence. Offering light-relief at the end is the supremely catchy “Put Away” which marks the return of the manic kazoo fiend. Has anybody got a guitar tuner I can borrow? And lo, I’ll be darned, these anti-pop upstarts have delivered another top-secret gem. All of the early evidence suggests that this group will exist entirely in their own world, beyond scene.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:51] 8.0.png The Fall - Psykick Dance Hall (Mark E. Smith, Marc Riley) Post-Punk
A2 [06:13] 9.3.png The Fall - A Figure Walks (Mark E. Smith) Trance Rock
A3 [03:18] 8.8.png The Fall - Printhead (Mark E. Smith) Post-Punk
A4 [01:47] 9.7.png The Fall - Dice Man (Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
A5 [04:35] 7.8.png The Fall - Before The Moon Falls (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Mike Leigh) Trance Rock
A6 [03:08] 7.6.png The Fall - Your Heart Out (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Mike Leigh) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
B1 [03:45] 8.3.png The Fall - Muzorewi’s Daughter (Mark E. Smith, Kay Carroll) Post-Punk
B2 [04:58] 9.3.png The Fall - Flat Of Angles (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Mike Leigh) Trance Rock
B3 [02:40] 5.5.png The Fall - Choc-Stock (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley, Mike Leigh) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
B4 [07:58] 8.5.png The Fall - Spectre Vs. Rector (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Mike Leigh) Trance Rock
B5 [03:26] 9.0.png The Fall - Put Away (Mark E. Smith) Proto-Punk

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