The Fall — ‘The Infotainment Scan’

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“The new album is much better than ‘Code:Selfish'”, long time, and brilliant, guitarist Craig Scanlon told NME around the time of ‘The Infotainment Scan”s release in April 1993, before continuing, “there’s massive guitars and drums working together”. Listening to the record one gets exactly what he means. It does fucking roll.

As much as I still enjoy 1992’s ‘Code: Selfish’ (it’s funny how Fall albums in particular parachute you right back to a certain period in time. Peel was correct: always the same, always different), the follow-up LP was more consistent. It also continued on the more machine-sounding theme that the group started to use more of, roughly from around the time of the 1988 pair of albums ‘The Frenz Experiment’, and certainly ‘I Am Curious Orange’. There are keyboards and weird electro noises and squiggles aplenty here, though not exclusively. Careful when to drop them in, lads.

The group had left major label Phonogram between the release of ‘Code:Selfish’ and this one, so there was pressure of a different sort now. Sink or swim? This was presumably why Mark E Smith was quite proud that the record yielded results. “I think it’s the clearest thing we’ve done. You can hear everything you know?” The Fall as clear and crisp? Interesting all the same, because most people automatically assume that The Fall were at their clearest and most crisp during the Brix period between 1984 and ’88. You certainly heard it creeping in over time.

The record is all quite poppy, actually. Almost as if, ironically, Mark E Smith had finally shaken off the Brix breakup hangover that seemed still present on those previous three LPs.

I recall the only single released off of ‘Info Scan’, ‘Why Are People Grudgeful?’ (Mark in asking dignified, un-cantankerous question shock) was listed on BBC Radio 1’s playlist. Was this a first?! (I only know this because I remember Jackki Brambles giving it a whirl on her afternoon show). Though ‘if I ever end up like Ian McShane / cut my throat with a kitchen tool’, as found on A Past Gone Mad, sounds like a kind of polar opposite to these ears. No playlist for that one, one presumes. (Maybe Mark thought he’d stolen his look?).

‘The Infotainment Scan’, unbelievably as it turns out (just left major label, remember), became the first Fall LP to make the UK top 10. So far it remains the only one to achieve this feat. (1991’s ‘Shift Work’ at 17 the second best performer, with 1988’s ‘Frenz’, at 19, behind that. Seems the public prefer their Fall a little more extra polished).

You know this is a fantastic album when you’re spoilt for choice as to which track to share. The fact that their superbly busy, space-funk version of ‘Lost In Music’ gets trumped by one or two other tracks says it all.

And finally, a last word from Smith himself, here answering those who assumed the lyric ‘youre bequeathed in suede / you’re glam rack’ was a dig at then current inkie favs, Suede. “It’s not about them at all. I think they’re flattering themselves to be frank”.

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