Sunday, November 20, 2011
The Fall - Extricate
I recently burned a copy of The Fall’s Extricate album, which prompted me to revisit it myself. It’s often overlooked by Fall fans-myself included, I suppose-but that quick reprise brought 1990 right back.
It was my final year of college and I was forced into sticking my toes into the cold reality of adulthood. As a result, Extricate played strongly into my life’s soundtrack and remains entrenched as a playlist from my final days of college.
There’s an expanded version available now, but this review represents that good ol’ vinyl version of two decades ago. To be honest, the expanded version feels a bit bloated to me. The brevity of the original is the best way to devour Extricate, but if you get the extra stuff for the same price as the first run, then so be it.
Extricate was the first album after Mark E. Smith and Brix divorced, so there was a real concern that all of the forward progression the band was making during the 80’s would soon be stunted during the new decade.
That’s a fair concern, as the Brix-era Fall is probably the band’s most consistently awesome period, and it began a process of bringing some unintentional consistency to the name.
That must have just killed Smith, a man enamored with the vitality of garage rock and a firm believer in limiting the exposure time to studio tan.
But there is some extra studio depth to Extricate and it makes the album a bit more interesting. Even with that additional professionalism, the record is still undoubtedly The Fall, and the band’s performances sound renewed, hinting at promising possibilities
None is more obvious than with the leadoff single “Telephone Thing,” a Hacienda-worthy dance number with the help of Coldcut manning the controls of the band’s curious creative decision.
And it began my first attempts as using the newly christened internet as a research tool.
You see, I had been listening to Extricate for so long that I became enamored with learning who this Gretchen Franklin was, the “nosey matron thing” that Smith barked about during the song.
“How dare you assume I want to parlez-vous with you!” he deadpans, prompting me to wonder, “Who is this Gretchen Franklin?” I discovered she was a character-a “nosey matron thing” from England’s popular EastEnders soap opera show-who served as comedic effect pensioner in the series.
“Hilary” is a lighthearted pop number that continually replayed in my mind during the 2008 elections, although the line “remember when you needed three caps of speed to get out of bed?” probably wouldn’t have helped Ms. Clinton’s chances.
But the bee’s knees is “Bill Is Dead,” one of my favorite Mark E. Smith songs ever because it is simply unlike Mark E. Smith. It’s a ballad, and Smith delivers it without a hint of insincerity. And the words, “I am renewed, I am aglow” and “This is the greatest time in my life” rank as one of Smith’s most sweet. But if you listen closely, Smith throws out a naughty “came twice, you thrice” in what is otherwise a surprisingly straight-ahead love song.
The rest of Extricate falls together wonderfully and it brims with enough confidence that you’re sure the new decade will be Smith’s for the taking. It also shows anyone who may have felt his ex-wife Brix would be an irreplaceable muse that The Fall is clearly Mark’s vehicle.
Extricate is overlooked because there are so many examples of Mark E. Smith’s resilience within his catalog, but it’s probably the first one where he actually intended that message to be heard.
I hear you, telephone thing.