Top critical review
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on 3 December 2010
One thing I'd never expected from this book was to be bored, but in the end it was a real struggle to finish it. There are of course plenty of interesting bits amid the repetitive rambles, but overall its a wearying read. As other reviewers have noted, it's rather like getting trapped with a stoned drunk - ok at first, until you realise you're being talked at rather than talked to, & then start to feel, "Yeah, you've already told me that 3 times".
It's a real shame, because there's obviously a fantastic story to be told here, but we just get a few erratic fragments. This makes the book all the more frustrating - there's some great stuff about "Hex Enduction Hour" & "Grotesque", but when we get to "Saving Grace" & "Bend Sinister" - many people's favourite Fall albums - he dismisses them abruptly, saying they've been talked about enough (tho imho it seems to have more to with antipathy for Brix Smith). But all too often a couple of interesting pages trail away into a lot of vague grumbles about how the young musicians aren't up to it these days, Guardian-reading liberals, & an increasingly boring contrariness (e.g praising Bernard Manning & Mel C/ putting down David Bowie & Iggy Pop).
I'm not sure whether the book's flaws are down to the publishers or the co-author being too much in awe of his subject to impose any direction on the material. Whatever, it's drastically in need of editing - there's a good magazine article in there somewhere. As someone else says here, some of the book's best parts come when Mark Smith talks about reading, books & ideas - so its a pity that most of the book feels so lazy & shapeless. The chapters are vaguely themed around various topics - Manchester, alcohol, drugs, That Stage Fight, bankruptcy, Edinburgh, football, for example - but they're interspersed with some pretty pointless cut-up passages (ironic in view of his lack of enthusiasm for Burroughs) & some dire scraps of lyrics/poetry.
There are times when the book does develop a bit of a rhythm, & you can feel the spirit of the Fall coming thru, & the book even starts to seem a bit like a Fall album. What I've always loved about the Fall is that for all the diversity of their many albums & personnel, it's always instantly recognisable as music that couldn't have been made by anyone but the Fall. In some ways, I feel that if Mark Smith was an American eccentric auteur type (think Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits, for example), rather than a prickly Manc, he'd be a lot more acceptable to the liberal arts media he so despises.
All in all the book's probably required reading for serious Fall fans, for it's not without merit & does contain the odd nugget, but really it's a frustrating missed opportunity & frequently dull read. I'll stick with the music from now on.