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Recent Faves from the WFMU Record Library
December 2003

Reviewed by Music/Program Director Brian Turner

THE FALL / Country on the Click (Action)
There are two biography books out right now on the Fall, Simon Ford's "Hip Priest" and Mick Middles' "The Fall", both totally fascinating reads for any fan of the band. The latter takes a more personal view of the inimitable Mark E. Smith, whereas the former has access only to past associates (and there were many people all tossed out of the Fall who don't have the kindest words for MES.) Middles' bio actually incorporates Mark E. as a collaborator, surprisingly enough, since the man himself is notoriously private, and paints him as a generous, sensitive, giving bandleader who tolerated no star-aspirations, musicians who acted like "musicians", or bullshit in his outfit. Middles' bio chalks up many of the departed Fall members, in fact, to the notion they had all befriended the likes of Oasis and were casting an eye to having a villa someday themselves, something they didn't see possible with the Fall. Many of these people came crawling back. Both books track the highs and lows of the Fall since its inception in 1977 Manchester, but what cannot be denied is that a band this far along down the line has had an incredible amount of highs. The latest record is no exception, it may be the best Fall record since, well, a couple back. The formula of the Fall is simply sounding like the Fall; it remains steadfast through all the years of trends and copyists who have taken a dive thereafter. Opener "Green-Eyed Loco Man's" melody burns in front of a squall of noise and Smith sounding completely empowered (the "AH" punctuated after the words "green-eyed" sound completely more pointed than ever), "Theme From Sparta FC" rollicks along like some of the most chugging 80s-era tunes (again taking in the hooliganism of Euro football culture with a bemused eye), and the rest of the record is totally sans filler (including the wistful-country-cyborg take on Lee Hazlewood's "Houston"). Name any band this far in its career still delivering and I'll mop Mick Jagger's tired old back. Maybe not-ah!

15.60.75 / Jimmy Bell's Still in Town (Hearthan)
Aka "The Numbers Band" (15.60.75 is a play on the traditional blues 1-4-5), this is a reissue from 1976 put out by Pere Ubu's David Thomas of a much-beloved Kent, Ohio R&B outfit that still performs in its locale on weekends. Here, they open to an unfortunately passive Bob Marley audience in Cleveland and for 70s whitey blues it totally smokes. Repetitive and art-tinged in almost a strange downtown-NYC way, the unit moves like a steamroller in a near-freakout way, but satisfyingly does not ever quite cross the line. It'd be great to have seen these people influence the countless bands other Cleveland contemporaries did, but thankfully the reappearance of this record will give ears another shot.

CHARLIE McALISTER / Death Water Estates (Catsup Plate)
The discovery of Daniel Johnston and his home cassette lo-fi aesthetic liberated a lot of minds in the 80s and 90s for sure, but in the glut of cassettes that followed from countless Danielites and kindred souls, I've never heard anyone take the cake like Charlie in terms of the sheer action-packed QUALITY of music dumped onto crappy cassettes. This LP compiles a bunch of tapes from his Flannel Banjo label circa mid-90s, and is a total stunner. Imagine Daniel surrounded by countless toys, steel drum, banjo, etc. and having been introduced to the RRR label aesthetic as well as musique concrete, though acting it all out in a completely primitive, non-high-falootin' way. This thing is jammed with such a fantastic, hurling-at-you glob of textures and sounds in its lo-fi wall it's dizzying but totally compelling: crazy radio plays, muddy parade music, banging, shuffling of junk, stream-of-consciousness-spiels, even Ms. South Carolina talking amidst the muck of other manipulated LPs and found oddball sounds. The special glow that this thing emits can only be captured in this lo-fi arena best.

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