[sic] Magazine

The Fall – Imperial Wax Solvent

Reviewer: Gary Stanton

The Sir Alan Sugar of British Music is back with the second album featuring the current line up. The comparison is not so ridiculous. In a career spanning thirty years, Mark E Smith has surely been through more musicians than Sir Alan has fired in the last two series of The Apprentice. Surely there’s a place in the evening viewing schedules for a reality show with Smith at the helm, putting another series of coiffured wannabes through their paces? The prize: a much sought-after place in unequalled living legends The Fall. Picture the opening sequence as the camera pans over the Salford skyline. A dog is urinating in an alleyway. Nearby, a hooded youth throws a brick through the window of a parked car and removes something from the dashboard. It’s a Binatone SatNav system. He puts it back where he found it. Meanwhile, Smith is leering down from a helicopter clutching a bottle in one hand. It’s not an energy drink. The sink estate ambience is punctured by his Mancunian drawl:

bq. “This is a job interview from hell. For the next twelve weeks I will be assessing whether you can play the guitar or not and, if so, how well. Your prize is the chance to work with me, to earn a five-figure salary, or possibly a bit less, and to have the distinction of being somebody who has been in The Fall at some point. But let me tell yuh – I don’t like schmoozers, I don’t like arse-lickers. I don’t like people who can’t hold their drink. I won’t like it if you read Crime And Punishment on the tour bus and try out an insightful comment. I read it when I was fifteen. Whup”

No doubt the reality is more mundane. Smith perhaps opting for a simple advert in the Manchester Evening News along the lines of: “Wanted: Bass player for North Manchester group with record deal. Clean driving-license essential”

The album doesn’t start so promisingly. ‘Alton Towers’ shuffles along in first gear with all the charm of a bus driver, sleeves rolled-up, reading an article on the prison perks enjoyed by Ian Huntley in the Daily Star. That said, this is the album’s only duff moment. It’s a shame. Alton Towers offers premium family entertainment set in rolling Staffordshire countryside and deserves a better tribute. For a child with cancer, a day out at Alton Towers can act as a real tonic. However, if one of your ankle-biters is sporting a wig as a result of a punishing bout of chemotherapy, my tip is to avoid The Corkscrew with its 360-degree turns and considerable G-force. And be aware of the height restrictions. You don’t want to complicate an already fraught and difficult situation with multiple impact injuries. On a brighter note, Alton Towers has a commendable safety record. You are far more likely to be killed crossing the road that leads to the amusement park than you are on any of the rides.

With ‘Wolf Kidult Man’ normal service is resumed. It starts, as you might expect, with a howling werewolf. (It’s either that or a former lead-guitarist chained up in a dingy lock-up in Prestwich. Whichever is the most likely. Bear in mind, though, that a werewolf is a mythical creature). The guitar here is stunning – as good as any I’ve heard all year. ‘Fifty year-old man’ weighs in at a staggering eleven minutes. Lyrically, it’s hysterical. “I’m a fifty year-old man and I like it / I’m a fifty year-old man what you gonna do about it “, bellows Smith, sounding like he’s wandered into his GP’s surgery without an appointment and has been asked politely by the receptionist to extinguish his cigarette. “I go round a hotel… I throw the towel on the floor and I piss in it ” Hotels already warn us that the daily washing of their towels contributes massively towards climate change.

Elena Smith is in charge of vocals on ‘I’ve been duped’. Has she perhaps invested in a new plasma screen HD-ready TV only to find that it doesn’t have Freeview installed and that she’s going to have to fork out another fifty quid for an HDMI cable? Anyone who’s ever visited Curry’s on the Croft Industrial Estate in Bromborough will sympathise. Take it back to the shop, Elena, and demand a refund. When the recession bites they’ll be only too glad of your custom. They might even throw in a free scart lead.

‘Taurig’ is The Rockford Files theme tune on a gutful of ketamine. Smith can be heard whispering over the top but it’s barely discernible. I thought I could make out “In addition to pissing on the towels, I have also been known to bring in food from outside the hotel – kebabs, pizzas and so forth and eat it in my room thereby depriving the hotel restaurant of extra revenue” but I’ve got tinitus after repeatedly forcing the earpiece on my Ipod Nano halfway down my ear canal in order to achieve a respectable volume level.

These tracks make up the guts of the album. Other highlights include ‘Tommy Shooter’ and ‘Latch-Key Kid’ -both jaunty affairs with rumbling bass and typical Fallish one-finger keyboards. As the album fades ‘Senior Twilight Stock Replacer’ is a mantra for anyone who’s ever worked night shifts. Try repeating it as you drift off to sleep in the “fast” lane of the M60 during the dawn drive back to your city loft apartment, where you plan to smoke weed whilst watching GMTV. You’ll ask yourself “Has Eamon Holmes ever urinated on a hotel towel? What about Penny Tranter?”

This is no classic Fall album, whatever that is. It’s an improvement on the disappointing “Reformation” though and by the sound of it the new crowd are starting to pull their weight. It’s been said that all great art comes about as a result of suffering. Whilst nursing homes in Central Birkenhead aren’t renowned for their famous landscape painters, we can but hope that the theory is true. If Smith makes it to seventy, imagine the kind of masterworks he’ll be putting out with a prostate gland the size of watermelon.