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The Fall: Dragnet (Expanded Edition)

CD Review

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Twenty-six albums into a 28-year career, The Fall are finally receiving their definitive reissue treatment. Most recent is the 1979 LP Dragnet, whose scratchy recording and dark lyrics often lead it to be unduly dismissed as a footnote within the band's sprawling discography. Infamous vocalist Mark E. Smith is in rare form on the album, yelping acerbic monologues about demon possession, psychics, criminals and of course himself--"When I'm dead and gone, my vibrations will live on, in vibes on vinyl through the years," he yells at one point. "I don't sing, I just shout," he accurately posits. The music behind Smith provides the blueprint for The Fall's golden age of the early 1980s: paper-thin rockabilly with tinny, meandering guitars and lilting keyboards. The seven-minute stream-of-consciousness epic "Spectre vs. Rector" may be the album's centerpiece, recorded in a warehouse with Smith's eerie vocals dubbed in later, but the real find is the single Rowche Rumble/In My Area. The former is a thumping, demented slice of carnival music featuring Smith's rants about the insidious practices of prescription drug companies. The latter is a gentle, unsettling story of urban malfunction. Together they cap an essential early document of some of the most relevant punks ever to spew their bile in a studio.

--Nicholas Collias