The Light User Syndrome was the 18th album by the Fall, released in 1996 on Jet Records. The release returns in 2022 with an extra disc of singles, B-sides, alternative versions and live recordings. The selection picks up the pieces of a band going through a difficult period but still managing to come up with the goods.
Band leader – the late, great Mark E. Smith was at his most alcoholically antagonistic during this period – taking no prisoners, but ultimately sapping the pride of his associates. However, the crew respond with aplomb in extremely difficult circumstances that are further explored in the excellent liner notes from music aficionado, Daryl Easlea.
M.E.S. adopts most of the vocals but producer and performer Mike Bennett, drummer Karl Burns and guitarist Brix Smith also take on out front singing duties. That vault of variety with the usual array of angular Fall rhythms creates another uncompromising and unique work from the act that nobody can replicate – although, many have tried.
All on board play a significant role and the bombastic bass of Steve Hanley steers a juggernaut of juxtaposition.
Andy Pearce has digitally remastered this new two CD Deluxe Edition which includes twelve bonus tunes as well as the fifteen main focusses. The package also witnesses the last endeavour from the combined stalwarts of Brix Smith, Karl Burns, Steve Hanley and Simon Wolstencroft. The End product is post punk power/post-modernist agit pop with the inevitable dose of uncommercial melody. On reflection the merchandise stands up well many years on.
Smith is on top form with his unique observations whether comical e.g. ‘The Stones are short’ plus ‘Pink Floyd are short’, or on the other side his sage like status in Powder Keg pre-empts a Manchester bombing. Fate or fact on the latter front? Not even the lyricist let on, but it was still a strange quirk of reality. There are his usual assessment of his Lancastrian locale ( Cheetham Hill), attacks/insights of the music industry ( He Pep! and Interlude/Chilinism), others that cannot be calculated (I.e. Das vulture ans ein nutter-Wain) , a range of assorted belters ( D.I.Y. Meat and
Spinetrak) plus a few unexpected rockabilly/pop covers (Stay away (Old white Train) and Last chance to turn Around). The list goes on and with the bonus disc there is even a taste of Latino tinged club music ( Italiano) as well as several re-workings.
The heart and heat of the album is the multi-faceted
Interlude/Chilinism – a development on the single, The
Chiselers – and, this powerhouse pulsates. The Fall
scored a ’96 hat-trick in the sadly departed BBC DJ
John Peel’s ‘Festive 50’ chart. On a subjective note my
album favourite Cheetham Hill was at #6, The
Chiselers at #13 and Hostile at #16. The Fall were the
aforementioned disc jockey’s number one act and
that statement in itself pays homage to their lustrous
legacy that spanned 1976 to 2018.
The cryptic chaos and sardonic soliloquy of Smith will
never die and we miss his presence in a cultural abyss
where figureheads are sadly on the demise. This
product on Iconoclassic Records helps maintain the
memories of an inspirational group. Long live
influence of the mighty Fall!