By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
In the previous three Trembling Blue Stars albums, Wratten has obsessively analyzed his failed relationship with Annemari Davies, with whom he teamed in the late-’80s/early-’90s cult favorites the Field Mice. It’s not obvious from the poetic lonely-heart lyrics, which make Mark Eitzel seem downright peppy (examples: “These are haunted days/The year is facing its old age” and “So we’ll just be the greatest couple that never were”), but Wratten does seem to have begun the healing process.
Perhaps the musical reunion with Davies on last year’s Broken by Whispers has proved a minor cathartic release for him, as evidenced by the shift in sound. The acoustic wistfulness of previous Trembling Blue Stars work has given way to a blend of alternately dreamy and jangly pop hooks on Alive to Every Smile. Otherworldly standouts include “Until the Dream Gets Broken” and the heavily textured keyboards of “With Every Story” (one of two tracks that could be called Cure-esque). Representing the jangly front is the middle-of-the-disc one-two punch of the ’80s-flavored “St. Paul’s Cathedral at Night” and the singsongy “The Ghost of an Unkissed Kiss.”
If Alive to Every Smile doesn’t indicate Wratten is ready to move on thematically, it does show him evolving musically. It might only be a baby step, but it’s an important one for Trembling Blue Stars and their fans. (Steve Baltin)
THE FALL at the Knitting Factory, November 14
Last time the legendary Mancunian art-punk combo The Fall arrived on these shores, a reported epic bender by leader Mark E. Smith led to onstage intra-band fisticuffs, a hotel ruckus and a black-eyed Smith spending some slumber time in a Manhattan slammer on assault charges. Today Smith blames the horror show on the rest of the band (“They had jet lag and all that crap,” he explains in the Knit‘s promo mag); that crew, meanwhile, is long gone (some quit, some fired), replaced by three cheery-faced garage-rock lads who — from the looks of them tonight — may not predate The Fall’s first record (1977’s Bingo-Master Breakout).
Smith, on the other hand, looks every bit his advanced age. He walks onstage like a leather-jacketed William F. Buckley, chewing his bottom lip and flicking his reptilian tongue, his hair done up to resemble a four-way comb-over. As The Fall Mach 46 bash out the simple descending riffs, Mark, hand in pocket, wanders the stage as if he’s puttering around the house: He fiddles with the guitarists’ amps mid-song (they fiddle them right back), he reads lyrics off a notepad with his back to the audience, he scrapes dead skin off his nose, he adjusts the mic stand so often you begin to wonder if it’s the first time he’s encountered one. But Smith is in fine vocal form, declaiming in his inimitable rhythmic, barely melodic fashion-ah the usual cryptic stuff-ah about German soldiers and antidotes and kicking the can-ah. Solid new songs (and an adaptation of Robert Johnson’s “Bourgeois Town”) are aired; old favorite “Mr. Pharmacist” appears mid-set to much applause and dance; and an evening-closing rendition of “I Am Damo Suzuki” brings down the very-old-school house. Best of all, no one has to call the police. A success, then. (Jay Babcock)