Album review: The Fall's Kurious Oranj re-release

The Fall - I Am Kurious Oranj (Beggars Arkive)

The Fall's Mark E Smith.

The Fall's Mark E Smith.

IT BEGINS with two of the greatest songs in The Fall's vast catalogue - one definitive, the other highly uncharacteristic - and the genesis of the album itself is possibly the oddest in the band's career.

The album - originally released in 1988 - was written as the soundtrack to an avant-garde ballet from the Michael Clark Company, I Am Curious, Orange - the content inspired by the life of William of Orange, the title inspired by a series of Swedish pornographic films - and performed in London with The Fall playing live.

Opener 'Big New Prinz' is a percussive track, driven by an ominous, thumping, beat, hand-claps, and descending guitar riff, over which Mark E Smith terrace-chants his words. This is definitive The Fall, a la 'Totally Wired'. What follows could not be more different - a solo composition by Brix Smith-Start, 'Overture From 'I Am Curious Orange'', with Brix delivering a melodic reverie with a dark undertone, alternating between lush chords and off-kilter arpeggios - an encapsulation of 1980s indie in 2.49 magnificent minutes.

Thirty years on, and this re-issue shows the album continues to sound fresh and vital. The title track is what reggae might have sounded were it invented by Krautrockers, instead of Jamaicans; the poem, 'Dog Is Life' is near incomprehensible, yet still compelling; The foreboding atmosphere, and doom-laden bassline, of 'Van Plague?' anticipates both grunge and In Utero.

Brix was involved in much of the writing for this album, but with her marriage to Mark E Smith falling apart, and I Am Kurious Oranj would prove her last album (notwithstanding Seminal Live ) with The Fall until 1995, but her brilliance, as much as Mark E Smith's, is all over this. Don't have Kurious Oranj? You need it.

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