Since relaunching this year, the Iconoclassic label has brought a Graham Parker gem to CD in an expanded edition and delivered a definitive reissue of B.T. Express' debut album. On July 1, the label will add another feather to its cap with a 2-CD deluxe edition of The Fall's lone album for Jet Records, 1996's The Light User Syndrome.
The Light User Syndrome was the 18th studio album from the Manchester band founded by singer-songwriter Mark E. Smith in 1976. He would be the one constant in the ever-shifting Fall line-up; over the course of 40 years, The Fall saw 66 members, with one-third of those playing in the band for under a year. (Smith, who died in 2018, once famously quipped, "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's The Fall.") For The Light User Syndrome, Smith was joined by guitarist (and Mark's ex-wife) Brix Smith, bassist Stephen Hanley, drummer Simon Wolstencroft, keyboardist-guitarist Julia Nagle, and multi-instrumentalist Karl Burns. The album was Nagle's first and Brix Smith's last with The Fall.
While The Fall's sound naturally morphed along with its line-up, The Light User Syndrome potently recaptured the band's early trademark post-punk ethos. Perhaps the album's tough, immediate sound was a result of the fraught period in which it was recorded; guitarist Craig Scanlon had quit in 1995 during the recording of the single "The Chiselers," and Brix Smith recalled that her ex-husband recorded almost all of his vocals in just one day as the sessions came to a close. Julia Nagle opined that the period was closer to a week, but Smith himself dismissed half of his work as mere guide vocals that he felt shouldn't have been mixed in the first place. Whatever the story - and chances are, the 6,000+ word oral history in Iconoclassic's reissue will straighten that out! - The Light User Syndrome became a highlight of the Fall discography.
Its original songs penned by Mark, solo and with various members of the band, were joined by two covers: country outlaw Johnny Paycheck's "Stay Away (Old White Train)" and the dramatic "Last Chance to Turn Around (Last Exit to Brooklyn)," a top 20 hit for Gene Pitney in 1965 penned by Vic Milrose, Tony Bruno, and Bob Elgin. At the album' heart was "Interlude/Chilinism," an extended, multi-part version of the single "The Chiselers" co-written by the bandmates. When renowned British DJ John Peel compiled his Festive Fifty list of listeners' favorite songs in 1996, "The Chiselers" (No. 13) made the cut along with the album's "Cheetham Hill" (No. 6) and "Hostile" (No. 16).
The LP arrived on the reactivated Jet Records label, once home to Electric Light Orchestra and Ozzy Osbourne, and it's since been reissued on CD via the Receiver and Castle Music labels. But whereas the Castle edition had just two bonus tracks - the single sides "The Chiselers" and "Chilinist" - Iconoclassic's upcoming expansion boasts those two sides as well as an additional 10 cuts. The first CD features the original album, while the second has the 12 bonus tracks also including alternate versions and live recordings originally issued on various compilations but now placed into proper context. Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham have remastered the audio. The deluxe package designed by Edward ODowd is topped off by Daryl Easlea's oral history which draws on 2022 interviews with surviving band members.
Look for Iconoclassic's expansion of The Light User Syndrome on July 1. You can read an interview with the label's Jeremy Holiday here, and a tribute to its late founder, Frank Ursoleo, here.
The Fall, The Light User Syndrome (Jet Records JETCD1012, 1996 - reissued Iconoclassic ICON 1052, 2022) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- I.Y. Meat
- Das Vulture Ans Ein Nutter-Wain
- He Pep!
- Stay Away (Old White Train)
- Powder Keg
- Cheetham Hill
- The Coliseum
- Last Chance to Turn Around
- The Ballard of J. Drummer
- Secession Man
- The Chiselers (single A-side) (Jet single 500, 1996)
- Chilinist (single B-side) (Jet single 500, 1996)
- Hostile (alternate version)
- Oleano (alternate version)
- Italiano (outtake/remix)
- He Pep! (alternate version)
- Interlude/Chilinism (alternate version)
- I.Y. Meat (live version)
- Spinetrak (live version)
- Das Vulture Ans Ein Nutter-Wain (live version)
- The Coliseum (live version)
- Chilinist (live version)
Love The Fall. This is a welcome re-issue. Looking forward to hearing the bonus tracks. Good to hear them in context with the main album. Those Receiver compilations were a rambling mess.
Icoconclassic Records says
Yes, hearing those tracks in their proper context reveals how strong they actually are. Those Receiver comps were such a mess that they made all the material seem lesser than it is. We have some good new commentary about the Receiver compilations in the liner notes from Frank Lea, who put them together.
Ricardo Amaral says
Looking forward to this one! It's definitely one "lost" spot in their catalog.