Every once in a while, domestic abuse is A-OK. Let's say the woman burned your dinner. Certainly, a bit of domestic abuse would be in order when you come home from a hard day at work earning money to support your family and find that the bitch burned your goddamned dinner. At a time like this, it would be perfectly fine for you to grab the whore by the neck and scream, "Do me! Stic a bus! E!" However, if she is not in the mood to make love to you or insert your child's toy schoolbus into your greased rectum, you need to understand her feelings and take her out for a nice candlelight dinner.
One man who did NOT feel this way is The Fall's Mark E Smith, who inexplicably became angry when his girlfriend Julie Nagle hit him in the face with a telephone. His violent response led to his arrest and the rest of his band tendering their resignations. These men were none other than long-time Fall bassist Stephen Hanley, long-time Fall drummer Karl Burns and some guy named Tommy Crooks that played on one Fall album and you can barely hear him. Well, I don't think I need to tell you THAT didn't work out! Heh heh heh! So Stephen replaced them with his brother (and former Fall drummer) Paul Hanley, a keyboardist named Paul Hanley, a percussionist named Matthew Hanley, a patient supporter named Heather Hanley and a couple of guys accursed with dissimilar surnames.
The first mistake you're going to make is assuming that because you are a Fall fan, you are necessarily going to like Ark. Because, aside from the bass playing, Ark don't sound like The Fall at ALL. Which brings me to an interesting point - unlike many people, I never really thought of Stephen Hanley as having a particular bass-playing "sound." But HOOEEE he does! From the very first SECOND of this CD, I thought to myself, "Hey! Stephen Hanley!" In fact, if somebody had sent me this CD with no personnel info, I - no kidding aside - would have thought to myself, "MAN, does this guy want to be Stephen Hanley!" However, the band doesn't sound like The Fall. I'm not the sort of person who spent much time listening to new British bands of the `80s, but this definitely has a (don't punch me for saying it) kind of a Duran Duran feel - the more exotic Eastern-tinged stuff they did. Or some of the stuff The Church did, a little bit. That kind of understated minor-key twiddly-dee sound with kind of a prissy goth whispery singer. To be honest, the band they most remind me of is one you've likely never heard of - a crappy old Atlanta band called Hollyfaith (whose leader David Franklin somehow managed to record a really great folk-rock solo record called Bones And All, just FYI). NOT THAT ARK ARE CRAPPY!!!!! Just easterny exoticy, with the occasional simple washy distorted guitar "rocker" the sort of which you might expect to hear on The Infotainment Scan if you're looking for Fall landmarks to tie this down to like a dirigible hanging off the top of the Empty State Building (heh!)*. The first shingle, the unbelievably simple yet undeniably catchy "In My Life" (NOT THE BEATLES SONG) honestly DOES sound like it could have been on The Gentrospecific Scarf -- which is probably why it was chosen as the first single! Hey Fall fans! Here! Enjoy this song that sounds like The Fall, so you'll be driven to go purchase this album that doesn't sound at all like The Fall!
As for the rest of the album - there are some really neat melodies on here, but the production is a little strange. Everything sounds emptier and more lifeless than it should. It's like he left too much oxygen in the mix or something. You know, like when there's too much oxygen in your water and it tastes like hydrogen peroxide. Also, a few of the songs don't quite round second base all that well ("King Solomons Mines" I'm not even sure leaves the on-deck circle, if I may continue this uproarious baseball analogy for a moment! Hey Umpire! Three strikes and this CD is OUTTA THERE! Look! I'm Steve Garvey and I'm having sex with everybody!
There's also an Alternative TV cover. Pete Keogh sings for this band.
* This is an inside joke between me and my wife, regarding the time we watched a film at the Museum of the City of New York, and this ONE old guy in the audience emitted a humiliating "HEH!" when a joke about the "Empty State Building" was made onscreen. That was six years ago and we still make fun of that guy.
He keeps trying different types of curtains and padlocks and things, but the wife's pretty resourceful.