POP MUSIC REVIEW : Bitter Anti-Performance From The Fall

What do rock ‘n’ roll nihilists do 12 years down the road? Well, if they’re anything like Manchester proto-punks the Fall, who played at the Park Plaza Hotel on Monday, they might disparage U2 a lot in interviews, and participate in nihilistic fine-arts activities where the sourness is government-subsidized. They’d feel bitter that six or seven generations of imitators, from the Smiths through Stone Roses, have earned enough from variants of their sound to purchase Mediterranean villas . . . bitter enough to veer toward mainstream-ish British disco . . . and finally sign with a major label.

What started as sharp, cynical parody of pop form might veer so close to its model as to be indistinguishable from it. In its first Los Angeles appearance since guitarist Brix Smith left the band, the Fall was just another modern dance band, although the songs still only had a couple of notes apiece, too close to something like Tears for Fears. The highlight of the set was a surf-a-deliccq version of George Jones’ “White Lightning.”

Mark E. Smith’s lyrics, which are normally devastating, were completely swallowed up by the room’s box-canyon acoustics. His brand of anti-performance--he stood stock-still, visible only as a silhouette against a lighted backdrop in the dark ballroom--while effective enough in the context of punk, has grown a little stale. Oh well.