Dragnet (album)

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Dragnet (The Fall album - cover art).jpg
Studio album by The Fall
Released 26 October 1979
Recorded 2–4 August 1979
Studio Cargo Studios, Rochdale, England
Genre Post-punk
Length 45:42
Label Step-Forward
Producer The Fall, Grant Showbiz
The Fall chronology
Live at the Witch Trials
Totale's Turns (It's Now or Never)

Dragnet is the second studio album by English post-punk band The Fall. It was released on 26 October 1979, through record label Step-Forward. Having come out less than eight months after its predecessor, Dragnet established at an early stage two key patterns of the group's work: that of high productivity and that of a regular turnover of group members.[1]

Background and recording[edit]

Only Mark E. Smith and Marc Riley remained in the lineup from the début album, Live at the Witch Trials. Drummer Karl Burns left soon after recording and was replaced by Mike Leigh, while founder member Martin Bramah quit mid-tour in April 1979, when some of the material intended for the second album was already written.[2] Smith quickly recruited guitarist Craig Scanlon and bassist Steve Hanley, Fall roadies, members of support band Staff 9 and friends of Marc Riley's; both were just 19 when they joined the group and would form The Fall's musical backbone until the mid-1990s.[2][3] Riley meanwhile had moved from bass guitar to guitar (his first instrument),[2] and also started to play keyboards following Yvonne Pawlett's departure after recording the "Rowche Rumble" single.

The album, titled Dragnet, was recorded on 2–4 August 1979. Dragnet's sound was notably muddy and lo-fi – Riley has claimed this was a deliberate contrast to the sharp, clean sound of Live at the Witch Trials,[1] while Smith claimed that the recording studio was so appalled by the sound that the group were asked to remove the studio's name from the album sleeve. Martin Bramah did not receive credit for his contributions and there were several songs that were altered heavily by the group after his departure. Among these was "Before the Moon Falls", which had its musical backing a tune which later became the basis for The Blue Orchids' "Work".

The album is somewhat self-referential lyrically, with several songs referencing the music industry. At least two tracks, "Printhead" and "Your Heart Out", quote or paraphrase reviews of the band's live shows. "Printhead" even verifies this fact within its own lyric. "Dice Man" takes its title from the novel The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. "Spectre Vs Rector" was Pitchfork's Jason Heller as an answer to "Music Scene" on Live at the Witch Trials, commenting that "its sludge and subliminal menace practically invented post-rock as an afterthought".[2] "Muzorewi's Daughter", with its "slow, relentless acceleration...punctuated by Smith's shrieks", was described as "one of the most terrifying Fall songs of them all".[4]

Dragnet would be the group's final album for Miles Copeland III's Step-Forward label, with them signing to Rough Trade Records in early 1980.


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[3]
Boise Weeklyfavourable[5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[6]
Mojo4/5 stars[7]
Q (1999)4/5 stars[8]
Q (2004)4/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[10]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[11]

Reviews for Dragnet have been generally favourable. The album was ranked at No. 35 among the top "Albums of the Year" for 1979 by NME.[12] Trouser Press opined that Dragnet is "not one of The Fall's best efforts, but contains at least two classic numbers, 'Spectre vs. Rector' and 'A Figure Walks.'".[13]

David Quantick, reviewing the 1999 reissue on Cog Sinister, gave it four stars, in his opinion the album containing some of Smith's best songs, but with a production that "sounds like the whole thing was recorded on a home cassette recorder in a multi-storey car park".[8] Nicholas Collias, reviewing the 2004 reissue for the Boise Weekly, viewed the music on the album as providing "the blueprint for The Fall's golden age of the early 1980s: paper-thin rockabilly with tinny, meandering guitars and lilting keyboards".[5] A Pitchfork review of the 2016 reissue gave it a rating of 8.7, Jason Heller describing it as "weighty" and "overwhelmingly dense".[2] AllMusic reviewer Ned Raggett gave it three and a half stars, picking out "Spectre Vs Rector" as a highlight, describing it as "an amazing combination of clear lead vocals and buried, heavily echoed music and further rants, before fully exploding halfway through while the rhythm obsessively grinds away".[3] Stereogum's Robert Ham described it as a "muddle", stating that it "feels like everything is crumbling apart as fast as they build it".[14] Vulture.com's Stuart Berman described Dragnet as "the first album where the Fall tap into their powers of hypnosis, locking into the sinister back-alley prowl of 'Before the Moon Falls' and the Morse code, cowbell-clanged pummel of 'Spectre vs Rector,' all while Smith transcends from the realm of mere punk carnival barker to oracle of the underground."[15] The album was included at number 4 in Billboard's 2018 list "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks".[4]


The 2004 CD edition of the album (remastered for the first time from the original master tapes) issued via Castle Music added not just the contemporary singles "Rowche Rumble" and "Fiery Jack" and their B-sides, but also previously unheard alternate takes and breakdowns from the "Rowche Rumble" recording sessions. Dragnet was reissued on vinyl in 2016 on the Superior Viaduct label.[2]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks arranged by The Fall except "Printhead" (arranged by The Fall and Martin Bramah).

Side A
1."Psykick Dancehall"Mark E. Smith, Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon3:48
2."A Figure Walks"Smith6:08
4."Dice Man"Smith, Riley, Scanlon1:45
5."Before the Moon Falls"Mike Leigh, Scanlon, Riley, Steve Hanley, Smith4:31
6."Your Heart Out"The Fall3:07
Side B
1."Muzorewi's Daughter"Kay Carroll, Smith3:43
2."Flat of Angles"Leigh, Scanlon, Riley, Hanley, Smith4:55
3."Choc-Stock"Smith, Scanlon2:37
4."Spectre Vs Rector"Smith, Leigh, Scanlon, Hanley7:56
5."Put Away"Smith3:26


The Fall
  • Mark E. Smith – vocals, electric piano, kazoo, tape, co-production
  • Steve Hanley – bass guitar, backing vocals, co-production
  • Marc Riley – guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, co-production
  • Craig Scanlon – guitar, electric piano, kazoo, tape, co-production (credited as 'Craig Scanlan')
  • Mike Leigh – drums, co-production
  • Kay Carroll – backing vocals (credited as Mrs. Horace Sullivan)
  • Yvonne Pawlett – keyboards ("Rowche Rumble" and "In My Area")


  1. ^ a b Myers, Martin (2006). "Dragnet vs. Dub Housing". Pseud Mag (9). 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Heller, Jason (17 June 2016). "The Fall: Live at the Witch Trials / Dragnet". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  3. ^ a b c Raggett, Ned. "Dragnet – The Fall". AllMusic. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Dayal, Geeta (2018) "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks", Billboard, 25 January 2018. Retrieved 6 March 2018
  5. ^ a b Collias, Nicholas (4 August 2004). "The Fall: Dragnet (Expanded Edition)". Boise Weekly. Retrieved 6 March 2018. 
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8. 
  7. ^ Harrison, Ian (October 2016). "Rebellious Jukebox". Mojo (275): 62–67. 
  8. ^ a b Quantick, David (May 1999). "The Fall: Dragnet". Q. 
  9. ^ "The Fall: Dragnet". Q (213): 131. April 2004. 
  10. ^ Gross, Joe (2004). "The Fall". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 292–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  11. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8. 
  12. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  13. ^ Azzerad, Michael; Wolk, Douglas; Pattyn, Jay. "trouserpress.com :: Fall". trouserpress.com. Retrieved 23 February 2013. 
  14. ^ Ham, Robert (2015) "Dragnet", stereogum.com, 12 February 2015. Retrieved 6 March 2018
  15. ^ Berman, Stuart (2018) "Hey, Student! It’s a Beginner’s Guide to the Fall", vulture.com, 30 January 2018. Retrieved 6 March 2018

External links[edit]