What does it sound like?:
I don’t know about you, but I go through definite ‘phases’ in listening. Very unusually for me I’m currently listening to lots of ‘old’ that other people like – so on heavy rotation are Beggars Banquet, Liege and Lief, Court of the Crimson King, early Roxy, Tom Verlaine’s first album – and then all of a sudden @Bargepole wants me to review the new Fall LP (ironically he’d probably like a lot of my current playlist). So sorry ‘Rock Bottom’ and sorry ‘The Power and The Glory’ by Gentle Giant ….you’ll have to wait.
Seasoned Afterword / Word magazine readers will be interested to learn this LP does actually begin with what sounds like a drunk man shouting in a bus shelter (it is Mark E.Smith slurring into his dictaphone, possibly a home demo for track 1 – an insight into his songwriting process perhaps) and then it’s into latter-day Fall business as usual – a repeated garage riff, clattering drums, odd sound fx swirling around the mix. The line up is Greenway/Spurr/Melling who have backed Mark Smith almost as long as Hanley/Bramah/Wolstencroft. Here we go again.
Mark Smith’s standard vocal mode these days is that gargling/growling and mostly unintelligible – think latter-day Bob Dylan recovering from a chest infection. Odd phrases jump out like ‘GIANT HAIL MARY’ or “CUT THE GRASS-AH!”. Much use of treated microphones – ooh now I’m on a taxi radio, now I’m on a megaphone – Or maybe he really is ‘phoning it in’. Occasionally a voice resembling the old Mark Smith breaks through the mix so he’s still in there somewhere.
Some may be drawn to the unfortunately named ‘Victoria Station Massacre’. Smith was asked if he wanted to change the title in the light of recent events – can you guess what he said readers? It’s only 1 minute long and the only lyric I can discern is “I Crave—ah–drama”. Nothing to get worked up about.
As ever the style veers between the almost Ballroom Blitz Glam Rock stomp of ‘Brillo De Facto’ to the heavy sludge rock riffage of ‘Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30’s’ . On the title track an unamed Rapper/Grime artist duets with Mark which distinguishes it from sounding like several other recent Fall tracks. ‘Gibbus Gibson’ is the most immediate track, with Mark sounding a lot more his old self – in fact it could almost be a cut from 1990s ‘Extricate’. The closer, ‘Nine out of Ten’ unusually is M.E.S with only Lo-Fi guitar accompaniment – before it cuts – and then the lone guitarist carries on strumming away again until he’s permitted to stop.
What does it all *mean*?
Idiosyncratic, uncompromising, veering wildly from over-produced to under-produced, a bit grim and grotty in parts, utterly daft elsewhere (see the Shakin’ Stevens intro to ‘Second House Now’ or the punky karaoke of ‘O!ZZTTRK Man’). At worst, the current ‘Fall Sound ‘ is becoming worryingly over-familiar (always the same – not enough different) but there are still glimmers of interest and there should be enough here to keep diehard Fall fans happy.
Goes well with…
“A jar full of coffee…and some of THESE-ah”
Might suit people who like…
This definitely won’t convince unbelievers, and unless you’re one of them that goes to every gig and posts on the Fall Forum it’s unlikely this will displace your favourite Fall albums anytime soon. These tracks will however come across great, and morph into different beasts live – which is probably the best place to hear The Fall these days – so this LP probably acts best as a primer for what you can expect to hear if you go see them.