Your Future, Our Clutter
, April 28th, 2010 07:39
Fall albums emerge slowly from the fog, these days, and their arrival is heralded by an excitable flotilla of - mainly - respectful reviews. (Yeah, the odd wordy renegade, here and there), but few people who hold love for The Fall ever seem to be disappointed. Except me, for some reason... I grew weary of Reformation Post TLC very quickly and started to wonder if the ageing of Mark E. Smith had finally started to blur those edges. One couldn't have blamed him, for the lifetimes of several hundred artists are buried within those 28 studio albums. His stamina has never been questioned. Nevertheless, as always with The Fall, the enemy is standing still and, with each album, one looks for progression and hopes for freshness.
Almost exactly two years ago, as a frankly bizarre seminar on the life and workings and scribblings) of Mark E. Smith at Salford University, legendary producer Grant Showbiz opined that “Smith is bang on top of his game". At the time I argued against this, backing up my thoughts with a story of a rather dull Fall gig at Liverpool's Nation, several months earlier.
Well, it did seem tired for a little while but here, now, we find a simmering magic and, yes, an endearing freshness right from the off button. I would even state that this is the best new Fall album since... since Heads Roll at least and probably far beyond that.
But let's not go there. The Fall has always been stubbornly based in the present and YFOC is certainly no exception. Yes, from the opening 'OFYC Showcase', it rocks like a bastard, a crisp, tingling snare drum holding Mark's spirited chanting (about what, I have and have never had much idea) aloft. Knowing The Fall's eternal perversity, this song may never open their sets, though it should be tagged on specifically for that purpose.
'Bury PTS 1 + 3' continue the momentum, in which Elena Poulou's vocal softens the Smith attack. Anyone who has ever wandered among the black pudding stalls of Bury's vast market (Hey, this is the place where his mum bought him that famous diamond patterned sweater in '78) might find it bewildering to see the town immortalised in such a thrusting jagged affair. One might look beyond, to the famous Bury waxings of Guy Garvey's troupers, to discover where Smith's head may be at. One shouldn't discount the Elena effect, either. Once something of a ghost (On The Real New Fall LP) her emergence has been profound and it is no fluke that, for seven years, she is the only musical constant in this famously fluctuating band. Don't think that she is 'in' by way of her marital status either; Smith has sacked 'wives' before. Right now, such an act seems impossible... but then this is The Fall and anything can happen.
I do not wish to guide you track by track here, for Luke Turner has already nailed that on this very site. But what happens here is genuinely remarkable. With a great sense of mischief, Smith allows the rollicking start to collapse into experimental fervour, where various forms of percussion (along with warming cowboy guitars at one stage) are used to guide his evocative mumblings. In places, in a number of places, the album strongly reminds me of the eternally underrated Red Crayola, where Mayo Thompson's relentless thirst for experimentalism becomes all consuming. But then... just, just as the wild fun starts to become disorientating, the heart is revived by the funky, bass heavy 'Chino'. A fabulous burst that - forgive me, Mark, for the sin of looking back - that contains echoes of the electronically minded Fall who were so expertly guided by the brilliant Julia Nagle. Many times, during the band's last four albums, I have longed for this sense of fun, this sense of adventure. It has been noted in the NME review of this album that 'The Fall are 'the best new band in Britain'. Well maybe that is not so flippant. There is no trace of genre, here. There is nothing. Just a truly idiosyncratic muse having fun, toying with the absurd notion of the band aesthetic in 2010. Alive and pretty much alone.
Truth is, and I am typing this under the hypnotic spell of the concluding track, 'Weather Report 2', I had wanted to escape the clutches of Mr Smith. Would have like to but, as he chants "You gave me the best years of my life" I am simply drawn back. Not by weary nostalgia either, but by the sheer blinding brilliance of every second here. Of every mad explosion. There are many, many surprises too... and seemingly on every track. Only a buffoon would offer a weary critical sigh.
After all this noise, it ends in a murky whisper. A wry smile. The Fall sail back gently back into the fog and, I have to report, after all that has transpired (a fucking lot, frankly), a deep love of this racket remains intact. God damnit!