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The Fall
Re-Mit Joe Kennedy , May 14th, 2013 07:00

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The salient quality of nearly all Fall records is the tension between Mark E Smith's demands of his band and their testing of the boundaries these entail. Perhaps it's an awareness of this that lies at the root of Smith's hands-on leadership. The reason that, say, 'Cruiser's Creek' astonishes is that you can hear both the limitations that are being drawn and the individual efforts to chafe away at these: Brix, Steve Hanley, Simon Rogers et al might not have played their parts with the mechanical discipline of session hands, but the track is just as much theirs as it Smith's, arguably as a precise consequence of the paradoxical way in which insistently-enforced instructions can stimulate antagonistic invention.

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Caught live, the present-day line-up is irreproachable. As a rearguard for Smith and Elena Poulou, Dave Spurr, Pete Greenway and Keiron Melling provide the sonic sturdiness needed to replicate the basswards gearshift the albums have made over the last decade. For a while this worked in the studio, too. On the first record featuring the current arrangement, 2008's triumphant Imperial Wax Solvent, the martial spirit the newcomers brought was not so rigid as to interfere with the unacknowledged responsibility of Fall musicians to fuck about with Smith's diktats. The cunning and malevolence, the will to disorder, didn't go away – in fact, it was somehow emphasised by the new-found tightness. Ever since, though, there's been a creeping sense of there being too much kowtowing to the foreman, as if the arrangement (and this would be a new thing for The Fall) really was mutually convenient in a sustainable way.

Re-Mit is where this comfort starts to look disturbingly like stagnation. One of the first things that jumps out at the listener, and it's something which persists throughout, is the disconnectedness between Smith and Elena Poulou in the control room, arsing about with daft voices and keyboard squiggles respectively, and the big lads at the back. Spurr, Greenway and Melling have gone from being great fits for the project to simply being very good musicians from the ponytailed-guy-who-works-in-the-guitar-shop school. No matter what they're playing – and let's face it, that 'what' is largely going to be barrelling Can-rock – there's a lack of expressive wit, giving the impression that they're just tossing this off as a demonstration of competent eclecticism before resuming their Steve Vai or Joe Satriani agendas.

What this makes for is a lack of synthesis, which mars nearly every track. After the opener 'No Respects (Intro)' (a vocal version of the same song comes later), 'Sir William Wray' warms up with an inviting snatch of modal, medievalish keyboard, before crashing into the kind of aggro-glam that characterised the Fall Heads Roll/Real New Fall LP era. After the inexplicable lapses into comedy metal of Ersatz GB, you're initially pleased that Smith seems to be playing it safe, but it swiftly emerges that his hectoring, barking vocals are underpinned by guitars bearing a gruesome resemblance to 'Vertigo' by U2, a group who are surely the anti-Fall. There's too much professionalism in the ranks – Smith's autobiographical musings on how being a musician is just another job are laudable redresses to turgid celebrations of the creative genius, but they've rebounded on him here.

Repeatedly, it feels as if Re-Mit amounts to little more than Smith and Poulou pasting overdubs onto music that has been rote-learned and then performed unquestioningly. It's telling that the best song on the record is 'Victrola Time', which is actually led – rather than scrawled on – by Poulou's synth: this is prime 21st-century Fall, which is to say that it sounds like something left over from Imperial Wax Solvent. Also lurking at the tail end is 'Jetplane', which stands above most of the material here in terms of coherence and has a pleasingly banks-of-the-Rhine feel. But these successes throw into relief how dismal the majority of the material is: 'Irish', with its redundant dig at James Murphy, is lazy and aimless, and 'Jam Song' builds from electronic faffing into the sort of glib indie-funk once used to score montage scenes in 90s-era British gangster flicks. The vocal version of 'No Respects', meanwhile, sounds like The Inspiral Carpets, and not in the sense of resembling the Smith-enhanced 'I Want You'.

Oh, and there are skits. 'Noise' and 'Pre-MDMA Years' can't really be called songs as such, and seem more like sketches of snide provocation. You buy this kind of attitude when Smith is on form, as with the somehow-not-notorious Harold Shipman-themed 'What About Us' on Fall Heads Roll. Not in this case, though: Re-Mit's inscrutably bellicose moments just set the teeth on edge, and serve as indicators of the lack of imagination and incisiveness which pervades this album. If music writers are honest, we'd always own up to getting kicks at times from writing bad reviews, but there's absolutely no joy to be had from laying into an album by the band whose brilliance I've spent my whole adult life ranting about. Fingers crossed the decline isn't terminal.

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Mark M
May 14, 2013 11:47am

MMMMMmmmmmmm ... I listened to this for the first time last night and have to say that first impression were not great but by the time 'Loadstones' had hit me in the nads then all I wanted to do was listed again ... my wife was not impressed :-)

Have listened a couple of times at work today and have to say that I'm loving it!

I get much of the criticism in the review but, as a Fall appreciator since 1986's 'Bend Sinister', I rank any offering that doesn't descend into unlistenable chaos to be a decent Fall record :-)

I am also firmly in the camp that says 'expect little of the next new Fall album and nothing of the next gig and you won't be disappointing' ... on that basis, "Re-Mit" works for me but I may have a different view had I done the 6 hour round trip to Glasgow for last week's gig like I have done many times before !!!

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May 14, 2013 11:56am

Awesome review. One of the most roundly intelligent pieces of writing I've seen in a long time.

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May 14, 2013 12:21pm

I'd agree in so much that there are times where the band seems a bit self-conciously restrained: it's that which stops it from hitting the league of IWS/YFOC. But even on early listens, there's plenty of great stuff on here - the only downer is that the best song on it, Jetplane, got shoved out on the RSD single beforehand.

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May 14, 2013 12:29pm

I havent heard this yet so i have something to look forward to in the very near future. I accept the review without hearing the album as a well written,intelligent body of comment, and i know the reviewer is a Fall fan, but i feel it is maybe a little quick to even hint at any decline. I dont think the Fall will ever decline, but someday it will stop and my tears will flow the day it does without doubt.
They have been consistently brilliant now since a so called mini decline in the late 90's and look what happened to that, effectively booted into touch by the excellent Unutterable and subsequent efforts. Who knows maybe a change is in the offing and maybe not, but when a Fall album is among us its time to smile uncontrolably for a while.
If they have had a trophyless season (to reduce it to football terms) then lets not get on their backs too much. Sing and get behind them as they will return with the trophy at some point.

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May 14, 2013 1:52pm

You've missed the mark here. It's the kind of review that gets retracted, in the privacy of the reviewer's mind, at a later date.Far from stagnation, the album is in fact a surprise - qualitatively different to previous records by this line-up. Also, the idea that a rhythm section might do as it's told, and that musicians might have their input subjected to further processing and manipulation, doesn't seem like a bad idea to me at all. You've asserted that it is but not demonstrated as much.

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May 14, 2013 2:40pm

I'm finding it hard to believe anyone could place IWS above Re-Mit in Fall rankings.

Alright, there is blatant filler here (No Respects. Inst & Pre-MDMA Years) but when it's together it's very together. Smithy sounds to be having fun and trying something other than the Fall-by-Numbers approach of the last few records (ignoring YFOC).

Less of the reliance on stale rehash bass riffs that have marred everything from Fall Heads Roll to EGB and a welcome return to actual lyric writing after the terrible dirge of Ersatz.

It sounds like a Fall record, rather than Smithy gargling empty words over stale classic rock riffs.

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May 14, 2013 3:08pm

In reply to :

Ja, I apprecaite those who try to analyze the Fall musically and dynamically but the most important part is whether MES is engaged as writer and vocalist and on that count I vote AYE and motherfuck the Savages.

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May 14, 2013 7:51pm

I couldn't disagree more. This is the most focused and imaginative Smith has sounded in years. Elena's synth has been paired down so that it now plays off the rest of the band's tight-as-anything playing.

I know what you mean about the Smith inspiring the Scanlon/Hanley/Rogers era Fall (although Rogers was a classically trained musician), but it sounds that the band is now getting Smith to reach for something better.

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Alarming Prez
May 14, 2013 8:33pm

Loving this new record! At least this critical review was well written, and I think the criticism is valid, but it doesn't match what I hear on the record.

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May 14, 2013 8:38pm

Terrible band, love 'em

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Worthless Recluse
May 14, 2013 9:58pm

I don't really agree with the review, and I think it makes assumptions about the band's working methods that may be less than accurate. But as with every Fall album there are about as many opinions as listeners, and as usual I've seen comments ranging from "worst yet" to "best since [whatever]". On my 5th listen and not yet sure where I'd place it in terms of quality but like every Fall album I'll be playing it compulsively.

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a button
May 14, 2013 11:23pm

well I sorta agree... although my main gripe is the lack of actual material on this album. if you take away the pointless 'instrumentals'; No Respects (intro) and Pre-Mdma Years and also the previously released Victrola Time you've around 30 minutes of actual music.

But on the whole it's a disappointing album, but better than Ersatz due to the brilliance of Jetplane and Hittite Man.

I don't think The Fall's will ever produce a masterpiece like 2010's YFOC.

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James Kennedy
May 15, 2013 12:44am

I love it. There's afterbirth/afterlife in this album. Try it again in 10/20 years after 1/2 bottles of alcohol. There will be another album in 1/2 years time. "I think of the albums as diaries. I'm not one for nostalgia." My favourite album by The Fall is Are You Are Missing Winner. Subjective. After 3/4 listens today Re-Mit is a goody. Mirrors everywhere (pre MDMA/Victrola, No Respects Rev/Victrola, Kinder/Irish.) Great to have them back. Could do 1000 words on this but again i've only had the album since today i'm afraid. SPIDER!!!!

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May 15, 2013 3:40am

The irony is that without Mark there would be no Fall, yet for over two decades, over various line-ups, Mark himself has become the least interesting element in the band. His spoilt brat attitude is what keeps the band from fulfilling its potential. The rest of the band really ought to sack him.

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May 15, 2013 8:30am

This is the first Fall album I haven't pre-ordered since heavcily getting into them as a a band (Fal Heads Roll) and this review does nothing to pursuade me to keep hanging fire.

The last record, Ersatz was unbelievably poor and the reviews I'e read (both positive and negative) suggest this is more of the same.

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D. Basement
May 15, 2013 9:00am

Steven Wells once called The Fall "art without the wank" - sadly, that analogy ceased to apply around the time the band signed to Receiver Records in the late 1990s. "Wank" has been their raison d'etre ever since.

Despite the occasional, promising creative blip/upswing - Country On The Click, Imperial Wax Solvent & Your Future Our Clutter, for example (but not a lot else) - Mark E. Smith is a spent force, & has been for some time. Personally, I'm not a great fan of Domino, but they did at least apply some record company pressure to ensure that YFOC was release-worthy (i.e. "Put some fucking guts into it", as Roman Totale spat on Totale's Turns). At which point, of course, MES inevitably did a runner.

Fuck The Fall - if Mark can't be arsed then neither can I. I've been listening to them for 30 years on/off, & enough is enough. There's a new These New Puritans album out shortly - the tenner I would've spent on Re-Mit is being put aside for that instead.

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May 15, 2013 11:07am

Everyone has their own slant on what makes a great Fall album so reviews can be a bit of a red herring- Re-mit had me grinning from the first note, there seems to be nods to the Fall canon all over this record, from Brix era bubblegum garage onwards- there's a playful upbeat element to this album that's been missing indecent years with the bile dialled back considerably. it sounds to me that the band may of secretly been checking out the back catalogue behind Smith's back and liked what they heard- best Fall album since Country on the Click to my ears...

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May 15, 2013 5:04pm

I think Mr. Kennedy is way off. 'Irish' is a great song, and the LP as a whole (while not immune to the ups and downs characterizing recent Fall output) is quite solid.

Also, the writing style is pompous.

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May 15, 2013 10:06pm

Re-Mit is brilliant. If you disagree, then tell it to somebody else.

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Divine Comedy, Inc.
May 17, 2013 6:32am

In reply to SB:

My favorite four-word assessment ever. Bravo!

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Jun 3, 2013 3:31pm

it is gratifying to see that we do not have agreement. it means they are continuing to do something right. I don't see anything else around that gets close.

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Joe K
Jun 11, 2013 2:28pm

In reply to Kevin:

Exactly. The Fall seem to be one of few bands who can provoke an extremely amicable comments thread in which there is nevertheless almost complete disagreement.

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dAVE Scott
Sep 27, 2013 10:06am

In all honesty I've barely enjoyed a thing this current line up have recorded. Too wooly. Too American. Firing the last Manc line up was not a great move, but then what do we expect of MES?

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