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The Fall
Remainderer Niall O'Keeffe , December 13th, 2013 12:00

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Since the last album, a fine new Fall track has already emerged: ‘Bag Boy’, by the Pixies. It couldn’t have been a more explicit homage to Mark E Smith’s group. Amid the familiar grinding rhythms, its vocal put the Mark in trademark: all hectoring instructions couched in oddly formal language. "Polish your speech!" is the new "Pay your rates!"

In a further doff of the cap, the Pixies have since added to their live set a cover of the Fall song from which ‘Bag Boy’ borrows most heavily: ‘Big New Prinz’. It’s thus possible that, three-and-a-half decades in, The Fall are now bigger than ever.

Full marks to the Pixies for honesty, and for the adroitness of their salute. After all, the spirit of The Fall is not so easily channelled. It’s certainly possible to make a parodic stab at what a song will sound like based on the title Smith has given it. But coming up with a plausibly Fall-esque title from scratch is a more magical conjuring act. You can, however, imagine a Fall song called ‘Bag Boy’, and thanks to the Pixies, you don’t have to.

How perfect that The Fall should now re-enter the fray with a biting critique of the culture of retromania. "Never forget, remembrance is worth nothing!" barks Smith on this EP’s title track, vying for attention with drummer Keiron Melling and his martial, remorselessly hard-hitting style. His beat carries an echo of ‘Hurricane Edward’, a gem carved amid The Fall’s late-90s chaos.

In the background, new voices make themselves heard, robotically intoning the phrase "Manipulated to leaving". It’s a three-word sum-up of the band’s tumultuous history: the personnel changes, the voodoo-style man management practised by Smith.

Showcased with ferocity at a gig in Dublin in August, ‘The Remainderer’ dominated a strong set, in a way that evoked the shock of first hearing ‘Reformation’, perhaps The Fall’s best song, back in 2006. Like ‘Reformation’, ‘The Remainderer' draws power from a pummelling rhythm, burbling synths, a riff of spiteful simplicity, and that shatteringly loud voice, full of mischief and malevolence.

Muscles flexed, The Fall devote the rest of this EP to answering the call of the weird. ‘Amorator!’ could hardly have a more Fall-esque moniker, but it’s refreshingly unfamiliar fare. When its wheezing electronics and skiffle-like guitars suddenly drop away, Smith offers sage advice: "Never forget, your brain is a bubble of water, and a blank sheet..."

Smith’s mania for repetition is indulged in ‘Mister Rode’, where he sings "I gotta a name I gotta say" again and again over a ceaselessly clanging guitar figure. But towards the end of the track, there’s a terrific transformation, redolent of the classic ‘Spoilt Victorian Child’ or the more recent ‘Weather Report 2’. A crescendo of stuttering guitars and beats slowly builds and builds as Smith intones an echo-laden speech of hazy meaning but infinite menace. It’s electrifying.

‘Remembrance R’, a sister track to ‘The Remainderer’, arrives with a riff that rewrites 80s track ‘Elves’, itself a rewrite of The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. Another voice is heard here: the sneering Salfordian tones of Fall engineer Simon "Ding" Archer, who embarks on spoken-word mockery of bands that reform, while Black Francis's ears burn in the distance.

Undermining the anti-nostalgia theme, ‘Remembrance R’ is followed by a medley of Gene Vincent covers, recorded live: ‘Say Mama’ and ‘Race With the Devil’. At Fall shows, 50s rock & roll covers serve two purposes. For the diehards, they’re a chance to hit the bar or bathroom. For wary friends who’ve been dragged along to the gig, there’s a comfort break of a different kind: a momentary blast of something recognisable, or of a recognisable form, and a brief respite from not-getting-it. However, it's less easy to see what an EP gains from this perfunctorily rendered, roughly recorded tribute.

With its title, closing track ‘Touchy Pad’ promises a rant about consumer electronics, but something altogether stranger is in store. "Where’s my time machine?" shouts Tamsin Middleton of the Salfordian trio Mr Heart, while Smith offers something about "Asians with weak bones". Later, during a back-and-forth with his guest, a confused-sounding Smith asks: "Are you saying Judas? I love them!" Er, right.

The EP lurches to an abrupt halt, but its work is done. The Remainderer slots into a lineage of interim records that bridge different eras of The Fall, like the sprawling ‘Chiselers’ single, which telegraphed a darkening of mood in the mid-90s, or the Fall Versus 2003 EP, which signalled the band’s reinvigoration after career-low Are You Are Missing Winner?

To judge from this record, the future Fall will be chaotic, cryptic and collaborative. Its music will be shape-shifting, fragmented and fierce. New paths will be taken, after the playfulness of last album Re-Mit and the priceless put-down that its track 'Irish' gave to the world: "They show their bollocks when they eat."

The Fall, as usual, will move on, and leave everything behind: The Remainderer, and the rest.

Dave
Dec 13, 2013 9:13pm

Nice review but that's not Elena on Touchy Pad.

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Ken
Dec 14, 2013 5:54am

In reply to Dave:

Yes it is .

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Dave
Dec 14, 2013 12:36pm

In reply to Ken:

It's Tamsin from Mr. Heart.

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mcnulty
Dec 16, 2013 9:59am

I wish peoplke would stop routinely dissing 'AYAMW'

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Bromma Keramik
Dec 16, 2013 11:11am

I lived with cancer death-wipe.

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Chief Jay Temperance
Dec 16, 2013 11:13am

Pixies are ass-- ooops, Frank Black's solo career a failure, time to fire up the nostalgia machine!-- and the Limeys on this sight who besotted with that garbage, then and now, are a sad case. Mark E. has been on a goddamn roll, however, and if one omits the less-than-carefully made comps and dubiously sourced live vinyl, the Fall have been chugging strongly for the last decade plus... Long may he etc, with a nary a fucking Pixies, Slint, Bowie, Boards of Canada (hah hah) cover in sight.

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Lord
Dec 16, 2013 12:23pm

Blimey, here we go again, another Journo who's not done their homework and is jumping to sensationalist conclusions! Research, people! It's not that hard if you put the effort in!

1. 'Touchy pad' features the fantastic vocal talent of Tamsin Middleton of the much-loved Salfordian trio 'Mr Heart', not Elena Smith!

2. Ding Archer happened to actually play bass on the Pixies' latest recordings, then supported the group on their recent European tour with his group AAAK, so your suggestion of there being any Ill feeling on his part towards Black Francis is frankly unfounded and embarrassing to those who know their facts.

Sort it out!

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davie
Dec 31, 2013 10:17pm

oh dear, I think Niall who wrote this review needs to try a bit harder. a very superficial review of a set of tracks that draws on the roots of The Fall. Armorator and Mr Rode, and Rememberence R took me right back to them live in the early 80s; not remembrance as in the Great War but remembering. And as for the throwaway line about 50s rock n roll - if Niall had listened to early Fall it's all twisted rockabilly rhythms; so nothing new there. Back to the Future anyone?

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Michael Nath
Feb 17, 2014 7:20pm

They performed 'Race with the Devil' 25 years ago, at John Peel's 50th.

Reflect on that, if you will.

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