Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Fall 'Fall Heads Roll'

So, a friend sent sent me a CD-R of this, the upcoming Fall album, a few months before it's release proper on highly questionable 'label', Narnack. Yep, the folks at Narnack, who I would like to make fun of more but cannot due to their wonderful Bunnybrains box and Intelligence release (not to mention the jim dandy 'I Made A Bomb' - kudos, fellas), had the deep pockets/endless reserves of patience/good taste to sign The Fall. They tweaked through the mixes and delivered an alternate version of the acclaimed, and rightfully so, 'The Real New Fall LP (Formerly "Country On The Click")' last year and now they've got Smith's next. I dunno if I am reviewing the final record/mix/mastered/what have you, especially considering that it might strike Smith's fancy to go and remix the entire thing at the zero hour or drop a track or two, but this is what I've got, and I am going to share it with you, out of the kindness of my heart.

I've been looking forward to this record for quite a bit. Not only are the Peel Sessions from this record great - particularly 'Blindness', which rides along a bass riff so ominous, menacing and funky that it easily ranks of with the best of Steve Hanley, some big shoes to fill - but The Fall seems to be on an upswing lately, before going on one of their inevitable downturns when the Reggae influence gets to pervasive. It's not a comfortable subject, but let's be serious here. How much time do you think Mark E. Smith has left? How many new Fall records are we going to get? It's easy to take the incredible longevity for granted, since we've had a couple LP's and reissues belched out into the racks every year, but sooner or later the only thing that could stop The Fall will occur, and will be down one unique cultural treasure. Okay, enough sentiment, what did that little wrinkled, cantankerous motherfucker come up with this time?

Leadoff track 'Ride Away', a strange choice to open the record, is a blended Joe Meek/reggae/Wire slow tempo pop mopery. oddly catchy number done with great economy, i.e. sparse keyboard and occasional guitar over a simple beat and Smith's vocals. 'Assume', which you 'assume' are just going to ride out on one riff while lurching into the stop/start mode, explode into some great electronic guitar blasts before shifting back. 'Blindness' suffers from comparison to the Peel session, with too much production fuckery aroundery and a muddled mix, while 'What About Us' careens around but just ends up looking like a coattail rider to the far the superior 'Sparta F.C.' As for The Move cover, The Fall's version of 'I Can Hear The Grass Grow' is an absolute showstopper. That's the mark of a good band, when they can take a Nuggets certified classic that you've heard a thousand times and invigorate it. They don't piledrive it or fuck with it, or rework it. They just do the song, and do it great. Shit, it's hard to tell without the benefit of a decade or so, but i'd say it can go toe to toe with 'Mr. Pharmacist'...

Anyway, yeah, the record's a good one. It's consistent, Smith & Co. seem less satisfied to litter their records with throwaway tracks, more inclined to work out a whole song rather then leaving it 3/4 of the way finished (which sounds lousy, and occupies the middle ground between those Fall songs that sound 1/2 finished, and are great). On the whole, the band just seems more focused. Like I said, good record.

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