Friday, October 21, 2005

Fall In

Why do these people look so frightened of the man with the ciggie?

Well, another year has rolled around which means another Fall LP is here. Some recent shakiness in the line-up, not to mention some shakiness of the part of their lead singer, has meant that recent albums have been hit or miss affairs. Fans are used to taking a kind of feast-or-famine outlook on what they do these days.

Luckily for them, though, last year’s Real New Fall LP (Country On The Click) was a promising collection that seemed to be the ramp-up for an even more solid piece of work, the brand new Fall Heads Roll, largely recorded in NY this year. It’s the kind of CD that allows you to forgive those other ones you listened to once and filed away, because you know you’re going to be wearing this out.

The Fall, or more properly Mark E. Smith, is/are inching up to his/their 30-year mark in the music business. You’d think by now someone could define what this music is, what it does. For many, Mark E. is a bilious megaphone, splattering his own pinched brand of misanthropy across his band’s musical landscape. For others, they represent an undiluted approach to creativity, part severe structure, part instinctive genius.

For me, they’re the great human band of rock ‘n’ roll. From the early scrawled album covers to the non-production production, the incorporation of mistakes used in a collage-style fashion, and over it all the vocalization of someone who used his limitations to a distinct advantage, The Fall have, more than any other band I can think of, done more to break down the artificial barrier between artist and audience. The records never distanced themselves from the listener. Instead, one felt as if one was listening in to a work-in-progress by musicians who were only interested in doing the best job they could. Each song sounded like something only recently created, before anyone had an opportunity to beat the life out of it.

Mark Smith knew exactly what he was doing. It’s why listening to an old Fall record now can be a startling experience, inasmuch as they can still sound incredibly vital and timeless.

There’s some wonderful classic moments here that could come from no other band. Rampaging stompers like Assume and Bo Demmick, the delicate spiderweb of Midnight In Aspen (a meditation on the recently deceased Hunter S. Thompson), and an inspired cover of The Move’s I Can Hear The Grass Grow. There seems to be some chatter that the running order received a last minute shuffle as the back cover of the disc reveals a different order than the finished product. In fact, I’ve got my own preferred order for the new disc, which would run as follows:

4, 9, 11, 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 3, 12, 10, 13, 14, 6.

But nobody asked me.

Still, if you buy it, give my order a whirl.

It synchs up to The Wizard Of Oz like crazy!


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