Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fall marathon 10: The Unutterable/Are You Are Missing Winner/The Real New Fall Album/Fall Heads Roll

The Unutterable gives the sense of a well-drilled band who are probably shit-scared of their leader. At the time it came out I thought it was one of the Fall's best albums for many a year, even more satisfying for coming after a period when many in the press speculated that it was all over. Little things like "Das Katerer" - effectively a re-write of "Free Range" - give a sense that MES has to some extent reconciled himself to his past, and I guess from hereon there's a sense of the band being more willing to draw on its own history, less worried about pointedly refusing to revisit old ground. Especially welcome is the humour, more evident on this album than it had been for quite some time.

After "The Unutterable"'s fairly flash production, Are You Are Missing Winner contrarily reverts to a resolutely lo-fi sound. I remember being disappointed by this album when it came out, but time's been kind to it - the hyper-garagey tone stands up well, even if this isn't one of their best. There's probably a lesson about the perspective of hindsight to be had here.

The Real New Fall LP (Formerly "Country On The Click") is a step up again, though. Xyralothep sounds a convincing Lovecrafty name, but extensive research (i.e. a few minutes on Google) suggests that the name is MES's own creation. It's an opportunity to note the sci-fi element to the Fall, though. "Sparta FC" is brilliantly belligerent, how they got away with using this as the theme to Final score I'll never know.

And so to Fall Heads Roll, the most recent (until 12th Feb) album. It seems almost like a meta-Fall album, embodying the quixotic (beginning with an extended country-reggae number?!) the relentless grind (the wonderful and frightening "Blindness"), a reference to an old song and a tribute to Bo Diddley.

after 30 years, it's remarkable simply that The Fall are still around. It's positively astounding that not only is MES still here, but he's still at the top of his game. Having gone through all these albums over the past couple of months, I can honestly say that, some variation in quality aside (perfectly natural over such a long time) there isn't a single one that isn't good. I can't think of any other band of whom that can be said over thirty years.

These days it's very easy to think of the Fall as existing in some sort of separate time continuum, where each individual album fades into one huge welter of sound. it's nice to have been able to remind myself of each record's individual merits, and make some surprising connections. Who'd have thought that one of the constant threads that seems more and more prominent with the passing years would be dance music? Mark E Smith, for one, probably.

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