Monday, April 28, 2008

The Fall: Imperial Wax Solvent

32 years in, and Mark E. Smith shows no sign of quitting, with the 27th(ish) Fall album out today. Good.

There are, apparently, still some people who remain wilfully blind to the genius of The Fall, and I suppose at this stage it's too late for them; I can only pity them and the drab lives they must lead.

Because there is not one band who has managed what Smith and his many cohorts have achieved: to sustain a career in this strange beast we call rock and roll for three decades that maintains an extraordinarily high quality level (I maintain they've never released a bad album: sure, there are Fall albums that are less good than the others, but their slightest effort is still several rungs above almost anyone else) and still retains its full creative force and originality.

Having established recent incarnations of The Fall as the Ur-garage band, Smith on this album seems to be playing with that sounds, pulling it apart and reconstructing it from the inside out. So what we get are a lot of startling jump cuts between textures and tempi, which seem to bring The Fall's latent Beefheart influence to the fore. now Beefheart's not someone you can emulate unless you're very sure of yourself, and of course The Fall manage to let that sound come out without ever once sounding like anything other than the Fall, which of course is the essence of their genius.

It's compelling, genuinely adult music ("I'm a 50-year old man, and I like it!" exclaims Smith) ; a big thick juicy steak of a record, in comparison to the thin gruel so many bands serve up. And it's great to dance to, too. The Fall come from the land of Northern Soul, remember; they understand the value of dancing.

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