Saturday, October 1, 2005

Records In Review: The Fall--Fall Heads Roll

The title of this blog [previously titled Everything Hurtz--ed.] is a testament to the fact that you shouldn't make creative decisions at 3am, after discovering that your first five really clever ideas have been taken. In any event, here is the brand spanking new one from The Fall. How many does that make now? 25? 30? Getting up there in Bran Van and Peter Hammill territory for sure.

This latest offering is pretty good, but Jeebus, it's a mess, both stylistically and, with sound-alike songs next to each other and a prolonged sag in the middle, in terms of its pacing. Their last studio album, The Real New Fall LP, was, with its razor-sharp hooks and punky charm, one of the band's few records that you could see having an appeal beyond the usual culty circles, but Fall Heads Roll is more one for the choir and those who'll have the patience to get through the duff bits.

I gather that mainman Mark E. Smith considers his current approach to be garage-rock. O-kay. It's certainly a fair ways from any plaid-jacketed Canuck definition of the term, eh? In terms of personality, the album reminds me most of their late '80s The Frenz Experiment; it left that same impression of a bunch of songs that became an album 'cos someone asserted it to be so. And no, for the record, I DON'T buy every Fall cd (I'm well-adjusted, getting better by the day, etc.). The warning bells went off right away with the loping opener, "Ride Away," seemingly MES' version of Music Hall. Odd. There are some effective tracks like "Pacifying Joint," "What About Us?" and "Trust In Me" that evoke the aforementioned previous album: bludgeoningly direct with a punky swagger, although with a bit more swing to them than previously. A lot of the disc is much more "traditional" Fall, though. "Assume" has a pounding beat and twangy guitar lead that brings to mind the This Nation's Saving Grace-era, and the ho-hum "Bo Demmick" plays with the antique cheesy rock 'n' roll motifs in the same way that much of their mid-to-late '80s and even early '90s material did. There's a couple of mellower tunes, of which "Midnight in Aspen" is the best. As with every Fall lp I've ever heard, good, bad or otherwise, there's the song or two that doesn't do much ("Clasp Hands") or that go on for two or three minutes too long ("Blindness" and "Youwanner").

The production is quite chunky and sparse (with less processing and subtlety than its predecessor) and creates some good stuck-in grooves, when it works. Music to be listened to at volume, as usual. Also on the plus side, Smith's lyrics at first read are less cryptic than some recent efforts. Slightly above-average Fall album: recommended for devotees.

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