Review Summary: Vocal testaments of M.E.S.
Even if you’re not a fan of The Fall, you can’t help but admire their obdurate longevity. After nearly 40 years of piss ups, bust ups and *** ups, Mark E. Smith and his cast of Jonestown-esque musicians are still here and wreaking havoc.
Seasoned Fall aficionados (this writer included) like to play a spot of ‘Fall Bingo’ when reading the latest reviews. Cards are usually marked with any of the following phrases ‘always different, always the same’, ‘John Peel favourites’, ‘curmudgeon’, ‘revolving door’ and a few others besides. In essence, most reviews centre not on the music but on the recycled goo that has dripped from website to magazine to ‘paper since the turn of the century.
So, in the interests of trend-bucking, what can be gleaned from Re-Mit
? As with most Fall records, any lessons or points of interests make themselves known after a few repeat listens.
It’s no secret that Smith has become even odder as the years have passed. While some of his lyrics border on the downright mad (“Dear spider, hello spider, help me spider” from “Kinder Of Spine” for example), there are moments of clarity that call to mind the gothic horror overtones of older tracks like “R.O.D.” and “Spectre Vs. Rector.”
“Hittite Man” tells the tale of a “pilgrim out of mind, out of death and debt” that precedes a chilling summation: “you do not exist.” Elsewhere, “Loadstones” is choc-stocked with Lovecraftian narration: “And at that dark sunset, my brother and I…we walked the path far from the tower. A light sea breeze ruffles the blood. Skin is bleeding.” The past two decades have seen one detractor after another look to knock Smith off his perch, but the evidence shows that he still has a keen eye for a story.
The current line-up, the longest in the Fall’s history (whoops, there’s one for the bingo players…), have obviously benefited from such unprecedented stability. Pete Greenway (guitar) makes with some decent, understated riffs on “Jam Song” and “Jet Plane”. The rhythm section, Dave Spurr (bass) and Keiron Melling (drums), are as sturdy and hard-hitting as ever. Smith’s wife, Elena Poulou (keyboard), is the perfect foil to his garbled weirdness; her sultry voice and slabs of electronic noise bringing a distorted, askew sense of femininity to proceedings.
, while able to hold its own in some quarters, is not the best of The Fall by any stretch. However, some of the strange humour and twisted narratives, sorely lacking from their last release Ersatz G.B.
, are back. It takes a good, interesting group to keep you guessing, and with 30 or so LPs to their name, The Fall always make you wonder what’s coming next.