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The Fall - The Real New Fall LP

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Artist: The Fall

Album: The Real New Fall LP

Label: Narnack

Review date: Aug. 29, 2004

A new record by the Fall: cause for celebration, or just another seasonal missive from a band that will soon be entering their 30th year of operation? As most collectors and fans would tell you, there isn't exactly a dearth of Fall material on the marketplace, as the band has seemed to operate on an almost quarterly release schedule since hitting their peak in the early to mid-80s. And although Narnack has gone to the pains of emblazoning the cover of The Real New Fall LP (formerly 'Country on the Click') (more on that title later) with a sticker proudly blaring the fact that this is the first new Fall release in the United States in six years, those of us who spend ample time in record stores or browsing on the internet know this is a slight case of smoke and mirrors. True, the Fall have not released a disc on an American label since 1998, but subsequent full-lengths have found purchase on these shores, and recent years have seen a spate of reissues tumble forth from the venerable Mark E. Smith archives.

The point is thus: one would be forgiven for overlooking this record as yet another Fall album, chock full of new material or otherwise. And just on the basis of 2001’s rather dismal Are You Are Missing Winner?, such an attitude might very well be expected. Which is not to say that the Fall are responsible for any truly atrocious records (save for bits and pieces that emerged in the post-Brix-Mark-E.-divorce period), but rather a series of albums that seem to accentuate that the band hasn't quite been the same since that 10-year inaugural period of activity and release that bequeathed such gems as Hex Enduction Hour and This Nation's Saving Grace. The Fall is consistent almost to a fault – a little more quality (quantity?) control would undoubtedly yield a much higher ratio of hits in their back catalogue.

In a sense, this record sometimes feels like it came from an older period in the Fall's history. Their last full-length almost plodded along through tinny production and lackluster songs, but The Real New Fall LP positively stomps and bristles, with Smith and his band summoning up the type of chutzpah not normally found in middle age. Named as such because The Real New Fall LP had been circulating among bootleggers and filesharers for some time as Country on the Click, Narnack's release features a cleaned-up sound for what is truly a more direct and aggressive band.

Little has changed throughout the Fall's career, and in that respect much of what's contained here comes as no surprise. The guitars are harsh and jagged, anchored by martial rhythms and thumping bass. Mr. Smith takes center stage as always, sharpening his vocals to an impassioned yowl, or slinking around in the background, mumbling about love lost, thinly veiled social commentary, or a host of other topics that would require proficiency in mumble-ese to fully comprehend. "Mountain" introduces some jangle and a spooky keyboard line to the affair, while "Sparta" rockets by with tight riffs, urgent drumming, and impassioned backing vocals, displaying a renewed sense of urgency that's been sorely lacking in recent output. And on top of having the best title here, "Mad Mock Goth" may be the album's peak, a venomous four minutes of guitar and bass that finds Smith spitting like one recently exorcised.

In truth, there really isn't a bad song to be found on this latest offering from the Fall. The players assembled here are the tightest batch of musicians to have surrounded Smith in some time, and his songwriting is more than up to snuff. Neophytes are still encouraged to consult their local shopkeeper as to what Fall record is the best place to start (in addition to those already mentioned, I suggest the suitably titled The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall). When all is said and done, it seems doubtful that The Real New Fall LP will go down is history as a desert island pick. It is, however, an album that proves that no matter how much the Fall falters, it can always bounce back with the same atonally melodic punk that has won over fans for three generations running.

By Michael Crumsho

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