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Keeping It Real

 

The Fall: The Real New Fall LP [U.S. Version]

Narnack, 2004

Rating: 4.5

 

 

Posted: July 26, 2004

By Laurence Station

If Mark E. Smith's committed to the cause, a new release by the Fall is going to be an event. How committed was Smith to the new Fall album? Well, back in early 2003, when the record was still known by its original title, Country on The Click, tracks were leaked onto the Internet. Undeterred, Smith re-recorded, re-mixed and re-sequenced a portion of the material, and rechristened it The Real New Fall LP. That's taking the fight to the file-sharing hordes!

But Smith still wasn't finished tinkering with his band's handiwork. Bolstered by glowing reviews and a willingness to further develop the songs, Smith remastered The Real New Fall LP for its U.S. release, removing some of the noisy backfill and sharpening the edges. But he didn't stop there. The album's been re-sequenced (yet again, with slightly altered or truncated song titles), offers a pair of bonus tracks and two alternate versions of songs from the UK set, and even displays a cover art makeover. Presto, chango! The Real New Fall LP (the third incarnation of Country on The Click) has arrived. And it's brilliant. The UK release proved Smith had regained his footing after the band's last studio release (the bloodless Are You Are Missing Winner), with tighter musicianship and Smith's patented sneering vocals lobbing razor-sharp, lacerating word-bombs.

It's worth noting that Smith, on top of sounding jazzed to be performing throughout The Real New Fall LP's nearly hour-long running time, doesn't seem to have lost his hopeful sense of optimism in the 27 years since he founded the band. "What if the world crashed in / Refolding behind your eyelids / Cracked your mind," he asks at the beginning of "Janet Vs Johnny," but that grim supposition is carried along by a lively beat and wonderfully agitated, jangling guitar line. The linchpin of a great Fall record is its ability to offset Smith's cryptic, brutally incisive lyrics with diverse and expressively interesting arrangements. Quite often, only a handful of songs manage to pull off this feat, and what's left is either too concerned with Smith's spoken-word invectives or fashionable but wholly ill-suited musical styles. The Real New Fall LP earns major points for being able to sustain a delicate balance between the Fall's two major tendencies across the majority of the disc.

Smith's concerns fall in line with his immediate, distinctly working-class British orbit. "Sparta 2#" is an anthem football hoodlums can embrace : "We live on blood / We are Sparta F.C. / English Chelsea fan this is your last game" Elsewhere, he bemoans "I hate the countryside so much" on "Contraflow," while the media's fare game on "Xralothep" ("Avoid respectable television and respectable newspapers / They have neither the talent of art / Nor the instinctive snout of the media." "Mike's Love Hexagon" is an unapologetically vicious slam of litigious Beach Boy Mike Love. "Mountain," possessing a steady beat and low-riding bassline, is vintage Smith, his delivery -- snide and indifferent -- fomenting a one-man revolt ("Dolly Parton and Lord Byron / They said patriotism is the last refuge / But now it's me").

New track "Mad Mock Goth" is guttural industrial sludge that doesn't add much value to the track listing, and the closing "Recovery Kit 2#" contains busy noise pollution that flies in the face of the comparatively clean, less chaotic sound dominating the album. But then, this wouldn't rightfully be a Fall record if there weren't a few unsightly warts sticking out. The Real New Fall LP is spot-on, and the band something Mark E. Smith would no doubt punch this reviewer in the kisser for claiming: A rock and roll institution.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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