The Fall follow up their most recent album Sub Lingual Tablet with this EP. Wise Ol’ Man (is that supposed to be Mark E. Smith?) mixes all-new tracks with a smattering of remixes, instrumentals and edits, as well as a reversioning of old festive favourite ‘No Xmas For John Quays’. 7 tracks in all. Out on the Cherry Red label.
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The discrepancy between Mark E Smith's public demeanour (see recent Channel 4 interview) and the music he produces is rather wild. Actually, the fact that he manages to make any music at all is quite an achievement.
Having said that I’m personally not totally sold on his most recent records. I feel some of the spark and invention has gone but would you still be able to make adventurous music after 30 years of rock and roll debauchery? The lead track on this between-album EP is a case in point. it has some rather good bits and pounds along nicely to it but never quite catches fire to elevate it anywhere near ‘classic’ status. Not bad but a certain lack of dynamism holds it back. Better is the more difficult ‘All Leave Cancelled’ which has the most sludgy of bass riffs and lots of guitar scree. Alas Smith is not the vocalist he once was. Where in past times he would deliver inspired and memorable vocal performance, here he just kind of rants along and certain sections sound like what the Fall basically are these days: a reasonably good band jamming along whilst a local drunk takes to the stage.
Elsewhere various alternate versions of things appear from 'Sub Lingual Tablet'. ‘Dedication’ has been one of the best songs from the recent live shows but they can’t seem to nail it on record - there’s a version here which has acidy synth bloops and a filthy bass line. It sounds kind of like the Prodigy. ‘Venice With Girls’ (also on ‘Sub Lingual Tablet‘ in different form) is here is reproduced in rawer rock style. The song flits along on a half riff with a nice staccato slap instead of a chorus and some good Smith double tracked vocals that gain in intensity.
The Fall are still an incendiary live band - catch them whenever they come near you - but the best thing for them to start making truly inspiring records again is to be produced. Someone needs to untangle this mess, strip it back and capture what they can do live on record.
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- Wise Ol' Man by The Fall
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