Mark Smith is at another zenith of his game at the moment - with his autobiography (published by Penguin, no less), ubiquity in the media and the ongoing renaissance of his beloved outfit that begun with the release of 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong in 2004. Their three subsequent studio albums, Country On The Click, Fall Heads Roll and Reformation Post TLC have had a consistency that evokes the group's high period Beggars Banquet or Permanent years, while frequently bringing something completely new to the table.
So what does Imperial Wax Solvent, the group's 27th studio record, have to differentiate it from the rest of the Fall's canon? Well, it has their longest non-live album track yet on record, 50 Year Old Man, its standout, almost a culmination of Smith's life's work, with its banjo, krautrock and glam interludes and repeated refrain of ''I'm A 50 year old man, what are you going to do about it?'', it all makes perfect sense. After 12 minutes it finally disappears, after stream of consciousness shifts to ''inferior product men'' and an ''attempt to be scruffy on a train''.
Imperial Wax Solvent also has a lot of the things you love: Alton Towers sets up a characteristically moody entrance; Wolf Kidult Man has the album's biggest riff while Can Can Swimmer has the forward propulsion you'd expect from the group. I've Been Duped keeps the bright brief of Theme From Sparta F.C, with Mrs Smith, Eleni Polou's vocal adding an overall sweetness. Senior Twilight Stock Replacer has the chops - a grinding, almost funky occasional stage favourite, it calls to mind Gut Of The Quantifier from 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace.
Although there may not be quite as much melody as of late, here we have 10 Smith originals plus the group's second Groundhogs cover, Strangetown, and Eleni's largely instrumental interlude, Taurig. Imperial Wax Solvent makes for another compelling episode in that small but thriving outpost of the post-punk empire, Fallville. --Daryl Easlea
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