Customer Review

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fall CD 2007..., 17 Feb 2007
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This review is from: Reformation Post TLC (Audio CD)
2007 gives us a new Fall album, the follow-up to the critically well received `Fall Heads Roll' (2005) - this album was initially started last year with long-time associate Grant Showbiz and a completely different line up of the band. I saw the previous line-up play in Stratford, they were on very good form and played `Systematic Abuse' and `White Line Fever.' However, the band amusingly went bonkers in Phoenix, losing a guitarist, bassist and drummer in an incident that may have involved a banana-skin, a corkscrew, a guitar-amp, and some whiskey. The duo of Mark E. Smith and wife Elena Poulou (keyboards) were all that was left - the band expanding with new membership and some brinkmanship from members of Darker My Love and The Hill. The new Fall band featured here including Orpeo M, Tim Presley, Dave Spurr, Peter Greenaway, and Gary Bennett - who may or may not be appearing with MES and Elena in concerts in the next month or so...

Maybe it was the line-up changes, but I can't help wishing the old line up had stuck around a bit longer - mainly as after a few listens `Reformation Post TLC' fails to match either `Fall Heads Roll' or `Country on the Click (the Real New Fall LP).' It feels like one of those so-so Fall albums like `Are You Are Missing Winner?' and `The Light User Syndrome.' The epic `Das Boat' should have been a 21st Century `Bremen Nacht', but ends up a 21st Century `Crew Filth' - alongside the pointless `Outro' and the brief/patchy/undeveloped likes of `Coach and Horses' and `The Usher' (was this once `The Boss'?) it feels like one of those patchy second sides of a Fall album that became common in the mid to late 1990s (e.g. `Cerebral Caustic'). The album would be better with some of this stuff removed, cutting its 60 minutes plus duration - this must have been the longest album since `Extricate'? (an album which didn't have a dud).

The cover of Merle Haggard's amphetamine-anthem `White Line Fever' is well played, but feels more like a b side than a cover to match a great one from yore like `White Lightning', `Mr Pharmacist', or `Ghost in My House.' The problem is that most tracks here are in the same garage rock style, very well played by Smith's new employees, but a bit samey and flat - and the feeling that 2005's `Pacifying Joint' did this kind of thing definitively. Way less variety, songs like `Over! Over!', `Reformation', `My Door is Never' & `Scenario' all a bit too close sonically.

`Over! Over!' has some amusing backing vocals from Orpheo M. , who sounds a bit like Fatima Mansions-era Cathal Coughlan, which goes well with the central riff from The United States of America's `Coming Down' (as good/bad a rip-off as 1984's `Elves' was of The Stooges' `I Wanna Be Your Dog'!). The epic `Systematic Abuse' is the best song here, reason to buy the album alone - but isn't the main riff an old Fall song? Live I was thinking of something like `Put It Away', but I think it's `Steppin' Out.' A quick reaquataince with the expanded reissues of `Live at the Witch Trials' and `Dragnet' will settle that one!! Will the next album feature a song based on `English Scheme' and `Fantastic Life'???

`Reformation' is alright, though I got a bit sick of MES hailing "reformation!" several tracks in - I guess this one will be fine live and if you like garage rock Fall, fine. `Fall Sound' is another standout, though I'm amused at Smith's self-mythology lyrically and the fact it has a bass-line that is very Peter Hook. I thought of `Sunrise', so surely this should be called `New Order Sound'? To be fair, the great top ten Fall album `The Infotainment Scan' contained a few tracks with Hooky style bass (`A Past Gone Mad', `It's a Curse') - so not that new a thing.

`The Insult Song' sounds like any old drivel that sprang to mind at the same session as `White Line Fever', MES may not be physically lazy, but this feels like a creative lapse. `My Door is Never' is a bit better, and possibly refers to his backing band; while it's ironic that another highlight does not feature Smith on vocals. `The Wright Stuff' (titled after the weekday TV programme on Channel 5 fronted by Zappa-head Matthew Wright) has a keyboard style that reminds me of the first Blue Orchids album and Poulou's vocals that feel like the missing link between the Triffids' Jill Birt and the timeless icon Nico (with a dash of Flying Lizards). `The Wright Stuff' is the `Hotel Bloedel' of this album...

`Reformation Post TLC' feels a bit of a disappointment at present, maybe the interruption was a factor, maybe the backing band are too compliant - the latest Melvins' album shows that a band can absorb members of another band and produce a classic that goes new places. RPTLC all seems a bit Fall as usual. Maybe I'll change my mind over time/maybe not. Perhaps the material will be better live, as often can be the case with the mighty Fall. Maybe the Peel box-set and the many reissues have spoilt my listening, making me measure the latest against all that greatness? Or maybe it's just one of those patchy Fall albums like `Levitate' and `Room to Live'? Since MES has delivered several classic albums at various times - `Witch Trials', `Dragnet', `Grotesque (after the gramme)', `Hex Enduction Hour', `Saving Grace', `Bend Sinister', `Extricate', `Shiftwork', `Infotainment', `The Marshall Suite', `The Unutterable', `Country/Click', & `Fall Heads Roll' - it's possible that the next one or the one after will be another chestnut. Not a bad Fall album, `Reformation Post TLC' is the Fall's 4747477448th album and a skew in my adage that "The best Fall album is whatever their latest album is." Ho and hum...
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Location: Worcester, UK

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