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Reformation Post TLC

The Fall’s 431st album – made by their 804th line-up – doesn’t feature any particularly radical stylistic departures by the post-punk legends.

Rating: 8 / 10

Paul Nolan, 19 Feb 2007

The Fall’s 431st album – made by their 804th line-up – doesn’t feature any particularly radical stylistic departures by the post-punk legends. Mark E Smith is still writing songs with titles like ‘Oliver Letwin Apocalypse’, ‘Prescott Implosion’ and ‘You Are Newsnight Sex Beast’, and spitting out fragmented lyrics along the lines of “Disoriented aunt at a Prodigy gig-uh/Full of gibberish like an Observer magazine article-uh”. Along with the thumping rhythms and razorwire guitars, it’s a formula for sure, but one that – much like Smith himself during his brief stint reading out the football scores on Grandstand – delivers consistently brilliant results.

The opening tracks, ‘Over! Over!’, ‘Reformation!’ and ‘Fall Sound’, are very much what would you expect from the band, with sharp rhythms and corrosive guitars to the fore. Things take a much stranger turn with ‘White Line Fever’, a country-ish track with choral vocals. The following ‘Insult Song’, however, is the oddest track of all. Over a discordant backing track that features a funk bassline, Smith adopts a truly bizarre, grand guignol vocal style – like old man Steptoe impersonating Vincent Price – to deliver a characteristically skewed narrative about Captain Beefheart.

We’re back on more familiar territory with the thumping new wave track ‘My Door Is Never’, during which you can hear what a profound influence The Fall have had on some of the finest contemporary bands, such as Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand and LCD Soundsystem. Meanwhile, with their angular guitars, jerky rhythms and sardonic lyrics, you can pretty much discern the DNA strand for Pavement’s entire career on numbers like ‘Coach And Horses’, ‘The Usher’ and ‘The Wright Stuff’.

Smith’s experimental streak surfaces once again on the dark west coast psych of ‘Scenario’ and the Residents-like weirditude of ‘Das Boat’, before ‘The Bad Stuff’ and ‘Systematic Abuse’ bring proceedings to a suitably cacophonous conclusion. Reformation Post TLC may lack a tune as monumental as, say, the unforgettable ‘Hip Priest’ from Hex Enduction Hour, but 30 years into his career, Smith is still making music with the kind of vitality and imagination that shame most musicians half his age.
Rating: 8 / 10

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