There was a period in my life that The Fall was the most important band in the world to me because of their utter desire to wipe away the over-layered prettiness and bullshit that seemed to plague so many of their contemporaries.  And also because they came up with some ridiculously great and memorable pop songs – from “Totally Wired” to “Telephone Thing”, in countless ways, Mark E. Smith and his revolving line-up of merry cohorts were masters of a sparsely brilliant and innovative universe.

It’s some 37 years into The Fall’s recorded career and they’re back again with another verbally twisted album, Sub-Lingual Tablet.  If nothing else, Fall albums are worth their salt just by the titles alone.  And it’s been a good 22 years since I last listened to a Fall record.  So this is a treat – and take that for what it’s worth.  You have to KNOW The Fall to appreciate their very direct, particular sound – for those not aware, it’s the sound of Mark E. Smith’s voice – he being the mind and maw that is The Fall.  His notorious, distinctive “uh” at the end of every word/sentence is what makes The Fall’s sound – and gives it its peculiar charm.

“Venice With The Girls” kicks this thing into high gear in an unexpected fashion – fast and guitar driven with some neat synth blips and riffs; I haven’t heard The Fall this “poppy” since the Bend Sinister days; “First One Today” has that Fall trademark of off-rhythms and Smith’s ranting in front of an almost-droning backdrop and “Stout Man” has a hyper-punk feel – something  that leaped right out of the school of ’77 but his vocals take on a Beefheartesque growl – fantastic.  “Auto Chip 14 – 15” is vintage Fall with sparse guitar note and stripped down and “Quit iPhone” is a Fall-by-numbers perfect way to close this collection.

It’s safe to say that there is no safety with The Fall.  Mark E. Smith’s acerbic way with words will shred anything – sacred or otherwise.  And more often than not, he’s always hit the mark (no pun intended).  And on this album – their 31st studio album – it’s a very welcomed return to form.


Sub-Lingual Tablet is available now


About the Author

Rob Ross

Rob Ross has been, for good, bad or indifferent, involved in the music industry for over 30 years - first as guitarist/singer/songwriter with The Punch Line, then as freelance journalist, producer and manager to working for independent and major record labels. He resides in Staten Island, New York with his wife and cats; he works out a lot, reads voraciously, loves Big Star and his orange Gretsch. Doesn't that make him neat?

View All Articles