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