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The Fall – New Facts Emerge

Cherry Red

The Fall - New Facts EmergeAnd with the coming of the seasons, lo a new Fall album. As ever, bastards to write about. You’ve probably established some sort of perspective on The Fall and, as I’m in my twentieth year of being a bit unwell about The Fall, I’m fairly sure that perspective is wrong.

My first Fall album was Levitate. I got it while I was on work experience in Weston-super-Mare #musicjournalism. It didn’t make much sense. In fact, I was a bit affronted at how much of a mess it was. It still doesn’t make much sense. Genuinely, an entirely audacious mess.

It’s possible that that’s a framework in which The Fall exist for me; it’s not particularly for any dynastic reasons they’re still worth listening to; of course, the cliché is that they stopped being good (insert time period ago), but I’m definitely in too deep for that sort of reasoning. Tobi Blackman‘s adage that The Fall should be thought of as a single, discrete body of work is what I’m getting at here. The thing that perhaps most interests me about that single, discrete body of work is that audacity, largely on Mark E Smith‘s part.

That audacity then, perhaps illustrated by a few things — after two decades of absolute-never-any-solos, there’s the an abortive solo on “Ibis-Afro Man” from Are You Are Missing Winner. It’s hilarious. The -ate rhyming scheme on “Nate Will Note Return” from Ersatz GB is just SO over-done. And plenty more moments like that. New Facts Emerge has possibly one of the most striking moments in Fall in “Nine Out Of Ten” that closes the record. It goes on for a very long time; the lyrics are indiscernible, and it is just entirely the wrong shape. It’s a verse / chorus affair with only a guitar, and it just goes on, and on, and on… and not in a krauty way, just in a sort of “keep playing that chord pattern” way. It kind of looks, if you squint, like it should be some melancholic end-of-the-pier, drifts into the sunset deal. Rather it looks somewhere between pisstake and withering self-reverence.

Elsewhere on the record, we have some stuff that looks like garage-by-numbers only to entirely dissolve from view into fractured rockishness (“Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30s”) — nothing “clever”, but the realisation that the band’s disappeared and there’s a load of unctuous noise bubbling over. And, uh, a reference to a This Morning With Richard Not Judy gag from twenty+ years ago. And a metal riff.

The thing I didn’t realise about this record is that a lot of the odder effects are expected from The Fall, and how it’s only kind of looking at it in the abstract that it starts seeming weirder. Smith’s relationship with vocal production has always been sharp — lots of subtle mixing of textures and such — but this is the album with perhaps the flattest sound since, ooh, Are You Are Missing Winner. That is, it’s a fair amount of work to figure out what subtlety means for that album. Smith’s almost — almost! — hiding from lyrics on New Facts Emerge — they’re often impossible to actually make out and when you do they’re sliced up several times over.

You’ve probably already made up your mind about The Fall and the new record. Which makes this more than a little bit Sisyphean on my part. But the case I’m making is that there’s a lot of hiding on this record, and usually those are the records that proper sear themselves into your skin. This isn’t the record that’s going to bring about the “return to form” reviews that one in every few records does, but it’s definitely The Fall — inscrutable, audacious, sometimes probably awful, always the best band. Always.

-Kev Nickells-

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