Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Fall- The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country On The Click)

Navigating The Fall's discography is a time consuming and headache inducing exercise in frustration. At the time of this writing, they have 28 official studio albums. You can probably imagine how many singles, EPs, and compilations are also out there. But the sheer volume of Fall music to sift through wouldn't be so difficult if the band's line up remained stable. The only consistent member has been Mark E. Smith, thus the quality of their output varies wildly from album to album. And in my experience, even some of the albums that most people agree on as their best may not strike your fancy. Hex Enduction Hour and This Nation's Saving Grace still haven't clicked with me, but I do like their debut, Live At The Witch Trials.

Anyway, take this review with the warning that I'm by no means a converted fan of The Fall. By and large, I think the band is at the very least interesting but not always successful. Furthermore, I think Smith might be the weak link in the band, at least as far as his vocals are concerned. I tend to like the non-traditional singers, but for some reason he strikes me as monotonous and apathetic. Even assuming Smith's charges that Pavement were a Fall rip off are correct, at least Stephen Malkmus gradually became a decent singer and the band's music was consistent. But I digress.

The Real New Fall LP is officially subtitled Formerly Country On The Click because the band had mostly finished an album which was then subsequently leaked. Upset, Smith decided to re-record and remix most if not all of the songs. I've never heard the unreleased version of this album so I have no real opinion on the matter, but I will say that I think it's a pretty phenomenal title. And that's saying something for a band who have some great song and album titles. But I digress again. The Real New Fall LP is a guitar oriented underground rock album in The Fall tradition, though it's more straightforward than the other Fall albums I've heard. And for the record, Smith does seem to put more effort into the vocals here, at times his singing reminding me of Damon Albarn of Blur. Or I guess it would be the other way around since Smith's probably got 20 years on him.

The Real New Fall LP is a fascinating mess of an album. It's all over the place stylistically and at times it sounds like it was a mashup of different albums. Tracks like 'Boxoctosis' and 'The Past' have an almost garage rock revival tinge to them, but then other tracks like 'Green Eyed' and the first half of '41 Loop/Houston' have an electronic/experimental style. It all somehow works even if it has always sounded more like a compilation than a proper album to me. It's kind of annoying that you get more stuff like the mostly forgettable 'Protein Protection' rather than the weirder stuff like 'Mad Mock Goth', but whatever. Probably the most annoying thing about it is that the tracks are referred to by several different names depending on the version you have. Or even where you're reading the tracklisting from. The U.S. version of the album added 2 tracks, and a lot of the song titles are different on the U.K. version as well as the unreleased version. More confusing yet, the tracklisting on the center of the record that I have must be erroneous, because 'Boxoctosis' (aka 'Open The Boxoctosis #2') is called 'Boxboctosis.' Whew.

I've owned The Real New Fall LP for close to two years and I keep listening to it every few months. To be perfectly honest, if I owned it on CD, I'd probably cherry pick the songs I like and delete the rest. But there's something weirdly compelling about the album as a whole, too. Maybe it's just that I haven't found the right Fall albums for me yet, the ones I'm going to love as a whole and not just certain songs like on this one. But whatever. The Real New Fall LP is, just like the band, always interesting but not always good.

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