Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Fall - Ersatz GB - Review

The Fall are definitely not to everyone's tastes but if you come across the right song while you're in the right frame of mind then you (like myself and many others) could finally recognise the unique genius of Mark Edward Smith. Since the band's inception in 1976, over SIXTY SIX different members have come and gone, and now with an all British line up of Smith, wife Elena Poulou, Dave 'The Eagle' Spurr, Pete Greenway and Keiron Melling, this album marks the third time the same line up of the Fall have released a record together, which in light of the band's history is certainly an achievement in itself. Has Smith finally found the right Fall line-up? It's certainly a combination of musicians that seem to deliver the music with an instinctive precision. Ersatz GB is an album that continues a run of records that represent some of The Fall's best material yet, and again it sees another effortless shift in style.

Opening track 'Cosmos 7' sees the album raging into a fierce burst of urgency straight away, with an infectious hard rock riff, a relentless bassline and sharp stabbing synths. Without Mark E Smith's increasingly peculiar delivery, it could almost be what would have happened if Motorhead embraced lots of noisy synthesisers into their work. The shimmering brilliance of 'Taking Off' operates in a completely different way, slipping into a smart funk groove that grows more and more addictive with its neat and intricate guitar parts plus Smith's random lyrics depicting amongst many other things "the 40 carat scum at Newquay train station". 

'Nate Will Never Return' runs on a determinative rumble of bass and guitar, the sort of rhythm that would mow you down instantly if it were a vehicle. Smith makes a point of rhyming the end of every line with 'Nate', and this proves to be most effective: "I would like to do a lip as an actor, and do it straight. In my role I fail irate. Is it too late to cover the song by The Fall called 'Hot Cake'"

'Mask Search' is probably the track here most reminiscent of 2010's 'Your Future Our Clutter', but injected with a dose of twisted rockabilly and with Smith sneeringly growling "I'm so sick of Snow Patrol". The Scottish indie combo aren't the only ones to suffer the sharp end of Smith's tongue, as another unnamed band are given a firm dressing down during the snarling, brutal 'Greenway'. The intro is briefly hilarious as M.E.S growls club-singer style over a daft, directionless piano figure, before a monster-sized metal riff bursts in to accompany a most curmudgeonly narrative: "Their tone was snotty and offfensive. People like that really get on my nerves". Clearly annoying M.E.S can inspire some brilliant music but fuck knows what inspired him to pen the line "I had to wank off the dog to feed the fucking cat".

In complete contrast is 'Happi Song', providing a change of mood an a temporary break from THAT voice as Elena takes on vocal duties in a pleasantly calm and dreamy moment of tranquility which often sounds like it's been touched by the ghost of the Velvet Underground and Nico. 'Monocard' is a lurching slab of post-punk with slurry, indecipherable lyrics and a grinding bassline repeating throughout, musically conjuring up images of Joy Division covering Led Zeppelin. 

'Laptop Dog' meanwhile is probably the most "typical" Fall moment (if there is such a thing) an acoustically-driven stomp that brings to mind the band's work from around 1986-88, chaotic keyboards and lyrics detailing Smith's disdain for modern technology. 'I've Seen Them Come' is a noisy dangerous moment where the repetition is definitely the key, giving a home to an abrasive riff and a thumping beat while M.E.S recalls lots of the different places he has gigged over the years. 'Age Of Chang' finishes the album with a nicely put together combination of a scuzzy pre-recorded rant courtesy of Smith and a pounding musical backing which comes complete with a superbly simplistic guitar part.

Overall 'Ersatz GB' is another stellar and impressive album from an unmistakable genius and the tightest, most skillful line-up of his band yet. Like their biggest fan John Peel once said The Fall are "always different, yet always the same", and those words continue to provide a good description of The Fall's music. This time around they've embraced heavy metal, Krautrock, psychobilly, glam rock, post-punk and lots of other odd ingredients to great effect, creating one of their finest works yet. 8.5


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for introducing my mega-edit. Hope you liked it.