Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #143 - The Fall, "Ersatz GB"

I've been putting this one off. I find The Fall hard to listen to these days - in more ways than one. I've added my voice to the legion that loved them in the Seventies/Eighties/Nineties but mourn the way things have turned out. There's still a respect, a fearful admiration for the personal power that MES holds. He cannot be managed or touched or refused. Talk of punk and kosmische rock and post-punk and inventing spirals of rock. But MES is a molten version of what he was - the grandeur is still there, but it's all misshapen and can't be made out as clearly as it was. His was a crystalline, spidery mind; now the flesh round his mouth is loose and the mind irascible and blotchy. Alcohol steals its fingers in and bloats the story up. Bad news... Sad face...

So how is "Ersatz GB", the album for 2012? He's had the same band for three albums now - so they're probably due a bust-up and a sending home from distant tours. And they're in a shape found after playing again and again - tight and rumbling with very driven bass. A juggernaut closer in the rearview mirror than you thought possible, breathing its rockabilly vengeance down our white little collars. "Cosmos 7" hits the ground running with hi-hat and bass at each other's throats.

"He decided to sublimate/He went to London." MES growls a Beefhearty growl all over the backing track for "Nate Will Not Return". It almost feels right; but it's too distended. The same delivery spits out "Mask Search" and the great gaps filled by the loping, prowling band recall the live gigs where he wanders about while the band labour out the tunes. "And I'm so sick of Snow Patrol/And where to find Esso lubricants/And mobile number," he almost literally barks. This gargly, deeper voice seems to be his voice now. The guy that sang "Bill Is Dead" and filled it with emotions - that's sad. "Greenway" has him quoting Dodgy's "Good Enough" with tonsils sliding to the floor.

"Happi Song" is very unFall, sounding like a Germanic version of The Pooh Sticks or Wendy or one of those Sarah records bands. I'm assuming it's his wife that's singing, but MES can be discerned in the background scratching and screaming like he's in the Phantom Zone with General Zod. "Monocard" is back in the familiar bus-stop of the harangue with guitars: eight minutes of carrier bag harangue.

"Age of Chang" closes things down with more cross-purpose music and a chant for a "time for change". "A dam of vast proportions will break/Over Hawksmoor", MES chuckles in a dark chocolate, suddenly aged voice. Percussion in the background. Those arcane old obsessions, the scary glimpses of the occult. All is as it was: but slower and with fewer words. I just miss the clarity. I miss the cold touch of the old anger.

Rating: Molten out of Recognition

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