The Fall Reformation Post TLC

Mark E. Smith has never had any luck during his 30 years fronting the Fall. Right when he was enjoying a creative rebirth with the young, inspired band behind 2004’s Real New Fall LP and 2005’s Fall Heads Roll they abandoned him and wife/keyboardist Eleni Poulou during a U.S. tour. Who knows what led to the walkout but knowing the governance of Smith it’s pretty easy to guess it had something to do with him being his cranky old self. In a move that has become second nature, Smith, with Poulou, assembled yet another cast of characters (full of Americans) to form the umpteenth line-up. Arguably the Fall’s 26th studio album, Reformation Post TLC feels like an abrupt plunge into the wave the band were riding the last few years. Respect is given to the mighty chief for bouncing back so quickly but therein lays the biggest problem with this album: does it take much to join the Fall these days? From the sounds of "The Wright Stuff,” which unwisely hands the mic to Poulou, all that is required is the capacity to withstand playing the same rudimentary notes repeatedly. Sloppiness has always been a charming quality of the Fall but cuts like the nebulous, poetic rants of "Insult Song” and the exasperating noise of "Das Bootuboat” demonstrate that it’s not always welcome. Still, it’s not a complete write off, as "White Line Fever” shows potential for a shift towards country music and the appropriately named "Fall Sound” is a rollicking confirmation that Smith hasn’t lost his touch for the fiery post-punk he basically invented. With "Over! Over!,” Smith reassures us that this is just the beginning. But if unfocussed, lazy rants from the horse’s mouth and a group of musicians hacking away at what they think constitutes the Fall are what we have to expect, then the next series of Fall albums will be a test of endurance. (Narnack)