The Fall

Sharon Stone makes another movie, bands of the 1978-1982 epoch reunite, technology advances, trans fats are banned — yet the Fall perseveres, with Mark E. Smith the sole remaining founding member. Tart-tongued leader Smith still rants like he's got the world's number, though portions of Reformation find phone-it-in weariness creeping in. Smith still has that knack for populating his band with whip-smart youths who have the right proportions of rock and roll chops and minimalism/restraint to realize his thorny amalgam of rockabilly, dub, mid-Sixties garage rock, and krautrock. "Reformation" and "My Door Is Never" pulse with the sleek, wiry, amphetamine/caffeine-driven rush of Can and Neu! in their respective primes, putting fellow travelers Stereolab to shame. The pretty Byrds-like chiming guitar refrain of "Coach and Horses" is a nice novel touch, and there's a goofy cover of Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever," where Smith sounds as if he has narcolepsy. Where RPTLC stumbles: "The Bad Stuff" is filler with "avant-garde" pretensions (snatches of garbled conversation, odd tempo changes, etc.), and "Outro" is just inane doodling. For the most part this latest chapter of the Fall's oeuvre is a good holding action — nonbelievers will remain unimpressed, devotees will be sated, and it's a good intro point for neophytes.

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