By any rational measure, The Fall long ago passed its expiration date. The record label touts New Facts Emerge as the band’s 32nd studio full length; depending on your criteria, that number might be high or low by five. I’d be hard pressed to name many artists who’ve made half as many albums without a sharp dropoff in quality.
The notoriously difficult Mark E. Smith has kept his current lineup intact longer than any in the Fall’s 41-year history. That’s not much of an endorsement, however – while this unit has 2010’s recent high water mark Your Future, Our Clutter to its credit, it’s also responsible for the band’s longest stretch of mediocrity. Yet Smith’s snarls and barks continued to deliver just enough to keep diehards engaged and sustain hope for another renaissance in the offing.
For whatever reason, the timing felt right for a bounce-back and New Facts Emerge delivers for the most part. There’s not a lot of new ground covered, not that anyone was clamoring for a new direction. The riffs are muscular and characteristically repetitive, the production unusually sharp. Most importantly, Mr. Smith sounds reasonably coherent and surprisingly energized – I could even imagine him having undertaken some mini-fitness regimen to build up his wind for these rants.
The biggest change may be addition by subtraction. Smith’s wife Elena Poulou decided to extricate herself from the band following 2015’s Sub-Lingual Tablet. Without a dedicated keyboardist the remaining quartet is freed to focus on crunching guitar and brute force rhythms, although guitarist Peter Greenway and bassist Dave Spurr both contribute background squiggles.
MES & Co. aren’t above recycling their own playbook. The thrilling “Brillo De Facto” shifts midway into the Fall’s trademark Country & Northern shuffle. “Second House Now” starts off like a tenuous sequel to “My New House” from 1985 classic This Nation’s Saving Grace before breaking into some prime glam racket. Elsewhere, Smith drops the production polish – and the enunciation – for “O! ZZTRRK Man,” which plays like a hard-charging GBV single.
They stumble a bit on the long form tracks – despite its amusing title “Couples Vs. Jobless Mid 30s” is eight minutes of unnecessary sludge, and “Fol De Rol”’s solid riff wears out its welcome well before six minutes are up. And there is one curveball – closer “Nine Out of Ten” features nothing but Greenway’s reverb-laden guitar behind Smith’s impassioned warbling, which drops out after three minutes to allow Greenway a six-minute virtuoso turn worthy of the Durutti Column.
Fall Nation, if you’ve taken an understandable break it’s time to come out of hibernation for New Facts Emerge.
New Facts Emerge