The Fall - New Facts Emerge
Mark E Smith and his revolving door line up return with their 32nd studio album New Facts Emerge - still with the majority of the current line up holding in there for nearly 10 years, surely a record. The Fall have been always been on the fringes of the music scene with their brand of sonic terrorism and art rock, but with their styles as fluid as their line ups from the brittle post punk of the late 70s/80s, before threatening to make some accessible pop in the late 80s/early 90s. New Facts Emerge continues the trend of Smith veering as wildly away from mainstream “accessible” music as he possibly can.
From the slurred drunken “found audio” opener which sounds like Smith has necked 10 pints and had a fight, the album continues in this vein. Smith’s lyrics have always been deliberately ambiguous and difficult to penetrate, but as Smith has gotten older his diction has gone to hell via a field of a broken glass which means that except the barked song titles it difficult to pick out the lyrics with any certainty. Any pretence of melody has been replaced by a guttural growl of a troll under a bridge sucking back on a bottle of methylated spirit. Musically, there is some strong work on show from Greenway, Spurr, and Melling developing tight riffs with distorted fuzz bass and driving drum work that propels the tracks forward and continues with the more muscular sound of their latest releases. Sadly the loss of the keyboard beeps from Smith’s wife Elena Poulou, who quit the band last year after becoming “frustrated”, does occasionally become apparent in it’s absence. Highlights of the album include the rolling funk bass of ‘Brillo De Facto’, ‘Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30s’ bass driven prog metal odyssey, the Morrissey aping catchy ‘Gibbus Gibbon’, and ‘Groundsboy’ take on rockabilly shuffle.
The trouble with the album is that for every interesting idea, there is one that doesn’t quite pan out. For instance, the promising ‘Victoria Train Station Massacre’ that gives up a minute and reverses for the track, or ‘Second House Now’ which takes rockabilly to the point of pastiche. You could see this as lazy water treading, or an interesting concept as we feel what it’s like to be in Smith’s mind as tracks fade in and out on a whim like half finished thoughts flitting across our view. The Fall extensive catalogue has always been hit and miss and although there are some good riffs and ideas, it does feel very middling. New Facts Emerge is, as is the case with The Fall’s output, a challenge to the listener - daring you to turn off and fuck off, but would we expect any less?