The Fall - Country On The Click
A harsh, squealing burst of electronica kicks off this latest Fall album, and it's as good a metaphor for the entire album as you might find. The whole thing is like a festering scab of anger, intensity and slurred lyrics. It's unrelenting, uncompromising, demanding and completely brilliant. Of course, a lot depends on your receptiveness to the lyrical style of Mark E Smith, which tends to be an acquired taste, but if you have acquired this taste, or seek something a little different to the standard fair, this album might be for you. For Fall novices, it's as good a place to start as any. Smith is blessed with a voice that's neither musical nor tuneful but instead is heavy, sardonic, and distinctive, with an almost tangible sense of authority behind it.
It's a guitar heavy album, but you wouldn't really class it as rock, punk or anything else really. Some of the songs are more like poems set to music, Last Commands Of Zyralothep VIA M.E.S apart from having a title that would be more at home on a more proggy sort of album, is a electronic/guitar noise track with the words simply said over it. Despite this, the song is still completely mystifying, as are most of them, in fairness. Open The Boxoctosis #2 makes pretty much no sense but still sounds fantastic with a pounding, crunchy, catchy sort of chord progression driving it along and is probably the first song you'll come back to on a very regular basis.
Mountain Energie is a rant about mortgages, patriotism and other oddities, spat out by Smith in his unique, cynical yet naive, style. The whole thing is set to a drum beat that sounds not unlike Gary Glitter's Rock 'n' Roll, which could, of course, be entirely intentional. There's a sort of majesty about The Fall; Opener, Green Eyed loco Man is a riotous electronic up tempo noisy affair and has a certain sense of space, timing and rhythm to it that almost defies description, it being punctuated by a series of electronic noise bursts. If that sounds off-putting, it's not meant to be, as it all works extremely well. It's about strong songwriting welded to a sense of knowing what makes a piece of music work and all the tracks on here work very well indeed. Even Sparta FC which seems to be about football, not normally a thing associated with good music.
Other highlights include Loop 41 'Houston which is a cover of a Lee Hazelwood song that Smith manages to make all his own, by apparently changing the word 'Houston' to 'Euston' or that's one interpretation anyway. It sounds excellent, anyway, and combines humour and darkness in equal measures. Janet, Johnny and James is a fairly mellow song, with echoes of The Stranglers' Golden Brown in it's haunting, hollow-sounding guitar refrain.
Musically, this album is quite similar to other Fall Albums from the nineties, most comparably, Shift Work, but with a lot more sense of the experimental. A lot of the album relies of bursts of guitar/electronic noise but it all comes together very well. It's angry, aggressive and quite downbeat as you might expect, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the finest albums to be released in 2003.