One of the best birthday presents I got yesterday was the new album from arguably my favorite band of all time, The Fall. Reformation Post-TLC is their 26th album, with yet another lineup. This time Mark E. Smith has assembled an almost entirely American version of The Fall, made up of members of Darker My Love and The Hill — recruited after Smith sacked the previous lineup in the middle of last year’s American tour. This lineup also features the first-ever, I think, bearded member, bassist Rob Barbuto. Surprised Smith didn’t make him shave it off.
Two listens in and it sounds like another quality Fall album, with a surprisingly intelligible MES (by his standards) who really seems on top of his game as he nears 50. (Despite looking 15 years older, he doesn’t hit the half-century mark till March 5.) It’s got all the Fall trademarks: repetitive, catchy riffs; rock-solid rhythm section; the cover song (Merle Haggard’s "White Line Fever"); the long rambly demo-sounding number ("Das Boat"); the poppy number ("My Door is Never"); the Krautrock number ("Insult Song"); and multiple instances of Smith cracking himself up (most notably also on "Insult Song"). Reformation Post-TLC even has one song where Smith’s wife (and Fall keyboard player), Elena Poulou, handles lead vocals ("The Wright Stuff").
As for the title track, here’s what MES told MOJO in the new February issue (where Reformation Post-TLC is the lead review, four stars):
"It’s about all those Manchester idiots, in groups, they’re all reforming. It’s obvious why they do it, isn’t it? Cos’ they’re broke. And suddenly they’re your mates. And y’know, the Manchester scene never liked the Fall. John Cooper Clarke said a very funny thing to me, he said, ‘I know exactly what you mean, Mark — the guitars-are-dead mob.’ Ha! Now they’ve changed their tune. We’ve never broke up, really. Well, I’ve never broke up."
MES also makes a Pavement reference on "Reformation!" — of course "2 States" was a blatant Fall ripoff/homage. We have come full circle.
Reformation Post-TLC is out February 12 in the UK; Americans will have to wait until March 27.