Release Date: Apr 28, 2008
Record label: Castle
Some 50-odd musicians and several hundred songs down the line, the Fall's (we think) 27th album is one of their most adventurous and finest. Finally indulging his lifelong Captain Beefheart obsession, Mark E Smith leads the latest platoon through innumerable genre shifts, baffling time signature changes, songs ranging from three to 15 minutes and at least one instance where he is howling like a wolf. Barrages of guitars (Wolf Kidult Man) jostle alongside bizarre prog-garage-country pocket symphonies (50 Year Old Man) and Krautrock synthetics (Taurig).
A book and a new album all at once? Why, Mark E. Smith, how very Madonna of you. Actually, as this, the Fall's 27th studio album, explicitly points out, Salford's most maverick son is in fact a contemporary of Mrs Ritchie, making him not only of an age where the BBC's Grumpy Old Men – surely the programme he's spent his whole life auditioning for – could cheerfully come knocking, but also one of only a handful of individuals to be making eagerly-anticipated new releases in his fifth decade.
On last year's Von Sudenfed project, Mark E. Smith declared, "I am the DJ tonight" and proceeded to mumble through his best dance song since "Hit the North" 20 years before. Imperial Wax Solvent puts MES back in his regular gig: the DJ who doesn't mix records, the DJ who mixes human beings. It's become harder and harder to refer to the act with a collective pronoun – the rate of turnover in the Fall has accelerated this decade (fall.byethost13.com/timeline.html) – yet they remain instantly identifiable.