Release Date: Jul 28, 2017
Record label: Cherry Red
To paraphrase a song off 2008's Imperial Wax Solvent album, Mark E Smith is a 60-year-old man and he likes it. New Facts Emerge could be said to be business as usual: ie. it cannot be quantified, and pulses with raw music, stimulating confusion and a certain monstrous glee. This time, harsh metal riffs, country picking and random-sounding sonic embellishments provide the backdrop for Smith, his voice catarrhy or golem-like as he declares "stop shaking down those frogs" on the title track, collides Edgar Allen Poe, Snow White and slaughterhouse grunge on Couples Vs Jobless Mid 30s, and returns to the spirit of Container Drivers on the sympathetic Groundsboy.
Oceans rise and fall, empires collapse, child stars boom, grow up, fuck up and fade away, governments change, gods are forgotten and stars burn up and die. And then there's The Fall. Not just a band - sorry - group, not just an institution, but an idea. An uncompromising, belligerent, hideous, beautiful idea; where noise pollution and bloody mindedness hover on the edge of art.
The Fall's New Facts Emerge opens with a track that sounds a bit like a mean-spirited parody of the Fall, as an incomprehensible Mark E. Smith spouts gibberish over some random noise hovering in the background. Then "Fol de Rol," the first proper song, kicks in, and as the band lays into a minimalistic but ferocious slab of garage-centric punk rock, Mark E.
For 32 years and as many studio albums, the Fall as a band backs Mark E. Smith as a vocalist. His rants, mutters, and yelps speckle his distinctive delivery of his native Manchester’s accented stress. Over the extended period, female musicians have joined him. Each has lasted a while, often ….
The Fall is a band that exists without precedent. For 40 years, they have remained the chief creative output for the mercurial and often combative vocalist/songwriter Mark E. Smith, and in that time, the Fall have fulfilled the promise of the post-punk movement that they emerged from. The project continues to move forward with an almost cavalier disregard for their past accomplishments.
I t's been 11 years since Mark E Smith sacked a member of the Fall but, at 60, he shows no other signs of mellowing. New Facts Emerge, his band's 32nd album, is discordant and challenging, the singer's drunk-in-a-park-style vocals the LP's only consistent element. The best tracks (Fol De Rol, Gibbus Gibson, Groundsboy) flirt with disaster yet retain their discipline but, as is so often the case with the Fall, the music is less interesting than the song titles.
T he tracklist for the Fall's 32nd album made headlines when it was first announced, thanks to a song called Victoria Train Station Massacre - a title which had unfortunate, accidental, parallels to the Manchester terror attack. The song itself turns out not to require that additional allusion to deliver something disturbing, with its chilling refrain of "I crave drama" and a midway flip into reverse - a style that has long enjoyed satanic connotations. The eeriness creeps into other tracks too: Segue is skin-crawlingly lo-fi, while Couples Vs Jobless Mid-30s sports cackling submerged under the chugging guitars.
Though this isn't probably the case, it's a truth universally acknowledged that reality has played the smallest role in his band's sometimes weird, othertimes frightening mutation over the last forty years - one that has seen Smith both embody and transcend caricature with unprecedented, no-fucks-given gall. Having recently compared his band to "a Nazi organisation" - a reasonable assertion considering the 60-year-old's ever-demagogic clench of power at the helm - New Facts Emerge finds Smith and his current cast of Peter Greenway, Dave Spurr and Kieron Melling in long-acquainted, largely aimless territory. Whilst we should rejoice in the fact The Fall are still a de facto proposition (and it is remarkable to consider just how well they have evolved in tandem with Smith's quasi despotism) legacy - no matter how towering - should never be a weatherglass for present-day clout.
In Renegade, his 2008 autobiography, Mark E Smith wrote of the FA: "You can bet some strange things go on behind closed doors at the FA. They're like a cult; a randy cult souped up on good wine, expensive fruit and nice clean sausages." It's just perfect, isn't it? He pinpoints the complex absurdities of life - the ludicrousness of this mortal coil - like nobody else. Speaking about Arthur Machen, he said that the great romantic visionary understood that "the real occult's not in Egypt, but in the pubs of the East End and the stinking boats of the Thames.