Sunday, March 16, 2008


When Ben Pritchard, Steve Trafford and Spencer Birtwistle acrimoniously departed The Fall in Arizona in May 2006, to be replaced the next day with young Americans Tim Presley, Rob Barbato and Orpheo McCord, the sound of the group was almost completely reconfigured. Gone was the mechanical, ramrod-straight alternarock (which in retrospect seems to have run its course), supplanted with a remarkably fluid yet precise psychedelic-flavored approach, full of syrupy atmospherics and potent electric kool-aid punch.

This disc captures both phases of this transition, beginning with an oddity: an audience recording of an intro tape--an instrumental version of "Coming Down," chock-full of slicing hi-end electro percussion and an aggressively repeating guitar riff. Presumably a demo but perhaps one of the unreleased tracks recorded at Chapel Studios in April 2006. The first half also includes a revelatory reading of the "The Boss," performed at Phoenix with a full set of lyrics. The second half focuses on the latter stages of the US tour, as Presley et al explode out of the gate with both new material ("Reformation", "Scenario") and expansive, thrillingly psychotropic takes on previous gems like "What About Us?"


01 Coming Down (intro tape)
02 Youwanner
03 Clasp Hands
04 Systematic Abuse
05 The Boss
06 White Line Fever
07 Coming Down > Scenario
08 Pacifying Joint
09 Reformation
10 Midnight In Oldham
11 Mountain Energie
12 What About Us?
13 Bo D

Tracks 01-06: Smith/Poulou/Pritchard/Trafford/Birtwistle
Tracks 08-13: Smith/Poulou/Presley/Barbato/McCord

(all unofficial audience recordings)

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Fresh from the final studio sessions for Reformation Post TLC, The Fall lineup of Presley-Barbato-McCord descended upon Britain for a blistering series of autumn dates. Tight, fierce and inspired, this was a group firing on all cylinders, rhythmically assured and unleashing a thick, dense sheen of opalescent shoegazer-inspired distortion and waves of reverb-imbedded heaviness. The pre-release material, in particular, glows with sheer, propulsive energy, the twin bass throb of Barbato and Spurr (recruited to provide a conventional bass sound to compliment Barbato's more expansive audio palette), garlanded by Presley's sparkling, lysergically frothy guitar. This is English post-punk dipped in a molten bath of West Coast psychedelia and motorik, frequently breaking off into exhilarating tangents of adrenaline-laced space rock that never lose their pummelling intensity or interest. In many ways it is the sound the group has always been trying to achieve, and Smith responds with a set of growling, knotty vocals, brilliantly punctuating the massive musical storm raging around him, which at times threatens to literally blow the roof off the building.

Highlights on this disc, capturing the best performances from July to November 2006, include "Scenario," one of two new pieces derived from The United States of America's "Coming Down," a finely textured and wistful affair (and subsequently dropped from the setlist in favor of the other song based on the same motif, "Over Over"), and the only performance of "60's Pop CIS," officially listed as "Coach & Horses" but featuring a wholly different lyric and melody than the LP track. Despite the level of sheer genius on display, this lineup would not truly reach its peak until the spring tour the following year, in support of the by-then-released album.


01. Fall Sound
02. Reformation
03. My Door
04. White Line Fever
05. Scenario
06. 60's Pop CIS
07. The Wright Stuff
08. Systematic Abuse
09. Reformation (alternate)
10. Systematic Abuse (alternate version
11. Scenario (intro version)
12. Hungry Freaks, Daddy
13. Fall Sound (alternate)
14. Reformation (long version)
(these are unofficial audience recordings)

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Comprised mostly of fresh material from the forthcoming "Imperial Wax Solvent" LP, these live performances culled from a sporadic series of gigs in the latter-half of 2007 unfortunately tend towards the one-dimensional. The blurry rumble of bassist Dave Spurr and sturdy drumming of Keiron Melling underpin the terse scratchings of often-inaudible guitarist Pete Greenway. The resultant stew is frequently rescued from blandness by Elena Poulou's NDW-influenced minimal synth sheen. Lacking the glistening acid glaze imparted by the previous line-up of Presley-Barbato-McCord, the new songs come off as monolithic yet ramshackle, densely flat and abstract despite their steadfast simplicity. Lyrically, they are all-too-obviously works-in-progress, with Smith proferring only the sketchiest of lyric phrases, absent melody lines or vocal hooks to impart some desperately-needed identity. The exceptions are the Presley/Barbato-composed "Senior Twilight Stock Replacer," a choice slab of propulsive acid thunder (superior in its earlier incarnation, to be included in a future compilation covering the March 2007 UK tour), and "Can Can Summer," gauzy and lightweight pseudo-pop that recalls (perhaps intentionally) the creamy groove of late-period Can.


01. Wolf Kidult
02. Can Can Summer
03. I've Been Duped
04. 50 Year-Old Man
05. Ponto
06. Systematic Abuse
07. Senior Twilight Stock Replacer
08. Tommy Shooter
09. Alton Towers
10. Strangetown
Bonus material:
11. I Am Me, Mark
12. Wings > Wolf Kidult Man

(Note: these are audience recordings supplied by the ever-resourceful Consortium)