Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Fall - The Marshall Suite

The Marshall Suite (1999) ***

Important biographical note (pay attention!):  some months prior to this release, Mark E. Smith was arrested during the Fall's American tour for beating up keyboardist/latest Mark E.-squeeze Julia Nagle.  The rest of the band quit in disgust, including the only other remaining founding member, Steve Hanley (and his bass lines are sorely missed).  Curiously enough, Nagle herself stuck around.  So Smith hired a garage band from scratch and amazingly (or not so amazingly) enough they still sound exactly like the Fall.  In fact, this sounds little different from almost every other '90s Fall album: a little rockabilly, a little garage rock, a lotuva electronica, some token piano balladry.  A little something for everyone that only half-pleases everyone:  like many other artists into their third recording decade, at this point there's not much hope of converting neophytes - but unlike most other artists into their third decade, Smith is still capable of delivering well-crafted product that satisfies the fans.   This relatively short (by late-period Fall standards) LP of 39 1/2 minute length doesn't make the mistake of wearing out its welcome, and starts out very strongly, but seems to lose the plot somewhere halfway through.  The Nuggets-style lead single, "Touch Sensitive," is a welcome return to garage-rocking primo Fall (but when did they ever completely abandon that style?!), and the cover of the rockabilly obscurity, "F-'Oldin' Money," is stratospherically better (OK, maybe not stratospherically superior, but it is stratospherically F'n good).  The rock'n'roll portion of the programme out of the way, the rest of the album rocks more dancey - still plenty of abrasive hard rock guitar, but more clip-clop or trip-trop or whatever y'call'em beats meats manifestos.  "The Crying Marshal," is easily the best of that lot, and one of the most crushing dance-rock pounders they've ever produced, with ultra-fat (I'd say phat but I'm not that hip or retarded) drums tom-tomming and guitars & keybs nagging like buzzing dragonflies.  There's a cute little jangly pop tune ("Bound") that's a mite too repetitive (maybe I'm listening to the wrong band if that's going to be a complaint), a lethargically sung but rushingly played cover of the Saints' "This Perfect Day," and some more cute little gentle whistling'n'jangling pop ("Inevitable").  And just to remind you that they are the Fall, there's a couple of minutes of "experimental" crap ("Mad.Men-Eng.Dog").  An inconsistently written and performed consolidation of Fallmusic without any major steps forward, but a not inconsiderable improvement over the previous couple of Fallreleases.

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