• Fall, The – Ersatz GB

    Released by: Cherry Red Records

    Released on: November 14, 2011.

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    Formed in Manchester in 1976, The Fall have been around, in one incarnation or another, for a long time now and while there are those in the band’s cult audience who will undoubtedly follow devotedly along with any new recording Mark E. Smith and whoever else may be in the band at any given time will offer up, their twenty-ninth studio album (and their first for label Cherry Red Records), Ersatz GB, is far from their greatest effort. It’s still good, and it’s still definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan, but with a couple of fleeting exceptions here we don’t get the impression that the band is pushing themselves into new territory as they have consistently over the years.

    Let there be no doubt, this still very much sounds like The Fall. Smith’s growling vocals are easy to identify and his tendency to focus on oddball bits and pieces of culture and society’s ills come through in the lyrics in his typically misanthropic style, but it seems that the unthinkable has happened and that the band, or at least the man behind the band, is starting to repeat itself. Quite famously championed by John Peel (who went on record stating “They are always different, they are always the same.”) The Fall’s influence has spread far and wide over the decades and they’ve quite rightly earned their status as an important act but you get the impression this time around that they’re going through the motions.

    With that said, this isn’t an awful album, not by any stretch, but it doesn’t offer up many surprises and you can’t say that about a lot of the band’s earlier efforts, the rare exception this time around being the track Eleni Poulou gets out from behind the keyboard to take lead vocals away from Smith, though the frontman leaves his mark all over this track as well with some strange and almost guttural sounding snarls and yelps contrasting in interesting ways with Poulou’s rather sweet voice. Other noteworthy tracks include the opening numbers, Cosmos 7, which sets the stage for a great album with some intense sounds driving Smith’s voice at the listener rather effectively. Nate Will Not Return, the third track, does some interesting things with rhyme and structure, taking its influence from Gossip Girl of all places. From here though, it gets pretty uneven and at times, predictable. As he’s done in the past, Smith experiments with different microphone and recording styles for the vocals and adds oddly distant spoken word bits and pieces throughout the album, a collection of ten tracks best described as thick, full of swagger and difficult in sound.

    It’s all decent enough but given the intensity of their work when firing in all cylinders, decent enough might not be enough. It’s maybe not fair when a band sets the bar as high as The Fall has in the past, but such is life. Given that Smith has worked with this same band for three albums in a row (rare for a band that has as insanely high turnover as this one does) it’s maybe not such a surprise that the album turned out the way it did. Though some subtle differences exist in melody here, thanks primarily to the keyboards, but this is as abrasive and confrontational as you’d expect. The repetition that helped them get their ‘sound’ is evident throughout the recording as are the Krautrock influence and it’s heavy and dark enough to give the fan base what they’d expect from a new album by the band but it doesn’t quite stand out the way better efforts have.

    The complete track listing for Erstaz GB is as follows:

    1 – Cosmos 7 / 2 – Taking Off / 3 – Nate Will Not Return / 4 – Mask Search / 5 –Greenway / 6 – Happi Song / 7 – Monocard / 8 – Laptop Dog / 9 – I’ve Seen Them Come / 10 – Age Of Chang