A new album from The Fall is an event anticipated, expected even, by many. When Mark E. Smith finally stops making records, entirely against his will of course, we will feel his absence much more keenly than that of Margaret Thatcher or Alex Ferguson. He may have outlasted both, but its evolution that has kept him going for so long. The Fall’s sound is always unmistakable but never predictable.
Having ridden out a legendary amount of turbulence, The Fall of the 2010s has become a strangely settled beast. Re-Mit is the fourth album Smith has managed without sacking anyone, and features the same line-up - Pete Greenway (guitar), Keiron Melling (Drums), Elena/i Poulou (keyboards) and Dave Spurr (bass) – as Imperial Wax Solvent, Your Future Our Clutter and Ersatz GB. It’s also the band's 30th studio album, a landmark worthy indeed of celebration. However, there’s no sense that Smith and the band have paused to party or reflect with Re-Mit. Smith has attempted to stoke anticipation, claiming Re-Mit will “absolutely terrify people”. He protests too much, but there’s no shame in a strong Fall album with some excellent tracks.
Smith’s unique contribution to music has always been his lyrics. The knack of playing endlessly with language makes The Fall the thinking man and woman’s post-punk choice. Re-Mit starts with the neatly deconstructed title and moves on from there, referencing ‘Hittite Man’ for the first time in popular music, nostalgia-tripping on the early Victrola record player in ‘Victrola Time’, and name-checking ‘Sir William Wray’, such a spectacularly obscure figure that the use of his name may just be coincidence. The Fall are always on form when recording Smith’s rambling, aggressive anecdotes and ‘Jetplane’ delivers. It’s hard to know, as always, quite what his problem is but it definitely involves an Italian airport queue (“The Italians certainly like their Sundays”), “some sort of rock group” which was “holding things up also”. ‘Irish’ – Smith deals with a whole slew of nationalities on Re-Mit – is entirely incomprehensible, apart from a reference to James Murphy and associates “who show their bollocks when they eat”, which everyone seems to think refers to the LCD Soundsystem lead man and celeb Fall fan. It delivers pretty much everything you would want from The Fall – barrelling, tight garage and intense growling.
The highlights are ‘Sir William Wray’ and ‘Victrola Time’. ‘Wray’ has a bouncy keyboard riff that makes for a catchy, shouty, exhilarating 3 mins 33 seconds. ‘Victrola’ is also keyboard driven – the defining Fall dynamic these days being between Smith and his wife, Poulou, on keys. Smith’s vocal is particularly, satisfyingly insane, a tortured squeal double-tracked as overlapping leads. ‘Hittite Man’ takes the sounds further, becoming a spaced-out acid meander, something of a surprise. Is Smith mellowing? What’s going on with these tripped out keyboards? This ventures too far into well-trodden territory, but is clearly still a shifting and experimenting move.
The big tracks are interspersed with less structured pieces, including ‘Noise’ and ‘Jam Song’, both of which sound just the way you would imagine. ‘Pre-MDMA Years’ and ‘No Respects’, in two parts, are both fine Fall tracks in their own right – a vocoder effects ramble and a Nuggets keyboard thrash respectively. Re-Mit is a Fall album, no more and no less, with everything that entails. If you love The Fall, you will already own Re-Mit; if you don’t love The Fall, you could probably do with a long, hard look in the mirror.