nominee number four.
the fall "the real new fall l.p. (formerly 'country on the click')" (action records)
when one of the world's top 5 bands ever, period, makes arguably their strongest record for nearly 20 years it is insane that it does not get proper recognition. yet this is what the fall have had the misfortune to do in this shallow y2k4, managing to get upstaged by the likes of amy winehouse or basement jaxx who would not be fit to tile mark e. smith's bathroom. the austere music mag ilwtt.org had it right when it observed
"... after the initial stillbirth, it is a pleasant surprise, not least given the tepidity of "are you are missing winner", that the real new fall l.p. is sharp, focused and excellently produced by long time collaborator grant cunliffe (aka grant showbiz) and of course young mark himself... the fall are writing standout singalongs that with the same marketing that electric six and co are getting could happily bounce around the top twenty while kids shout them around the playground - chief amongst these must be the splenetic "open the boxoctosis #2", which plateaus with an 'altogether now' chorus of "OPEN THE BOX! OPEN THE BOX! OPEN THE GODDAMN BOX!" and is probably the catchiest record since fallacy & fusion's "the groundbreaker. "contraflow", too, is dear to our heart - a rant at countryside-alliance types that eschews the sinister subtleties of 1982's "hard life in country" in favour of a rugged pop-punk narrative to create the track that "song 2" could have been, if it had been any good. "the past #2" and "proteinprotection" meanwhile achieve greatness by deploying respectively very cheeky, sportique-y keyboards (with smith really 'diggin' out' his vocal) and a rumbling bass-led pure stream of invective. "green eyed loco man", the opener, is full of frazzled guitars, sounding not unlike all the best tracks from their top ten album "the infotainment scan" played at the same time - and "theme from sparta f.c." takes up where 1999's ace single "touch sensitive" left off by marrying glitteresque backing shouts ("we're not galatasaray", apparently) and rumbunctious "hey!"s with glam-racket guitars and spoken contributions from mark's latest wife, elena. as for the slightly more relaxed compositions, "janet vs johnny", from last year's "the fall vs 2003" single, becomes into "janet, johnny + james", a reflective number that sees smith post a stark and downbeat narrative (no shouting here) over more muted guitar backing, still owing much to iggy's "the passenger". "mountain energei" sees smith mocked by an unholy alliance of mortgage advisors, talking fish (remember, this is the fall) and the car rental people ("you need a logbook and a licence, son"). then, "m.e.s... mutters incomprehensibly", er, mutters m.e.s. incomprehensibly on the marvellous "last commands of xyralothep via m.e.s.", the compulsory dreamlike interlude, in which smith deploys his skills as a medium to spew forth aphorisms like "beware characters connected with car adverts" (a reference to "touch sensitive" having turned up to advertise vauxhall corsas...) and we haven't even mentioned "recovery kit", which sees the real new fall e.p. close to a "code: selfish"-type sequenced electronic groove, or our particular passion for "mike's love xexagon", a beach boys-inspired (don't worry, not musically) slab of inspiration that cranks into life with the biggest drums in christendom and then pulses to gang of four rhythms while smith performs all his favourite vocal tricks, losing and then recovering syllables from the vortex of guitar, culminating in a chuckled invocation of "good viiiiiiibrations" before the locked-in groove resumes... the only remotely duff track of the twelve here is the sole cover, a fairly standard canter through lee hazlewood's "loop 41 houston"... see you at the upcoming gigs."
hard to argue with that. any fan of contemporary british guitar music - not just post-punkers, oddballs or new wave dreamers - owes it to themselves to listen to this album before they can truly prononunce on the quality of any of the young pretenders.