Nowadays it’s hard not to take one of the most prolific bands in the history of rock for granted, but thirty years ago, the release of The Fall’s fourth album (not counting numerous live albums and EPs) was kind of a big deal, at least for their small devoted cult. After the stripped-down Grotesque (1980), they only released an EP in 1981, Slates. A slow year for The Fall’s standard. Coming up in Manchester alongside Joy Division on the same aural diet of Velvets, Stooges, Beefheart, Krautrock and grey industrial despair, The Fall created their own strikingly original style. With shambolic, deconstructed rockabilly riffs, chaotic collages that matched their album art and Mark E. Smith’s acerbic, sneering wit and anti-singing, they seemed doomed to having just a handful of fans who got them. Imagine their surprise when their arrived in Iceland to record their new album and were treated like post-punk kings (of course, Killing Joke got the same treatment that year, though they too are deserved it). The result is what many believe to be their greatest album. Like the scrawled-marker album sleeve, the music was cryptic, ugly, beautiful, even catchy at times. After 30 years of pondering, the lyrics still present partially inscrutable puzzles involving profile razor units and sex crimes. The chaos subsides during the two-part hypnotic motorik dirge “Winter” augmented by a crappy sounding organ. “Iceland” also makes frugal use of one-note repetition, managing to evoke an eerie mood and building tension. “And This Day” was pared down from a 25 minute jam to a triumphant, noisy 10:19.
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Since October 1995, Fast 'n' Bulbous has been a one man operation, a labor of love rather than profit venture. I maintain an editorial policy of publishing mainly positive reviews, with the idea that people should be turned on to the best music. I only review what I feel like because I don't get paid for it.
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