Being any member of the Fall besides the obvious one must surely be one of the worst jobs in the world, or at least the most thankless, right up there with Jimmy Savile's damage control or the man Jeremy Clarkson pays to wipe his arse for him. I gather this album was recorded with a whole new line-up following Mark E. Smith sacking the previous lot because one of them looked at him funny or summink. I just hope the pay is good.
I find the Fall fascinating, although not sufficiently fascinating to justify my having bought anything since 1988's The Frenz Experiment unless it turned up in a bargain bin, as did this one. Actually I've a few since the last record for which I paid full price, and they're mostly decent providing you don't expect another Slates or This Nation's Saving Grace or Hex Enduction Hour. To give credit where it's due, this in itself is pretty incredible considering that most bands formed in 1976 were already shit by 1981, and yet Mark E. Smith's bunch generally continue to entertain even as they put out their five-millionth album featuring the great-grandson of the original guitarist. I say generally continue to entertain without much actual certainty. The ones since this might be fucking brilliant for all I know.
Reformation Post TLC starts well with complete strangers somehow managing to sound like everybody else who was ever in the Fall, yet bringing something of their own to the table - the usual country garage racket with a bit of a krautrock feel like La Düsseldorf or one of those groups, plus some nice growly synth. When I say it starts well I mean it sounds big, beaty, a bit angular, a faint aftertaste of piss and vinegar, and not at all like the work of a band with a back catalogue stretching back three decades; but an hour of this stuff goes a long way. After two or three plays I had the impression of an amazing four-track EP - everything up to and including the surprisingly tender cover of White Line Fever - and then er...
Well, there's a couple of instrumentals and one of them lasts over ten minutes, and the keyboard player sings on The Wright Stuff, and there are a couple of songs where the lyric just seems to be the title slurred over and over, and Insult Song is probably funnier if you're actually in the Fall, and there's an ambience of Smith having gone off for a piss, or another drink, or passed out in the microphone booth, and the second half of the album feels like 1960s Doctor Who with William Hartnell conspicuously absent every two or three weeks due to poor health. Repeat plays reveal that I've somehow imagined most of this, and the later tracks sort of hold up - excepting the one he sings in a funny voice - but still Reformation Post TLC isn't what it could be. Nearly four decades on and I still can't work out if he's a genius or just some nutcase having a fight with himself at the bus shelter, but I suppose the enduring ambiguity should be taken as a good sign.