Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Fall - Reformation Post T.L.C.

The Fall
Reformation Post T.L.C.
Grade: D-

The Fall is fantastic. They've been through many incarnations, with Mark E. Smith as the only constant member, and despite the chaos, they're one of indie rock's longest standing and most well-respected acts. Hell, at this point they're more than a band. They're an indie-rock institution, albeit one that's suffering a bit of old age.

Their talent and status make this a hard review to write. I really wanted this album to keep up the winning streak they've been on lately.

Reformation Post T.L.C. is probably going to go unnoticed with all the hullabaloo about Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird and Ted Leo eating up the press. And that's all right, because this album isn't so good.

I didn't say it's a bad album, though. I'm not totally convinced that it is. The band sounds great. They pull in everything that I like about the Fall: The tight bass lines and correspondingly well-planned percussion and the furry-but-angular guitars.

Too bad Smith isn't right there with it all.

He does some really cool things with his voice on Reformation, I'll give him that. Smith roars a bit, and sounds like an amusingly drunk drifter in a seedy bar. But he takes all of that too far, to the point where it sounds like he just wandered into the rehearsal session of a better band and started ranting into one of their microphones.

This is most obvious on the aptly named "Insult Song." That song has a great groove and could have been sweet, but it sounds like Smith told the band to play the same thing over and over and just let him do the talking. Too bad they consented.

When I sit down to write a record review, I listen really intensely to each song over and over. Reformation has songs that I can't listen to more than once. It has songs that for how well-written they are, how tight the bass is and how driving the drums are, I can barely finish. It has songs that I restart over and over because I consistently find myself drifting off in the middle.

But I still won't write Reformation off as a total waste. The first four songs on the record are fun to listen to. "Over! Over!" is one of the best dance songs of this year. In high school, I was a total punk and New Wave nerd, and "Over! Over!" totally takes me back to a time when I worshipped the Talking Heads like gods. "White Line Fever" tickles my Rolling Stones sense; I could see unwinding to this song on a Friday night. And "The Bad Stuff," a neat little audio collage, picks up the slack on the second half of the record.

Reformation has some really cool moments. You just have to be patient to find them.

(April Wright)

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