Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent

Well finally, here we are at the review for the next Fall album. It was "officially released" in the UK on April 29, and nowhere is it being sold in the U.S. Thus, limewire. Will I buy the album when it comes out? Good question.

It's certainly worth the $15, but since I already have the tracks in my I-tunes, unless there's something extra that makes it worth the price, I'm not going to shell out for something I already have. Narnack Records and Castle Records should learn how to deal with MES if they want better record sales. Maybe MES doesn't want to appeal to American audiences (highly doubtful), but keeping the record unavailable in the States, but available via British import (with it usually being an "out of stock" item) or for free via illegal file-sharing, well, makes the question a bit easier. There is a lesson here for the record industry, but it's really irrelevant. The Fall are truly in their own class.

Imperial Wax Solvent, then, is a return to their string of successful albums like 2000's The Unutterable, 2004's The Real New Fall LP, and 2005's Fall Heads Roll. Some may argue with me about the merits of the final mention, and I can understand why production values may turn some off this album, but regardless, "Blindess" is on it, and "Pacifying Joint" continues to be played frequently on Fall sets, to say nothing of "What About Us?" 2007's Reformation Post TLC suffered from lesser production and seemingly half-written songs. Still, "Systematic Abuse" and "Reformation" to a certain extent were very good songs, and I still like "The Wright Stuff" and "Scenario" is an awesome song live. I think Reformation Post TLC could have been as good an album as any of those three if it had been more fully fleshed out. But perhaps "Insult Song," which pokes fun at the backing musicians at the time, three Americans from L.A. County, could symbolize that era--MES had respect for the Americans, they proved themselves worthy, but it was all sort of a joke to begin with (having been incited by the plantain-throwing incident which ended in the Fall Heads Roll lineup abandoning MES, and Narnack Records stepping in to find replacement musicians---INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH an event that a good friend of mine happened to work out administratively, strangely enough, dumb Narnack Records, Brooklyn hipsters, had no clue what to do with the Fall. You don't get the Fall signed to your record label and misunderstand how to market them.): The Darker My Love replacement scheme, however, worked out well in the end because everyone got along, and an album resulted from it--"the tape they were wasting..."

Some have already hailed Imperial Wax Solvent as the best album the Fall have done since 1982's Hex Enduction Hour. I would say that praise is, a bit inflated. For one thing, the Fall in 2008 aren't the same thing as the Fall in 1982. True, there are still really weird songs, but MES is not spewing the kind of verbosity on display in Grotesque, anymore, but his mentality is no less punk. Of course, punk is probably the wrong word for it at this point. How about "no less cantankerous" or "no less alcohol drenched" or "no less hubris-filled?" I feel cruel at that last one. MES is not hubristic. No one can attest to his career. There is no one else like him. Mick Jagger, one can draw comparisons to him. Bob Dylan, one can certainly draw comparisons to. Neil Young, perhaps, one can draw comparisons to. Bowie, Lou Reed, and Iggy Pop, you could compare. But MES is younger than the bunch, more prolific than the bunch, more underground than the bunch, more lukewarmly-received than the bunch, and, unlike all the others, has maintained a consistent quality output with much shorter "weak" periods. It's fair to say the Fall and Sonic Youth are about equals in terms of prolificacy, quality, cultural importance, and influence. Imperial Wax Solvent is about as good as Rather Ripped, which is to say, it's surprising they got it so right.

IWS does not always get it right, but the first six tracks or so do, and to some minds that is enough to reason the buy the LP. Opener "Alton Towers" continues in the vein of weird opening Fall tracks like "Ride Away" or "Mansion"--songs that don't fit with the rest of the album, or enhance the mood of their surrounding pieces. It goes on for a while, and MES says something about "You look very different," and it ends, and "Wolf Kidult Man" starts and you remember why the Fall are the best band ever.

"Wolf Kidult Man" could easily be a single on the radio, but it is hard to say how close the Fall come to approximating the perfect 3 minute pop song. Their version of it is so twisted, I wonder if it really could be played on the radio today. "Blindess" was used in the Mitsubishi Outlander commercial to stupefying effect. Henry Rollins commented on it on his show on IFC, saying it was okay for bands to license their music, because it meant more people liking it (massive paraphrase). Well, I don't see the Fall's audience expanding rapidly because of a commercial now do I? I just feel like a dork when I listen to it. But that's not true--it's an awesome song anyways.

Regardless of whether or not "Wolf Kidult Man" could be a radio hit, "50 Year Old Man," the third track, is 12 minutes long, and that really says it all. It is, in a way, a bit of a sequel to "Hip Priest"--incredibly long, MES ostensibly talking about himself, talking about "imitating" in both--but also much more catchy than "Hip Priest," much louder, and much more structurally complex, with four separate "movements" or whatever you want to call them. It's an amazing song, with MES saying "I've got 3/4 Rock Hard On, but I'm too busy, to use it," "I go in a hotel, I go through a towel, I throw it down, and I piss in it," "I'm a 50 year old man, and I like it," "I'm inferior product man, at 2/3 the cost, and I'm proud of it." Inscrutable, or incredibly telling?

"I've Been Duped" keeps the energy going by having MES's wife take the vocals, and it is about as good a song as "The Wright Stuff," (except there's no line about "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here!") and indeed is probably more catchy and radio-friendly than most other tracks remaining.

The Groundhogs' "Strangetown" is the requisite MES cover song, after the Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" and Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever." Each of the three is awesome. "Strangetown," honestly, is probably the weakest of them. However, it's strangely optimistic/realistic delivery keeps it interesting enough until "Taurig."

"Taurig" is the requisite experimental MES track, along the lines of "Das Boot" or "Paintwork" or "Unutterable." But this is a really good experimental track. It's extremely repetitive (duh) and it almost sounds as if MES has been influenced in his own way from working with Mouse on Mars in Von Sudenfed. In general, this is a very good thing. The Fall would be relevant if anybody cared, or if they wanted anybody to care.

I can't really dismiss the rest of the album. "Can Can Summer," "Tommy Shooter," "Latch Key Kid," "Is This New," "Senior Twilight Stock Replacer" and "Exploding Chimney" are no worse than the first six tracks. They are just not as interesting. They're all basically pop songs, or the closest "generic" sound to what the Fall offer in the studio at the present moment.

So, this album may have some "filler" on it, but eh, it will still probably make my top 10 of 2008. Then again those spots are filling up quickly.

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