By this point, The Fall make up an "you either get it, or you don't"-sort of proposition. More than even the Grateful Dead, they are the sort of long-running institution that perpetually expands a very loyal fan-base. And, yeah, I hate the Dead, but I'm making a point.
Unlike Garcia's crew, The Fall produce music that's actually good and challenging and no matter at what stage you jump on the Fall bandwagon, you can easily submerge yourself in the music of this band. Somehow, over 4 or 5 decades, Mark E. Smith and his ever-changing crew have managed to continue to make music that remains utterly the same and art that constantly evolves. Now set to release a 34-minute EP called Wise Ol' Man, out in a few weeks on Cherry Red Records, this version of the band features a line-up of Elena Poulou on keyboards, David Spurr on bass, Peter Greenway on guitars and effects, Keiron Melling on drums, and -- of course -- Mark E. Smith on voice and everything else. The EP is a suitably raucous affair and it's highly recommended. Was there any doubt!?!
The title cut rides in on a wave of pounding drums and Smith's older-but-not-so-subdued vocals, while "All Leave Cancelled" takes a more experimental route over the course of 8 minutes, hesitant and nervous rhythms clanging and clanging. The nearly dance-y "Dedication (Remix)" leads into another version of the title cut, and then "Venice with Girls" roars in -- peak Smith, peak Fall, "Bombast" shoved into a sack and transported by night into the 21st Century. The splendidly-titled "Facebook Troll/No Xmas for John Quay" crams a whole lot of Fall racket into a handful of minutes. Part Beefheart and all Mark E. Smith, the cut is nearly the highlight of the EP. Things close with another version of "All Leave Cancelled", all low, rumbling menace.
Wise Ol' Man doesn't rewrite the Fall playbook but, dammit, if it doesn't sound exactly like a Fall record; it roars in all the right ways, and clatters admirably.
This U.K. institution remains a machine of glorious noise. I pray I never know what Mark E. Smith is raving about but I also pray that he continues to make music for a long, long time to come.