The Fall

Cerebral Caustic

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Smith once again landed on his feet after departing a label, ditching Matador in favor of Permanent, but Cerebral Caustic is notable for many other reasons. First, of all people, Brix Smith (still going by the name) rejoined the lineup, while future events made this the last studio album featuring Craig Scanlon. Though not an original member, his guitar playing for many made the Fall as much as Smith's vision and vocals, and knowing in retrospect that this was his unintentional final bow makes Cerebral that much more of interest. On top of that, Dave Bush would also leave after this album and its tour to join Elastica. Musically, Cerebral followed in the vein of recent albums like Infotainment Scan, blending techno-derived touches and glam-era sonic tributes to the usual stew of approaches. Generally the band sounds like they're having a great time, pulling out some odd arrangements and fun little touches, like the rising and falling melody of "Life Just Bounces." Smith himself sounds a touch disconnected around the edges, but makes up for it with some interesting vocal treatments and sudden interjections to leaven things up. Perhaps the strangest of the bunch is "Bonkers in Phoenix," with Brix's voice turned into overdubbed Chipmunks while the music combines a soft, low volume lope with sudden bursts of noise and Smith rants. One of the sharpest songs in context is "Don't Call Me Darling" -- while the truth can't be known, hearing Brix deliver the chorus with a roaring edge in response to Smith's verses makes a listener wonder. As is often the case, a cover version helps to spice things up -- having paid tribute to Frank Zappa elsewhere, here the band cover his "I'm Not Satisfied" in low-key but well-paced fashion. Smith has good fun blurring and double-tracking his vocal, and the result is another winner in the Fall's series of remakes.

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