The Fall

New Facts Emerge

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The Fall's New Facts Emerge opens with a track that sounds a bit like a mean-spirited parody of the Fall, as an incomprehensible Mark E. Smith spouts gibberish over some random noise hovering in the background. Then "Fol de Rol," the first proper song, kicks in, and as the band lays into a minimalistic but ferocious slab of garage-centric punk rock, Mark E. Smith...well, he spouts gibberish, or at least it's pretty hard to tell what he's on about most of the time. The difference is, this time Smith sounds fully energized and ready to tear a hole in your sound system with the tension and power of his vocals. Smith has long been one of the great ranters in British rock, and as the passage of time has weathered his instrument and softened his articulation, his delivery recalls that of an eccentric old man bellowing at passers-by from a park bench. Which not only isn't a criticism, it is pretty much perfect for the Fall in the year 2017, and if New Facts Emerge isn't likely to be remembered as one of the crowning achievements in their catalog, it sounds like the work of a band that's still full of blood and thunder on its 31st studio album. Smith is fully engaged with his lunacy on these 11 tracks, and this lineup of the Fall -- Peter Greenway on guitar, Dave Spurr on bass, and Keiron Melling on drums -- sounds taut and muscular, creating a genuinely exciting backdrop for Smith as he lays out his barrage of verbiage. While the extended guitar coda at the end of "Nine Out of Ten" closes the album on a weak note, New Facts Emerge is still rowdy and absorbing stuff, and proves that Mark E. Smith and his compatriots are growing old in a gloriously ungraceful fashion.

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