A well-rounded and surprisingly busy album from the Fall, Sub-Lingual Tablet finds leader Mark E. Smith taking the producer's chair for LP number 31. Clean-sounding and intricately built tracks suggest he trusts the current lineup of the long-running band, while the return of cassette-taped interludes and other found sounds recall the band's 1984-1988 stretch, a golden age when they were regulars on the indie charts. Follow the wandering, twangy riff of "Venice with the Girls" ("Too beautiful/Best thing for you to do is hide") and it leads Fall fans to a satisfying land where they receive all the drive, the snarl, and tribal drums they require, while late album highlights "Quit iPhone" and "Fibre Book Troll" (which is really "Facebook Troll") are screaming examples of the band's rockabilly-punk in overdrive, both of them bitter with the current climate and tech-aware enough to drop the right names. The rolling robo-bass on "Dedication Not Medication" means there's at least one Burial 12" in the band's record box, while the great and too short "Black Door" is back to the future music with keyboard lines that point to the first two Devo albums. The numerous time changes and song twists are more Captain Beefheart-inspired than Yes- or Genesis-styled show-offery, but this tight lineup of the group could show off if they chose, and sometimes give a hint of it as Smith ascends into a total, roaring performance during both "Augo Chip 2014-2016" and "Pledge." "Jungle Cloth" checks off the simple and pure rock & roll cut while Iggy Pop is the source for this album's excellent cover as the Stooges' "Cock in My Pocket" gets a brilliantly titled redo in "Stout Man." The kids are alright.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries