The Fall

The Fall In: Palace of Swords Reversed

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Calling this collection absolutely essential damns it with faint praise. A near-perfect compilation of the Fall's early-'80s singles minus a track or two ("Lie Dream of a Casino Soul" and "Look, Know," in particular), plus most of the Slates EP, Palace of Swords Reversed serves up 14 tracks of audio and lyrical brilliance. Nearly split evenly between the Marc Riley/Craig Scanlon days and when Scanlon was sole guitarist, Palace covers three years during which the band couldn't seem to make a wrong step. Smith's focus dwells on everything from the anxiety of influence to soccer hooliganism and video games, all grist for his dismissive mill. The trashing of neo-imperialist pretensions thanks to the Thatcher government and the Falkland Islands, "Marquis Cha-Cha" may not have the emotional tug of Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding," but its black humor and vicious cut-downs on all fronts packs its own punch. Meanwhile, the anti-London demolition of "Leave the Capitol" is pure destruction, band and singer matched in equal power. Musically, meanwhile, there's everything from nervous minimalism to brawling noise, everything turned toward the band's own goal. "Totally Wired" features a great opening drum break from Paul Hanley before everyone piles into a building crash of sound, Smith, riding it all like a wave while trading off call and response vocals with his band about having "a jar of coffee/and then I took some of these!" There's the barbed synth-pop nod on "The Man Whose Head Expanded," sudden tempo shifts on "Pay Your Rates" and "Putta Block" -- two of the band's best charge-ahead-then-think-about-it numbers -- and the slow upward crawl of "An Older Lover," stripped down and the more unsettling for it. Special bonus points for the occasional bits of live performances, including the hilarious introduction to "Putta Block," where after an audible screw-up Smith dryly notes, "Another dynamic entrance!"

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
4:48
2
8:03
3
5:57
4
3:36
blue highlight denotes track pick