The Fall's first post-Craig Scanlon album also introduced Julia Nagle, who took over keyboards from the departing Dave Bush and also contributed some guitar. Brix Smith and Karl Burns covered the rest of the guitar, and while Scanlon is missed, the end results work well enough. The crisp live edge to the recording is attractive, but oddly enough leaves a lot of space in the mix -- Mark E. Smith and Nagle's keyboards have pride of place along with Steven Hanley's bass guitar (give an ear to "Das Vulture Ans Ein Nutter-Wain" for an example). Smith himself seems to be searching for lyrics more than once, and while he comes up with a usual collection of acid-tongued zingers, other times he seems to be making vocal noise for the sake of it -- nothing wrong with that, but still, one expects more. Though the album takes a little while to get started, when it does, the winners start coming in droves, such as the attractive Smith/Brix duet "Spinetrap" and the nervy, brisk bite of "Oleano," which sounds like an endless alarm bringing out the paranoia. There's some fiery aggression flaring up more than once as well, as "He Pep!" and especially the lengthy, roaring clatter and blast of "Interlude/Chilinism" in particular show. The addition of another pretty/sharp exchange between Brix and Smith makes the latter all the more entertaining. In terms of unexpected covers, the Fall do have another winner -- Johnny Paycheck's "Stay Away (Old White Train)," sung by Smith with an appropriate if terribly amusing drawl. Speaking of singing -- more than once co-producer Mike Bennett shares the vocals with Smith, a surprising change to say the least! The odd geographical confusion track "Cheethan Hill" shows how well that can actually work, with Bennett taking a clearer lead while Smith, unsurprisingly, does the "sing from one room over" approach.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett