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Gig review: The Fall

Mark E Smith's 'gnarly vocals remain a thing of wonder'

Mark E Smith's 'gnarly vocals remain a thing of wonder'

FALL mainstay Mark E Smith once claimed, of his revolving door attitude to bandmates, that “if it’s me and your granny on bongos, then it’s the Fall”.

Venue: The Arches, Glasgow

Rating: * * * *

Review: Fiona Shepherd

However, his legendary cult group have positively revelled in stability of late, rocking the same tight and prolific line-up for the past five years.

The Fall’s 30th album is due in the new year and this gig was essentially their way of familiarising fans with the latest instalment of a story they know very well. Still, anything could happen with regards to the band John Peel hailed fondly as “always different and always the same”. The age-old debate about whether Smith would actually show – 99 times out of 100, he does, but that one other time always hurts – was quashed by a loud analogue synthesizer drone, which could only herald the arrival of the UK’s most contrary frontman and his band.

There was an underlying dementia to this performance, combining the spiky, primitive urgency of punk with the compulsive repetition of Krautrock, a touch of rockabilly and the garage band keyboards of Smith’s partner, Elena Poulou, which occasionally rang out like an electric shock.

Smith spent roughly half the gig ranting from the sidelines. His gnarly vocals remain a thing of wonder, as well as alternative national treasure. When supplemented by Poulou’s slightly distorted backing chants, the effect was quite unsettling.

One can only shudder at the cantankerous old git he will become, given that he has already reached such a thrawn state in middle age. The wonder, as always, is that his music remains so fresh, virile and exciting. I cannot think of another group who have been so consistently on the money for so long, even if this was a relatively messy showcase of their unique wares.

 

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