There’s something wonderfully opaque about The Fall’s This Nation’s Saving Grace. No change there, you might say, but I’ve got a theory about this.
Their eighth album is a strange one, but it’s incredible. It seems like the more commercial they tried to sound, the more the twinkling keyboards and big fat riffs drew attention to their innate, ineffable Fall-ness. They just couldn’t help but sound like The Fall. It was like giving Samuel Beckett a mohican and calling him a punk.
As a peach will only ever taste of peach, and a banana be defined by its green or yellow bendiness, so The Fall remained The Fall, right up to the last line-up, right to the last drop.
Some songs only start to kick in halfway through (What You Need, Paintwork) and some fuse menace with jauntiness, like the classic Spoilt Victorian Child. Bombast may be one of the finest opening tracks of any album, ever. Such vitriol.
Paintwork sounds like a skiffle song playing in the next room and has some surreal samples, and, as befits the Can cool cat, I Am Damo Suzuki emulates the motorik of Krautrock, albeit wonkily.
Even the addition of guitar fox Brix Smith, who’d joined halfway through Perverted By Language, and was increasingly bringing her West Coast psychedelic rock sensibility to the band, didn’t sweeten the pill- LA and Vixen are otherworldly pop with wayward vocals from her. Indeed, the latter goes way off key- but it’s very playful and self-aware.
They’re also on hilarious form. My New House has a typical Fallabilly bounce, and peak MES sarcasm like, ” I get the bills/and I get miffed”, or the line which always cracks me up, “It’s got window sills”. Imagine…
It’s the Fall formula writ large: experimental, bizarre, and as claustrophobic as a boa constrictor, yet ridiculously brutal and catchy.
In the immortal words of John Peel, the man who broke them: “It might not always be what you want, but it’s The Fall, and that’s all you really need”. Yup. Damn tootin’.