The Fall are as great as your friends and NME say they are, but TRNFLPFCOTC--as in The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click)--may be their first offering that you won't have to just pretend to like. An uneven, punk-flavored past says that accessibility fits The Fall like overalls fit Interpol, but the pace set withinthe first quarter here exposes a band that's lean, hard and inspired. "Green Eyed Loco Man" leads off with a swirling, satisfying squall of fuzz, with memorable hooks, a dash of electronica and even (gasp!) a shout-along chorus ("Sparta 2"). Subversion is front man/mastermind Mark E. Smith's only constant ally over the last 25-plus years, so it's fitting that the new album be bewilderingly referred to as TRNFLPFCOTC. What's not expected is the energized catchiness that manages to retain everything Smith has sworn by and about since he was Live at the Witch Trials. Lyrics run like interference through a chugging guitar line on the U.S.-exclusive "Portugal Tour," and Smith's vocals drip menace and funk on "Contraflow" ("I hate the countryside so much/I hate the contraflow so much" hints at universal restlessness). File this beside 2000's The Unutterable as an autumn-era Fall masterpiece.
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