The Fall

Lasting a long time in the music business is all about reinvention and supposed relevance, although icons like U2 or Madonna don't even need quality output anymore to gain attention. But some still have to earn it after almost three decades--not that notoriously cranky Mark E. Smith, leader of the Fall, could or would have it any other way. Smith remains defiantly vinegar as he and his band continue to age like wine, and the late John Peel's assertion that the Fall is "always different, always the same" is cemented with Fall Heads Roll. Things feel different with opener "Ride Away," a ramshackle, mumbling abstraction that's unique if not entirely appealing, but it doesn't take long for this fairly minted lineup to find a familiar thread. "Pacifying Joint" is brash and catchy like good Pulp having a bad day, and the highlight--and best song of 2005--is "Blindness," a buzzing, psychedelic garage exercise in repetition that features an evil bass hook. "Do you/Work hard?" is the refrain, but the answer isn't important--this song is the Fall at its scabrous best, and even a Mark-less final track that sounds like another band's B-side can't diminish the moment(um). Its bookends are awkward, and the band's not exactly shedding skin here, but Fall Heads Roll is hypnotic in too many spots. It's another confounding, condescending success.
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Matt Hursh