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The Fall: Sub-Lingual Tablet

Sleaford Mods’ grouchy uncle pours yet more scorn on the modern world.

Despite being an untouchable cult icon to many, the long third act of Mark E Smith’s career has seen a marked decline in power and focus. But even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, and the Victor Meldrew of post-punk can still muster an occasional blast of the old sneery, sharp-eyed genius.

The Fall’s 31st album maintains the band’s most stable continuous line-up ever, with a scrappy garage-rock sound thin on tunes but rhythmically deft. Smith’s vocal performance is more committed than usual, from his bilious Beefheart growl on the Stooges-esque Stout Man, to his high-pitched Spike Milligan gurgle on the squelchy junk-shop electro-clatter of Pledge.

The biggest disappointment is how Smith’s incoherent rants about Facebook trolls and iPhones sound like lazy, shallow, reactionary sneers at vaguely fashionable buzzwords instead of the acerbic satirical insights that once made such a vital cultural force. Another adequate but inessential album./o:p

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.