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