Personnel: Mark E. Smith (vocals); Eleni Poulou (keyboards); Keiron Melling (drums).
Renowned for their merry-go-round of lineups, seminal post-punk outfit the Fall are arguably entering the most stable phase of their 35-year career, with iconic frontman Mark E. Smith somehow managing to hold onto the same bunch of musicians for a third consecutive album. However, despite their rather unfamiliar solid foundations, their first release through Cherry Red Records, Ersatz G.B., proves they're still as unashamedly chaotic, hyperactive, and downright shambolic as they've ever been. Co-produced with former bassist Simon Archer, its ten tracks are a slightly heavier affair than 2010's Your Future Our Clutter, drifting into mosh pit territory on "Greenway," a surreal reworking of Greek metal band Anorimoi's "Gameboy," and embracing experimental sludge rock on the eight-minute epic "Monocard." But it's Smith's grumpy old man routine which, unsurprisingly, remains the focus of the record, whether it's berating the likes of Snow Patrol on the rockabilly-tinged "Mask Search," bizarrely dissecting a character from Gossip Girl on the spiraling indie rock of "Nate Will Not Return," or drunkenly slurring through the rumbling garage punk of opener "Cosmos 7." As always, his disgruntled, abrasive, and sometimes incomprehensible rants make for an exhausting listen, particularly on the vitriolic call to arms of closer "Age of Chang." And while the Fall wouldn't be the Fall without his caustic wit, random pop culture references, and savage attacks on society, the plodding "I've Seen Them Come" and "Laptop Dog" leave you wishing that his wife/keyboardist Eleni Poulou's Nico-esque vocals on the jangly "Happi Song" could have come to the forefront more often. If you haven't been charmed by any one of their previous 28 records, it's highly unlikely you'll succumb to their 29th. Their biggest champion, the late John Peel once said, "they are always different, they are always the same." ~ Jon O'Brien