Album Review: The Fall – ‘Ersatz GB’

The Fall still stand alone and aloft

I’m so sick of [a]Snow Patrol[/a]/And where to find Esso lubricant”, growls a phlegm-riddled throat atop of a riff so caustic it could corrode asbestos. And there’s not even the faintest chance that such a stonking non sequitur could have germinated anywhere but the noggin of Mark E Smith. For while lesser mortals still pilfer from [a]The Fall[/a]’s handbook, he remains forever several pages ahead. Of all the things that could be deemed ersatz – a German word for ‘substitute’ used mockingly by British POWs in WWII for the piss-poor imitations of bread and coffee they received in captivity – [a]The Fall[/a] are not among them.

Like 2010’s ‘Your Future Our Clutter’, ‘Ersatz GB’ sees Smith and co perpetually moving forwards. The rumbling riffs of ‘Mask Search’ and ‘Taking Off’ are Fall-like, yet elsewhere they continue to lob the occasional hand grenade into the mix and revel in the resulting chaos – just witness ‘Greenway’, which sees aimless piano explode into mushroom cloud-heavy guitar, while Smith blindly chokes through billowing fugs of brown smoke.

Yet it’s his words that are truly inimitable – jumbled images with snatches of meaning floating amidst the din, with disparate nods to gum-healing ointment Bonjela (‘Taking Off’) and US teen drama Gossip Girl (‘Nate Will Not Return’). Perhaps most oddly of all, on ‘Greenway’, he’s confronted with his own doppelgänger staring back at him from a Danish TV station before he surreally barks: “I had to wake up the cat just to feed the fucking dog”. It’s hard to decipher fact from fiction; or, as he grumbles on ‘Laptop Dog’, “Life was there but life disappeared/Searches all the bins”, the remnants of lucidity buried amongst the litter. But then, there’s really only one salient truth about ‘Ersatz GB’ – that The Fall, even at nearly 30 albums old, still stand alone and aloft. Sometimes, however much you meddle with the ingredients, you can’t improve upon the original.

Ben Hewitt