Mark E. Smith is less a rock singer than a professional iconoclast, which may make him the only member of that ill-defined late 1970s movement called postpunk who remains viable.
According to recent interviews, the title of his band’s 26th studio album is a swipe at groups who reform to make money playing their old songs. But in typical Fall fashion, the title cut seems to be about something else entirely, containing as it does references to “black ribbons” and what appears to be Salford, England-born Smith singing in German. The 49-year-old’s take-it-or-leave-it approach makes anything he attempts far from a sure bet, but his new American band, assembled when the previous personnel walked out on him during a U.S. tour last summer, excellently complements his tuneless growl with two bass guitars and a huge, propulsive beat. The version of Merle Haggard’s “White Line Fever” is at once reverent and hilarious, and on “Fall Sound” Smith attempts to describe himself once and for all: “There’s no overground or underground.” There’s only the moment, and he makes the most of it.
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