One of the many perverse tendencies of the Fall’s Mark E. Smith is his fondness for the live album. Wikipedia counts 31 live records by the band, and that’s not including the handful of part-live/part-studio efforts that have appeared over the years. This album appears to fall into the latter category, although details are scant. There are few clues as to what was recorded when. A couple of its tracks sound like studio creations—a thought confirmed by a number of posts on a Fall discussion board—while the live material is taken from a series of shows spanning 2008–2012. Even the release of it has been unusual, with the album originally set to come out last year bearing a different title and track listing. Longstanding Fall fans will be used to such about-turns in approach, such as the subtly different versions of The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) and Fall Heads Roll that surfaced when those albums were originally issued.
The build-up to the release of Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son barely befits such a low stakes addition to the Fall’s canon. It’s got the feel of a bootleg—the recording is at times horribly thin, and the occasional snatches of audience chatter make it sound like the work of someone staggering drunkenly through the crowd with a barely concealed mic. Word has been good about the Fall’s live shows in the past few years, especially when they returned to a double-drummer format. It’s typically contrary of Smith to document them like this, with a song like “Jetplane”, the standout from Re-Mit, sounding like it was recorded through a thick woolen blanket. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Smith claimed to prefer it that way. The opening “Wings (with Bells)” and the later “Reformation – Utrecht” don’t fare much better in the audio stakes, although the latter is at least an intense performance, albeit one that sounds like it was recorded from a bathroom cubicle in the bowels of the venue.
The two alleged studio recordings, “Auto 2014 Chip Replace” and “Amorator”, are the worthiest additions to Uurop, although both are little more than curios. Smith is in wonderfully hoarse form on the former, where the drums stick to a neat Klaus Dinger clip, Elena Poulou’s keyboards fizz in all the right places, and an unexpected (if slightly ill-thought out) about-turn closes down the track. Neither of the songs make much sense here, although this is an enterprise that doesn’t deal in logic, especially as the commercial demand for poorly recorded live tracks is surely at an all-time low. Sometimes the grain of the recordings adds something; the leaden throb of David Spurr’s bass on “Irish” resembles someone shoveling through heavy mud, while Smith’s over-loud and distorted vocal on the same track is suitably terrifying when it first lands. A typically acerbic “Fifty Year Old Man” and the following “Wolf Kidult Man” are highlights, with both gaining a welcome layer of malice from being so grating in texture.
In 2004, the Fall released another part live/part studio album titled Interim, the title of which made it feel like a stopgap. Uurop falls along similar same lines—unless there’s a surprise in store, there will have been no new studio album from the band in 2014, so this plugs a hole that didn’t really need filling in the first place. It’s a record that will most likely be listened to a few times by devotees then filed on a shelf or in a digital archive, regularly getting thumbed past on the way to better material. Even people who were at these shows may have found their way to recordings of these moments already, or would rather not remember them this way.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1xVXmdC