The Hype: Now well into its fourth full decade of existence, the Fall has been around long enough that bands that have followed in its wake have not only broken up but had their own reunion tours. (Just ask Pavement sometime.)
Then again, the legendary Manchester band has always been a shifting membership around the central figure of Mark E. Smith, a man as driven and distinct a performer - and, by all accounts, as hard a taskmaster - as James Brown.
The Judgement: Sometimes Smith's leadership has resulted in slapdash efforts. But the past few years has seen Smith and company on a roll, with Your Future Our Clutter instantly ranking among their best.
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The magpie-like nature of the band's collective muse has rarely been so clear and at the same time so easily fluid. Everything from country and western rave-ups to garage/R & B grooves to murky and mysterious keyboards to sprawling art punk is on offer (often all in the same song).
A song like "Mexico Wax Solvent," with its crisp, hard-as-hell drumming and what's either a growling bass or an equally distorted synth line offset suddenly by a pretty guitar part (which then turns increasingly strange) captures the free play at work to a T, no less so than Lee Hazlewood-meets-Suicide melodrama of "Cowboy George" or the slow moodiness into majestic keyboard drones of the closing "Weather Report."
At its heart, Smith's inimitable speak-sing vocals remain supreme, still a compellingly strange instrument delivering amazing lyrics like "The whirlpools cascade o'er my face/and I watched Murder, She Wrote at least five times." Hearing him declaim "A French composition on a fluted instrument!" on "Bury Pt. 1-3" makes it clear that he still has that unique something legions will try to make their own but never will.