Wild Mercury Sound

Mark E Smith's escape from The Fall

John Mulvey

So Mark E Smith is a DJ, right? He's booked the club for the night, therefore it stands to reason he can play the records. But then this German guy turns up and says he's the DJ, says he's Sven Vath. Whatever should Mark do? Simple: "I flooded the club," he says proudly. That'll show them.

This is the compelling scenario of "Flooded", track three of the debut album by Von Sudenfed. Von Sudenfed are a new group consisting of Smith, plus Andi Toma and Jan St Werner from the marvellous German electronica mavericks Mouse On Mars.

You have to admire Toma and St Werner's nerve. Smith, after all, is not historically one for harmonious collaboration, tending to favour dictatorship over teamwork. Their last couple of Mouse On Mars albums have been slight disappointments, too, after the mid '90s highs of "Niun Niggung" and "Idiology". In spite of being eclectic leftfield auteurs, it's seemed as if they've been struggling to make a kind of pop music, and not quite getting there.

Bizarrely, they've achieved that by recruiting Smith, of all people. "The Rhinohead", for instance, is a glorious technopop stomper, a supercharged update of the sort of hobnailed-boot dancefloor strangeness that The Fall were making towards the end of their period on the Fontana label.

It might be a trick of all the processing on his voice, but Toma and St Werner have generally made Smith sound livelier than he has done in years. I mean, much as I like the last few Fall albums, I don't find myself returning to them very often. "Tromatic Reflexxions" (sorry, that's the album title), for all the trademark Mouse On Mars squelch is so much cleaner and tighter - no muttering longueurs here, it's just hits most of the way. And with all the murk cleared away, you can hear Smith's majestic rants. "I cannot boil the chicken," he's saying on the lunatic Delta blues of "Chicken Yiamas". By the end and "Dearest Friends", a highlife-gone-Hawaiian reverie, he sounds positively beatific.

And of course, there's my obligatory LCD Soundsystem comparison. What could be better than a Mark E Smith impersonator declaiming over pounding dance music? Mark E Smith declaiming over pounding dance music, of course.


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