The Fall’s complex output over the years has - alongside 30 studio albums - also consisted of live albums and compilations, many of questionable quality and issued unofficially without Smith’s consent. The typically verbose Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son, however, is a new live album collated and compiled entirely by Smith himself, implying a firm direction from the group’s ever-present leader.
Smith’s infinite resilience and work ethic has become imperative to The Fall’s longevity, and their 12th live album documents the group’s most cohesive line-up to date. The habitual hire and fire approach once employed by Smith has since become a near-mythical thing of the past: any stories of unrest within the group are seldom heard, and contrary to the kind of apathy you would expect from a band 30 albums down the line, The Fall’s recent live sets -for all their flaws - have been some of their most prevailing. Mark E Smith is dogged as ever, and though less coherent, his casual, declamatory snarl remains a constant theme; what’s more, they are a noticeably tight collective.
Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son features live recordings of various European performances spanning from 2008-2012, with the vast majority of tracks coming from their last four studio albums. Distinctly basic, Uurop VIII-XII... lacks the scrawled album art and extensive liner notes of many Fall records, with only the title alluding to the origins of these twelve live recordings. As with many of the songs here, the stark typography represents the band in favour of a grittier and stripped down approach, the line up has been expanded to accommodate a second drummer Daren Garratt, and the heavy rock guitar of the 2000s is only slightly eschewed to allow more space for Elena Poulou’s Korg.
Most of the tracks here are typical of recent set lists from The Fall - concentrating mostly on the present rather than the past - Smith has no predilection for nostalgia, with only one or two songs originating from the glory days of yore. It opens with "Wings (With Bells)", a revered, elusive number that featured as a bonus track on a reissue of 1983’s Perverted by Language. It’s similarly dense here, packing more of a punch with the inclusions of Elena’s harsher keyboard notes. Elsewhere, more recent tracks predominate, namely "Jet Plane", which, on record, stands above most of the other material on Re-Mit in terms of coherence, but here it’s more erratic; a pleasingly ramshackle, seemingly elongated version of the original.
A lot of live Fall albums have compromised sound quality, with fans of the band expecting even official issues to have dodgy audio fidelity, but Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son arguably sounds the best of any live Fall record that preceded it.
To most Fall neophytes, Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son might sound awkward and simplistic- but there’s a method to the madness, and what might seem sloppy and arbitrary is often purposefully playful. Fantastically frantic and multilayered, Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son appropriately captures a live Fall experience in 2014, and reiterates just how durable the current line up is.