Sometimes I'll spend years non-plussed by a critically lauded artist, only to find myself one day seduced. And today must be that day where Mark. E. Smith is concerned. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I spent much of the day listening to the forthcoming Von Südenfed album, which features his far-flung collaboration with Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma of Mouse on Mars. It's a strange record, but one that grows on me with each listen. For one thing, Smith's trademark sneer seems to curl back around into a smile on a number of tracks, including one in which he paddles about in what can only be called fluent Schweindeutsch. You can preview two of the tracks on Pitchfork. The first is a super video for the album's first track; the second a stream for what reviewer Mark Richardson considers its best offering. Since Richardson thinks Smith sounds "sour and annoyed" on most of the record, however, I'm not sure I want to agree with his assessment, though "Rhinohead" is a good song.
One of the more "throwaway" numbers documents Smith having a conversation with a random human being to the accompaniment of what sounds like a lawnmower, American style. As I was running by the moonlit sprinkler cones on the junior high track an hour ago, I had to do an aural double-take, because I could hear the spray that my headphones were meant to block out. The experience inspired me to rename the track "I Can Hear the Grass Mow," making it the perfect complement to the cover version of "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" that was a highlight of the Club Congress set. Anyway, I'm rambling because I have a new love. I've been listening to the multi-disc box set of The Fall's Peel Sessions since I walked in the door and realize for the first time just how amazing the first several are. Before I go, though, I should give credit where credit is due and reference the gorgeous prose of K-Punk, whose three-part essay on The Fall -- here's the first portion and the second and, finally, the third -- remains one of my favorite pieces of music criticism ever and has no doubt found its way into the factory of my desire. If you don't know his writing, you owe yourself to check him out. He's becoming the standard-bearer for work that manages to capture the complexity of scholarly discourse without importing its tendency to be boring. Maybe that's because he follows both his heart and mind.