I have to admit that when I agreed to review the Cook Strummer album The Fall, I genuinely thought it was a posthumous release of song that The Clash’s Joe Strummer had recorded with The Sex Pistols Drummer. Sometimes though mistakes can be quite fortuitous. When the post-punk synth sound of The Fall hit my eardrums I was, after an initial moment of confusion, pretty happy that my musical stupidity had brought the album to my attention.
The man behind Cook Strummer, Max Donnet, is certainly prolific, although this is actually his first full length release. In 2012 alone, he released six EP’s before teaming up with producer Laurent Zimmermann to begin work on his debut album. It was recorded at Studio K61 in Berlin, which is housed in a cell in the basement of an old Stasi Prison. It chronicles a time in Donnet’s life when, in the process of getting over a break-up, he was working a forty-hour week and clubbing all night, every night.
The resulting album, The Fall, is an emotional and musical hybrid, good-time techno combined with heartfelt and fragile song-writing. It blends electronic drum machines, guitars and synths and creates something, that although sounding new, is re-assuringly familiar to a Nineties and Noughties Indie kid like me. In places it reminds me of Tricky or Death in Vegas’s The Contino Sessions.
The album starts with a slight but effective track called Prelude before things really get moving with Massacre Song, which after an introspective intro turns into a really groovy little number. It’s got a simple insistent guitar part and a haunting, intimate vocal.
It’s clear from The Light Behind that Cook Strummer’s influences don’t just come from the electronic arena. The song writing and lead vocal is reminiscent of Nick Cave, and the stunning vocal harmonies have the sweetness and self-doubt of Elliot Smith. Nightstand has a distinct English new-wave feel about it, particularly in the guitar sound. The penultimate track Second Sight is a trippy, rhythmic slice of instrumental electronica that segues into Holy Quest. This track starts off innocently enough with plaintive guitar arpeggios but melds into a beautiful mess of distorted, stuttering samples and off-kilter harmonies before the album ends a single wavering synth note.
The Fall was released via LOK Recordings.