"The Fall. They're always different, and they're always the same."
- John Peel
The fuckin' Fall. What to even write about them? A ridiculously prolific and unclassifiable (post?)punk group, who have had a Spinal Tap-ish number of members over the years, with the only constant being vocalist Mark E Smith. And oddly, they've never gotten any real press or critical cache over here in the U.S. As an example: I read everything I can find about offbeat indie groups, and I never heard of them until 2005. And you know what? I hated them. Didn't see the appeal. Then I bought a Fall CD cheap somewhere. Before I knew it I had 6 discs, then 10, now I'm past 20 CDs with no sign of stopping. I approached them like The Melvins - I just got stuff from all over their discography, and only got some real context later on.
While I wouldn't dream of condensing their history here, an effort should be made at describing their sound. Imagine if you took a rockabilly band made up of members of Joy Division and Gang Of Four, got them completely shitfaced on lager, and took them to a Socialist Worker's Party meeting, where the singer takes issue with something that is said and hauls the band onstage to tell the punters what he thinks. You could hardly call what Mark Smith is doing singing - more like acerbic shouting - but it's an integral part of their appeal for me. He's just so damned English and pissed!
Another great hook for me is Craig Scanlon's guitar playing. He lasted a long time in the group: from 1980 or so up until the late 90's. The same for Hanley and Wolstoncroft. I noticed their names on a lot of the Fall records I was loving. That's not to discount records made with other members since, but they're definitely part of the amorphous "classic" lineup.
I want to give you 10 albums. Now, any Fall fan will laugh at that, knowing how many dozens of albums they've released! These are just some of my favorites, and I think many of them are good gateway albums for the group. This is actually a cruel thing to do, since hipping people to The Fall is like getting them into Jandek or SWANS or Nurse With Wound... there's just so many albums! If you know nothing of The Fall, just click on a few of these randomly. It's insidious music, trust me. They'll get their hooks in you.
Now, I've been doing a lot of writing lately, and am a bit drained in that regard. Each album pic will have a short blurb under it. I can't contextualize this stuff for you without getting long winded, and I want to make this easier on Scott. My wordy and pic-heavy posts can be rough for him sometimes....
An underrated classic of first wave UK punk. They sounded like nobody else. This is a dense punk album.
Shambolic, loud, and Totally Wired.... and yes, the North Will Rise Again. This is a great one.
(HEX ENDUCTION HOUR)
Has at least two of the best Fall tracks - "Hip Priest" and "Jawbone & The Air Rifle", which contains one of the best guitar hooks ever.
(PERVERTED BY LANGUAGE)
You always fall in love with your first... this was my gateway album. The herky jerky rhythms, the literate wordplay, the bile - I was hooked. Contains my fave Fall track "Smile", which is an amazing buildup that somehow has no climax.
This is the only release here that is from their peak time on the Beggars Banquet label, when they were prolific and fairly popular. This is a dark, paranoid classic. Named after a great Nabokov novel.
At the height of the alternative era - 1991 - they released this classic on Fontana. Great guitars melded to dance-like rhythms. Sooo many faves on this one, especially "Free Range".
A mid-90's classic that marked the return of (ex-wife) Brix Smith to the band. Contains the bizarre "Bonkers In Phoenix" and the vicious"Don't Call Me Darling".
(THE REAL NEW FALL LP)
After some early 00's stumbles, they released this fired up disc. "Boxoctosis" and "Mad Mock Goth" are two of their most vicious songs, and then there's the amazing sonic swirl of "Green Eyed Loco Man"
(FALL HEADS ROLL)
My favorite of the post-2000 albums. The high octane "Assume", the amazing chug of "Blindness", the haunting "Early Days Of Channel Fuehrer"... it's amazing. This was a crack band - and they were all let go after this album. Proof that no matter who is in the group, it'll always still sound like The Fall.
(IMPERIAL WAX SOLVENT)
The most recent album I have, from 2008. Something about this is impenetrable to me. A dense sonic mix on this one. Check out "50 Year Old Man", where M.E.S. finally has a legit reason for being the curmudgeonly bugger he is.
The bonus link is one of my current favorite comedians, whose name also happens to be Marc. I think it's his best album. No password.