Today's artists, out of all the late-'70s punk and post-punk bands, none were longer lived or more prolific than the Fall. Throughout their career, the band underwent a myriad lineup changes, but at the center of it all was vocalist Mark E. Smith. With his snarling, nearly incomprehensible vocals and consuming bitter cynicism, Smith became a cult legend in indie and alternative rock. The group's output is prolific—as of November 2011 they have released 29 studio albums, and more than triple that counting live albums and other releases. They have never achieved widespread public success beyond a handful of minor hit singles in the late 1980s, but have maintained a strong cult following. Over the course of their career, the band went through a number of shifts in musical style, yet the foundation of their sound was a near-cacophonous, amelodic jagged jumble of guitars, sing-speak vocals, and keyboards........N'Joy
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Prior to forming the Fall in 1977, Smith worked on the docks in Manchester, where he had auditioned and failed with a number of local heavy metal groups. Smith wasn't inspired by metal in the first place; his tastes ran more toward the experimental rock & roll of the Velvet Underground, as well as the avant-garde art rock of Can. Eventually, he found several similarly inclined musicians -- guitarist Martin Bramah, bassist Tony Friel, keyboardist Una Baines, and drummer Karl Burns -- and formed the Fall, taking the group's name from the Albert Camus novel. The band cut an EP, Bingo-Master's Break-Out!, which was funded by the Buzzcocks' label, New Hormones, but it sat unreleased for nearly a year, simply because the band couldn't find anyone who wanted to sign them. The Fall were outsiders, not fitting in with either the slick new wave and the amateurish, simple chord-bashing of punk rock. Consequently, they had a difficult time landing a record contract . After a while, the group had gained some fans, including Danny Baker, the head of the Adrenaline fanzine, who persuaded Miles Copeland to release the EP on his Step Forward independent label.
During 1978, Smith replaced bassist Friel with Marc Riley (bass, guitar, keyboards) and keyboardist Baines with Yvonne Pawlett because they wanted to make the Fall more accessible. The new lineup recorded the band's first full-length album, Live at the Witch Trials, which was released in 1979. The Fall continued to tour, playing bars and cabaret clubs, and, in the process, began to slowly build a fan base. Radio 1 DJ John Peel had become a fervent fan of the band, letting them record a number of sessions for his show, which provided the group with a great deal of exposure.
Before recording the Fall's second album, Smith changed the band's lineup, firing Pawlett, Bramah, and Burns, while hiring guitarist Craig Scanlon, bassist Steve Hanley, and drummer Mike Leigh; Riley moved to lead guitar from bass during this lineup shift. Scanlon and Hanley would become integral members of the Fall, staying with the band for great part of their career. The new lineup recorded and released Dragnet late in 1979. The following year, the Fall parted with Step Forward and signed with Rough Trade, where they released the live album Totale's Turns (It's Now or Never), the studio Grotesque (After the Gramme), and several acclaimed singles, including "Totally Wired" and "How I Wrote Elastic Man," in the course of 1980. Paul Hanley joined the group as a second drummer before the Grotesque album. Though several Fall recordings appeared in 1981, they were all archival releases with the exception of the Slates EP. After the release of Slates, drummer Karl Burns rejoined the group. In early 1982, the band released the full-length Hex Enduction Hour, which received some of the group's strongest reviews to date. Since the group was having trouble with Rough Trade, the album was released on Kamera Records, as was its follow-up, Room to Live, which also appeared in 1982. Following its release, Riley left the band.
The major turning point in the Fall's career arrived in 1983, when Smith met Brix Smith (born Laura Elise Salinger) in Chicago while the Fall were on tour. The pair married within a few months and Brix, who originally played bass, joined the group as their second guitarist, replacing Riley; her first record with the group was 1983's Perverted by Language. Brix brought a more melodic pop sense to the band, as demonstrated by 1984's The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, their first album for Beggars Banquet. By 1985, the Smiths were collaborating with each other, resulting in more structured, melodic songs like the singles "No Bulbs" and "Cruiser's Creek." Midway through 1985, Steve Hanley had to take a leave of absence and classically trained Simon Rogers joined as the temporary bassist. Once Hanley returned, Rogers moved over to keyboards. The new lineup with Rogers recorded This Nation's Saving Grace, which was released in the fall of 1985 to terrific reviews. Rogers stayed for one more album, 1986's Bend Sinister, yet he remained involved with the Fall for several years.
In 1986, the Fall unexpectedly began to have charting singles, as their cover of the Other Half's "Mr. Pharmacist" became a minor hit in the fall. Over the next few years, the group appeared in the lower reaches of the charts consistently, breaking into the Top 40 with 1987's "Hit the North" and 1988's cover of the Kinks' "Victoria," which signaled how much more accessible the band had become with the addition of Brix's arrangements. After the 1988 release of the Simon Rogers-produced The Frenz Experiment, Brix divorced Smith and she left the Fall in 1989; original guitarist Martin Bramah replaced her. The musical result of the separation was a shift back to the darker, more chaotic sound of their early albums, as shown on the first post-Brix album, 1990's Extricate. Though Extricate was well received, Smith decided to alter the lineup that recorded the album. He fired both Schofield and Bramah while the Fall was touring Australia. Featuring new keyboardist Dave Bush, Shift-Work was released in 1991, followed by Code: Selfish the next year.
In 1993, the Fall signed with Matador Records, which provided them with their first American record label in several years. Their first release for the label, The Infotainment Scam, was recorded with the returning Karl Burns, who provided drums. Neither The Infotainment Scam nor its 1994 follow-up, Middle Class Revolt, sold many records in the U.S., despite good reviews, and the Fall was again left without an American label as of 1995. Not that it mattered; they retained their devoted following in Britain, where both albums performed respectively. Brix rejoined the Fall during the supporting tour for Middle Class Revolt and appeared on 1995's Cerebral Caustic. At the beginning of 1996 keyboardist Julia Nagle had joined the band for the recording of The Light User Syndrome, an album that featured liner notes from longtime supporter and BBC DJ John Peel. The band recorded their 20th BBC session for the DJ in June, followed by the departure of Brix in October and Karl Burns in December.
By this time a steady stream of compilations and live recordings started appearing, the majority of them on the Receiver label, mostly without the band's involvement. During an April gig in New York City at Brownie's, Smith was in rare form. The band played large parts of the set with Smith off-stage, at one point Smith said something to Karl Burns that made him jump over his drum kit and attack the singer, and Crooks and Smith were at odds the whole show, with Crooks kicking Smith and Smith flicking lit cigarettes at Crooks. Burns, Crooks, and Steve Hanley were out of the band and Smith spent a night in jail on assault charges. A new single, "Touch Sensitive," appeared in February 1999. It ended up as the soundtrack to car commercial, giving it extra exposure in the U.K., setting the stage for the April release of the new album, The Marshall Suite. Nagle was now more involved with songwriting while guitarist Neville Wilding, bassist Adam Halal, and drummer Tom Head rounded out the new Fall.
Released in December 2002, "The Fall vs. 2003" single ushered in the next great era of the band, with Poulou offering a melodic base for Smith's abrasiveness the same way Nagle and Brix had before. Jim Watts discovered he was fired when Smith held a band meeting in a bar in March 2003 and bought everyone a drink but Watts. Bassist Simon "Ding" Archer would take his place for a June-July American tour. An early version of the band's next album was leaked to the Internet, influencing Smith to re-record and add/drop some tracks. The leak was referenced in the album's new title, The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click), released in October. A Christmas single, "(We Wish You) A Protein Christmas," appeared in December.
The Sanctuary label reissued two classic albums -- Live at the Witch Trials and Dragnet -- in January of 2004 with much better sound than ever before, and some bonus tracks were added to Dragnet. A tour of America was planned, but on a visit to Newcastle, Smith slipped on some ice, breaking his leg. A bystander came to help him up, but Smith fell again, this time cracking his hip. Despite a metal rod running from his knee to hip, the Fall went ahead with the American tour, with Smith delivering his vocals while seated at a table. 2005 also saw the departure of guitarist Jim Watts, a fantastic box set that collected all the band's sessions for John Peel, and the new album Fall Heads Roll. In the summer the band toured America in support of the new album, but after a few dates, Smith fired all of the members of the band save his wife and keyboardist, Eleni Poulou. The 2007 album Reformation Post T.L.C. featured a hybrid group of U.S. and U.K. members. That same year Smith collaborated with Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner of electronica duo Mouse on Mars on the Von Südenfed project. He published his typically challenging and entertaining autobiography in 2008. In 2010 they signed with the Domino label for the album Your Future Our Clutter released on 26 April 2010. This was followed in November 2011 by the album Ersatz GB. In March 2012, the band were chosen by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel to perform at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival he curated in Minehead, England. The Fall performing at Bloomberg Space in London in 2008. On 11 October 2012, The Fall played with The Undertones at EPIC-TV in Norwich (Magdalen Street), launching the John Peel Festival of New Music as part of the Norwich Sound and Vision Festival 2012, a fundraiser for the John Peel Centre of Creative Arts in Stowmarket.
The Fall, now their longest-serving line-up in the group's history, released their twenty-ninth studio album, Re-Mit, on 13 May 2013. This was followed later in the year by a six-track EP of new material, The Remainderer. 2014 saw the release of a live album Live: Uurop VIII-XII Places in Sun & Winter, Son. The group's thirtieth studio album Sub-Lingual Tablet was released on 25 May 2015 by Cherry Red. In a 2016 interview with Mojo Magazine, Mark E Smith announced that Elena had resigned from the group.
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The Fall already had a slew of brilliant records under their belt by the time Hex Enduction Hour emerged, but when it did, the result was a bona fide classic on all fronts. Honing the vicious edge of his lyrics to a new level of ability, Smith led his by-now seasoned band -- at this time sporting the double-drumming lineup of Paul Hanley and Karl Burns -- to create a literal hour's worth of entertaining bile. The Marc Riley/Craig Scanlon team had even more of a clattering, industrial edge than before, now inventing its own style of riff and melody that any number of later groups would borrow, with varying degrees of success. "Iceland" itself tips its hat toward where part of the album was recorded, and it's little surprise that the Sugarcubes and any number of contemporaneous bands from that country ended up with a deep Fall fetish. Of the many song highlights, perhaps the most notorious was the opening "The Classical," an art rock groove like no other, racketing around with heavy-duty beats and stabbing bass from Steve Hanley. Apparently, the band was on the verge of signing with Motown, at least until they heard Smith delivering the poisonous line, "Where are the obligatory niggers?/Hey there, f*ckface!" Politically correct or not, it set the tone for the misanthropic assault of the entire album, including the hilarious dressing down of "misunderstood" rock critics, "Hip Priest" ("He...is...not...ap-PRE-ciated!") and the targeting-everyone attack "Who Makes the Nazis?" Musically, all kinds of approaches are assayed and the results are a triumph throughout, from "Hip Priest" and its tense exchange between slow, dark mood and sudden guitar bursts to the motorik drone touch of "Fortress/Deer Park." As a concluding anti-anthem, "And This Day" ranks up with "The N.W.R.A.," ten minutes of ramalama genius.
The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour (flac 663mb)
01 The Classical 5:16
02 Jawbone And The Air-RIfle 3:42
03 Hip Priest 7:47
04 Fortress/Deer Park 6:40
05 Mere Pseud Mag. Ed. 2:49
06 Winter (Hostel-Maxi) 4:31
07 Winter 2 4:33
08 Just Stop S'ways 3:24
09 Who Makes The Nazis ? 4:30
10 Iceland 6:42
11 And This Day 10:19
12 I'm Into C.B. 6:34
13 Session Musician 9:17
14 Jazzed Up Punk Shit 4:13
15 I'm Into C.B. (Stars On 45 Version) 3:15
16 And This Day (live) 6:17
17 Deer Park (live) 9:38
18 And This Day (Soundcheck) 5:24
The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour (ogg 250mb)
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Again working with John Leckie on production, the Fall's third Beggars album, Bend Sinister, was a distinctly down affair -- not that the Fall were ever a shiny happy band, of course, but both music and lyrics seemed like a darker corner to dwell in. Happily there was no worry that the Fall would ever go goth; one suspects Mark E. Smith would rather have his tongue removed. Still, opening track "R.O.D." makes for a distinctly lower-key start in comparison to recent leadoffs like "Lay of the Land" and "Bombast," almost sounding a bit like fellow Mancunian legends Joy Division, Smith's lyric his own depressing vision of a beast slouching toward Bethlehem. Leckie's production emphasizes space in the recording, while the band as a whole sounds generally more deliberate and understated, even Craig Scanlon's guitar not leaping quite as much to trebly life as is normally the case. Songs like "Gross Chapel - British Grenadiers" favor Steve Hanley's bass work as much as anything, while the almost industrial/hip-hop beat of "US 80's-90's" sets the tone for a glowering vision of the States from, as Smith puts it, "the big-shot original rapper." Elsewhere, there's Smith's vision of the eternal outsider comes to life once again -- "Shoulder Pads 1," a hardly disguised sneer against being surrounded by people who "can't tell Lou Reed from Doug Yule," for all that there's a slightly quirky arrangement thanks to Simon Rogers' keyboards. Still, there are certainly moments of sheer fun -- in keeping with the band's regular ear for good cover versions, this time around psych-era obscurities the Other Half get the nod with a brisk rip through the obvious drug references of "Mr. Pharmacist." Brix again shares vocal leads with Smith at various points, notably "Dktr. Faustus," a distinctly reworked version of that particular legend that turns into a frantic, audibly unhappy dance groove.
The Fall - Bend Sinister (flac 310mb)
01 R.O.D. 4:31
02 Dktr. Faustus 5:32
03 Shoulder Pads 1 2:54
04 Mr Pharmacist 2:17
05 Gross Chapel - British Grenadiers 7:20
06 Living Too Late 4:35
07 U.S. 80's-90's 4:34
08 Terry Waite Sez 1:37
09 Bournemouth Runner 6:05
10 Riddler ! 6:19
11 Shoulder Pads 2 1:56
12 Auto-Tech Pilot 4:51
The Fall - Bend Sinister (ogg 120mb)
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After the dark morass of Bend Sinister, the sound of 1988's Frenz Experiment comes as a bit of a shock. The arrangements are spare and broken down to the essentials, with the distorted guitars brought down low and Wolstencroft's drums high in the mix. Marcia Schofield had also joined the band to add keyboards. With most of the songs credited only to Smith himself, this could be seen as a solo album of sorts, or an indication of some rift within the group -- it certainly doesn't translate into the music. For the first time too, his vocals are loud and clear, though certainly not comprehensible; "Bremen Nacht" hints at some sort of run in with a ghost in Germany, "Athlete Cured," with its Spinal Tap-borrowed riff, tells of a "German athletic star" made ill from unusual circumstances -- the narrative turns strange, then funny until wandering off, a classic Smith tactic. Their cover of the Kinks' "Victoria" marked the Fall's first entry into the British charts, but also fit in with Smith's continuing explorations of Britain's history and how it translates into issues of class identity. The album contains their other two singles from this time -- "Hit the North" and a cover of R. Dean Taylor's "There's a Ghost in My House," which the group makes their own -- plus several B-sides.
The Fall - The Frenz Experiment (flac 324mb)
01 Frenz 3:29
02 Carry Bag Man 4:26
03 Get A Hotel 4:38
04 Victoria 2:46
05 Athlete Cured 5:52
06 In These Times 3:26
07 The Steak Place 3:57
08 Bremen Nacht Alternative 9:19
09 Guest Informant Excerpt 0:40
10 Oswald Defence Lawyer 6:00
11 Bremen Nacht Run Out 4:44
12 Mark'll Sink Us 4:22
The Fall - The Frenz Experiment (ogg 124mb)
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The last thing most Fall fans expected the group to do in 1988 was provide music for a ballet, but in fact this is what they did. Of course, it helped that the Michael Clark company of dancers were some of the most avant-garde at the time in Britain and were inspired originally by the Fall's "Hey! Luciani" single. The concept, very loosely, centers around William and Mary of Orange, and finds Smith arranging William Blake's "Jerusalem" for the band, adding his own lyrics ("It was the fault of the government," providing ironic contrast to the self-sufficiency espoused in Blake). As a cohesive Fall album it fails: The strongest tracks are those that have little to do with the ballet (and are available elsewhere). "New Big Prinz" updates their own "Hip Priest" into one of their heaviest tracks, full of threat and wonder. "Cab It Up!" features all forward momentum and jingling keyboards. For the first time tracks felt like filler, and indeed they were. The booklet contains photographs from the performance full of giant pop-art hamburgers and cans of baked beans, suggesting I Am Kurios Oranj would have been more interesting to see than hear.
The Fall - I Am Kurious Oranj (flac 488mb)
01 New Big Prinz 3:26
02 Overture from 'I Am Curious, Orange 2:48
03 Dog Is Life/Jerusalem 8:54
04 Kurious Oranj 6:19
05 Wrong Place, Right Time 2:52
06 C.D. Win Fall 2088 AD 4:43
07 Yes, Oh Yes 3:24
08 Van Plague ? 4:54
09 Bad News Girl 5:20
10 Cab It Up 4:55
11 Last Nacht" (excerpt) 1:05
12 Dog Is Life / Jerusalem (vinyl mix) 7:24
13 Wrong Place, Right Time (vinyl mix) 2:45
14 Guide Me Soft 2:17
15 Win Fall C.D. 2080 (vinyl mix) 2:44
16 Yes, O Yes (vinyl mix) 3:23
17 Last Nacht 3:56
18 Big New Priest 3:08
The Fall - I Am Kurious Oranj (ogg 171mb)
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