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"The Fall are always different but always the same" - John Peel.
The Fall were formed in Manchester during the Punk era, although their style quickly evolved into something more idiosyncratic.
The one permanent fixture amidst the Fall's ever-changing line-up is Mark E. Smith, whose singing and lyrics portray a surreally skewed version of Northern English life. Characters feature strongly in his work and his delivery reflects their frustrations.
Smith's singing can put off some people, but others find it to a uniquely expressive instrument. Smith is not a conventionally great vocalist, but his keen sense of rhythm and attack more than compensate for this shortcoming. Perhaps his most distinctive trait is an explosive syllable added after some words, such as in his delivery of a lyric from "Free Range": "This is the spring-uh without end-uh" (Smith himself has expressed annoyance with being picked-on for his Manchester accent.)
The music changes depending on the line-up at a given time. However, generally, the bass features prominently, and draws on 60's Garage and the German group Can. Often there are primitive keyboards thrown into the mix and in later years, the use of tape technology is more to the fore.
They are also noted as favourites of DJ John Peel, recording 24 sessions for him over the years.
The Fall's back catalogue is very fragmented with a seemingly endless number of compilations and semi-official live albums. Currently there are a series of high quality expanded editions of their albums with bonus tracks and informative sleeve notes being released by Castle.
The Guardian recently published an entertaining account of a journalist's attempt to track down all 43 former members of The Fall. Many previous members have been fired, often with little or no notice. When discussing band sackings, Mark E. Smith said "If it's me and your granny on bongos, then it's a Fall gig!".
Key Albums include:
# Live At the Witch Trials (debut)
# Grotesque (after the Gramme)
# Hex Enduction Hour
# This Nation's Saving Grace
# Bend Sinister
# The Infotainment Scan
# Country on the Click
# Fall Heads Roll (latest)
# 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong: 39 Golden Greats
# The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004
# Totally Wired: The Rough Trade Anthology (disc 1) and Totally Wired: The Rough Trade Anthology (disc 2)
# 458489 A-Sides
# 458489 B-Sides
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