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The Fall

The Fall is also the English title of a novel, La Chute by Albert Camus.

Formed in Manchester in 1976 at the height of punk rock's rise, but never quite fitting into that movement or its post-punk/new wave offshoots, The Fall have continued for a quarter of a century to produce unpredictable and challenging music, varying richly in both character and quality, the abrasive lyrics and half-droned, half-ranted vocals of frontman Mark E. Smith providing the one constant note through a bewildering succession of personnel changes.

From their first lineup of Smith, Martin Bramah (guitar), Tony Friel (bass), Una Baines (keyboards) and Karl Burns (drums) onward, the group produced a sound quite unlike anything else playing in the run-down dancehalls of northern England's new wave scene, drawing sometimes violent reactions from hardcore fans of uncomplicated punk guitar thrash. Their EP Bingo-Master's Break-out (1978), already minus Friel, and debut album Live at the Witch Trials (1979, and not, incidentally, a live album), now without Baines too, served up a caustic mix of belligerently provincial urban paranoia and scorn for cultural norms, atop a deceptively sophisticated musical arrangement.

With Craig Scanlon and recent bassist Marc Riley on guitar, Steve Hanley on bass and Mike Leigh on drums (subsequently to be replaced by Paul Hanley and then a two-drummer lineup with a returned Burns), late 1979's L.P. Dragnet signalled a sparser, still more jagged feel, which was to fill out into a more grinding, industrial sound though Grotesque (1980), the 10-inch Slates (1981), Hex Enduction Hour (1982) and Room to Live (1982).

The autumn of 1983 heralded another dramatic change, this time to a more accessible sound, with the arrival of Smith's U.S. girlfriend and later wife, Californian bassist Brix Smith, as guitarist alongside Scanlon, giving the group their nearest approach to hit-single stardom as well as the highly acclaimed albums Perverted By Language (1983), The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall (1984), This Nation's Saving Grace (1985), the underrated Bend Sinister (1986), the less memorable The Frenz Experiment (1988) and I Am Kurious, Oranj (the fruit of a ballet project between Smith and dancer Michael Clark[?]), with Simon Rogers and later Marcia Williams on keyboards and Simon Wolstencroft on drums.

With Brix's departure in 1989, Bramah returned briefly for 1990's successful Extricate, leaving with Williams in advance of 1991's Shift-Work, widely considered among fans to be the group's weakest outing, yet paradoxically their highest-placed in the U.K. album charts. With Dave Bush joining on keyboards, 1992's Code: Selfish saw a welcome return to the group's unpredictable ways, followed by The Infotainment Scan (1993), Middle Class Revolt (1994) and Cerebral Caustic (1995).

With Bush gone and Scanlon sacked after 16 years (a decision later regretted by Smith), 1996 saw Brix's brief return and the arrival on keyboards, guitars and computers of Julia Nagle for The Light User Syndrome. The group was temporarily reduced to Smith and Nagle when a disastrous U.S. tour ended in the departure (April 1998) of Steve Hanley (bassist for 19 years), Burns (back for a final spell on drums) and guitarist Tommy Crooks, following a violent on-stage row with a drunken Smith.

From this nadir, the Fall achieved another comeback with Smith and Nagle being joined by Neville Wilding on guitar, Karen Leatham and later Adam Halal on bass, and Tom Head on drums for the acclaimed albums The Marshall Suite (1999) and The Unutterable (2000). Further rifts followed in 2001, the new lineup of Smith, Ben Pritchard (guitar), Jim Watts (bass) and Spencer Birtwistle (drums) releasing Are You Are Missing Winner to mixed reviews.

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