The Fall is an incredible band. To date, they have recorded 30 LPs. The band formed in 1976 in Greater Manchester- a city in Northwest England. There have been many lineup changes through the years, but Mark E. Smith has always been the band vocalist throughout the many decades of the bands existence. My personal favorite recordings are from their first release in 1979 throughout the mid 1980s.
The Fall released their first LP “Live at the Witch Trials” in 1979, and the most recent LP “Re-Mit” in 2013. The first LP is an interesting recording- some of my favorite songs are on it, but I have to admit, as a drummer, I’m not a fan of how the drums are mixed. The snare is dull and a bit too prominent in the mix. There are classic greats on this release- in my opinion the best tracks are “Rebellious Jukebox,” “Futures and Pasts” and “Frightened.” Another highlight on this record is a brief interlude which is the namesake of the record- “Live at the Witch Trials” created by vocals and guitar.
Chronologically speaking, the next Fall record I have is “Grotesque” which has a more balanced mix of the instruments. The drums are more integrated with the rest of the instruments and the snare sounds a bit more punchy (though still a bit dull and out of tune), but I like them for this recording. Overall, the drum beats are very danceable, and have an almost marching band like quality to it. This record alternates between fast punchiness and slower dissonance. This record epitomizes the sound The Fall is known for. The vocals are heavily stylistic- a collage of spoken word with erratic shrieks and yelps. The song “New Face in Hell” even features a kazoo, which gives the song a weird birthday party like effect; as in the event, not the band; though it is clear that the band “The Birthday Party” was influenced by The Fall.
Probably their record I have listened to the most over the years is “Nation’s Saving Grace.” The whole record is simply spectacular. I think the production and mix of the instruments is my favorite- it feels balanced, there is a really interesting echo effect on the vocals, and also includes Brix Smith Smart (who was married to Mark at the time). My two favorite Fall songs are on this record including “I am Damo Suzuki” and “L.A.” “I am Damo Suzuki” is a song dedicated to the singer of the band “Can.” The last song “L.A.” is very minimal, and combined with the lyric “this is my happening and it freaks me out”- taken from “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” – seems to really capture a sense of what L.A. might have been like in the 1980’s. The song also pans sounds from left to right in a way that draws you in. It’s a rare type of creepy which works really well- especially as the closer for the whole record.
I listened to Fall records when I was learning to play the drums because they really have inspired drummers playing on these records. There are really great beats to learn and play along with. But these records are overall just so inspired- they have a sound that was really unique and surprising for their time, and they continue to hold up as rare gems of ingenuity and talent. The most recent release I purchased was “The Real New Fall” which came out ten years ago, and while I did listen to it, it just didn’t captivate my attention like their 1980’s releases, so I haven’t followed their music in the last decade. But, I continue to go back to their earlier releases. I still consider them to be one of the most influential bands in the “arty” realm of punk records.