The Fall, formed in Greater Manchester in the wake of the beginnings of punk in the United Kingdom, were famously described by legendary DJ John Peel as “always different, always the same”. From their foundations in 1976, the only constant member of the group is iconoclastic lead vocalist and lyricist Mark E. Smith. His original concept for the band as encapsulating “primitive music with avant-garde lyrics” has been the driving force of their output up to the present. They have also been the self-styled “white crap that talks back”, a lyric taken from “Crap Rap 2” on their debut LP Live at the Witch Trials (1979). This chapter will look at the strange (and frightening) world of the Fall, with particular focus on aspects of their career in the late 1970s and 1980s. They are a band who, at various times in their career, have synthesised both relatively popular and unpopular forms of music (from punk and acid house to ballet and German art rock). Their lyrics are, by turns, obscure, obfuscating, literary, absurd and hilarious, making reference to a quasi-Kitchen Sink (sur)realism as well as traditional “high culture” as such (the band’s name is itself a reference to an Albert Camus novel). They seem, thus, to be a reflection of a postmodern approach to art, whereby work that transcends older cultural boundaries seeks to “penetrate the cultural Establishment by appearing to celebrate the artistic merits of popular culture, the mass market and kitsch” (Turner 77).
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- We Are White Crap That Talks Back: The Fall
- Palgrave Macmillan UK