The Fall: The Singles 1978 – 2016

When The Fall released New Facts Emerge in 2016, it was their 32nd studio album. They’ve been putting out their own unique brand of intelligent, funny, abrasive, peculiar punk at a prodigious rate since 1978.

Except of course The Fall isn’t a band. Not really. It’s witty, cryptic, antagonistic frontman and only consistent member Mark E Smith, plus an ever changing cast of musicians – dozens of them over the years. Some have been more notable and influential on the group’s sound than others. He married some of them. He sacked a whole lot of others – some of them on stage, mid set.

And really, the term punk doesn’t fit them either. They started as ‘post-punk’ in 1976, but they’ve appropriated just about every other genre you can think of during their career, chewed them up and spat out something completely distinctive that can’t quite be categorized except as being ‘by The Fall’.

So a retrospective on this amorphous beast of a band, with no definable sound and a constant stream of releases spanning five decades is a tough ask.

It’s been tried before, many times, usually unsatisfactorily. A new CD release from Cherry Red Records attempts to right this wrong by showcasing the band via their singles – all 51 of them, over three CDs. The deluxe version has all the B-Sides too and runs to seven discs and 116 tracks!

It’s a stunning collection from Britain’s ultimate, longstanding cult band. The Fall has never stopped evolving, through kaleidoscopic line-up changes, genre experimentation and more than 40 years of existence. The only constants are the quality of the music and the presence of Mr Mark Edward Smith.

The seven disc collection, The Fall: The Singles 1978-2016 is released on Friday 24th November, with the three disc collection, The Fall: A-Sides 1978-2016 released the same day, both through Cherry Red Records.

Here are some highlights for the uninitiated – one from each of the five decades of The Fall’s lifespan to date and a couple of B-sides besides.

Rowche Rumble (1979)

Dizzying, claustrophobic commentary on the hypocrisy of the pharmaceutical industry. Borrows the riff from The Stooges’ Shake Appeal.

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The Man Whose Head Expanded (1983)

In Mark E Smith’s own words – “It’s about this fellow who’s been fucked up by too much misinformation posing as real information”. MES, the prophet, predicting fake news in 1983!

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Free Range (1992)

Upbeat pop song covering Nietzsche, the Nazis and the fall of the iron curtain. “This is the spring without end, This is the summer of malcontent, This is the winter of your mind”.

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Theme From Sparta F.C. (2004)

Adrenalized anthem for a (fictional) Greek football club, with football chant chorus – “We live on blood, We are Sparta F.C.”.

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The Remainderer (2013)

Guttural, wounded animal raging at bands who reform to milk the nostalgia around their back catalogue – “Never forget, Rememberance is worth nothing”.

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I’m Into C.B. (1982, B-Side to Look, Know)

Clanging, repetitive, unsettling ode to an amateur radio enthusiast – (“My family’s a weird lot, My stepsister’s got a horrible growth”).

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I Wake Up In The City (2005, B-Side to Distilled Mug Art)

Lo-fi, garage-punk, poetry.

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Nick Perry

Nick writes fact, fiction and opinion in various places including
his music blog noisecrumbs.com. His musical tastes cover indie, grunge, golden-era hip hop, punk, funk, psychedelia and a big portion of distortion. You can and should follow him on Twitter @NoiseCrumbs.

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