We thought we’d celebrate the late, great Mark E. Smith’s birthday by pulling together a list of his 10 greatest albums with The Fall. By doing so it has confirmed everything we once thought about the punk provocateur—the man was a genius of spirit.
With the iconic Manchester post-punk outfit, Smith carved himself a legendary career famed for his foul-mouth and the razor-sharp tongue it housed, the singer soon became synonymous with a forgotten edge of rock and roll.
There was nothing media-friendly about Smith. Often heralded as the dictator at the centre of The Fall, Smith’s creative process was one of barbed intention and hazardous execution. He scowled as well as he snarled but in doing so created one of the finest points of the cutting edge of music.
Across a 42 year career the band, who formed in Prestwich, Manchester, went through an incredible amount of different members during their existence but one constant remained; Mark E. Smith. It amounted to the group putting out 31 studio albums to their adoring audience.
Their music with its repetitive abrasive guitar, the muscular and tense bass lines and of course, Smith’s acidic lyrics, would inspire countless acts. And while the band never enjoyed widespread commercial success, The Fall remains one of the few pure things left in rock and roll. Pure fucking filth.
Below find The Fall’s 10 greatest albums of all time as picked by Far Out staff.
10. The Real New Fall Album (Formerly Country on the Click)
A later-period Fall album was always likely to miss the intensity mark that the band had set in their early days. But if The Real New Fall Album shows anything it is that Mark E. Smith was not out of ideas. It saw Smith take the band toward more electronic spheres as well as heavy-rock riffs.
9. The Infotainment Scan
1993 saw The Fall move into the pop arena as it broke into the Top 10 UK albums chart, in large part to one song on the record. The song in question was a cover of the 1979 disco gem, Sister Sledge ‘Lost In Music’, originally written by Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards.
Listening to the great Mark E. Smith snarling rendition of the nightclub anthem you start to notice that The Fall’s rhythm is undeniable.
8. Perverted by Language
The arrival of Brix Smith to the band was not only a personal relationship that quelled the squawking Mark for a few moments but also saw The Fall move toward the charts.
Much of this record, released in 1983, is without her candy touch but the sirenic vocals on ‘Hotel Bloedel’ offered a brief view of the angelic talent that lay ahead.
7. Slates/A Part of America Therein
Yes, yes, we hear your cries of foul play. While Slates is technically an EP it features some of Mark E. Smith’s most potent moments on record. Namely, ‘Leave the Capitol’ which was cemented on the end of side two, ready to sink rock and roll for years to come.
It’s the kind of song that not only powered through the airwaves in 1981 but influenced countless artists throughout the years.
6. Grotesque (After the Gramme)
The first record to come from their brilliant relationship with Rough Trade record label, Grotesque (After the Gramme) saw the band pursue a purer sound with the help of label founder Geoff Travis.
Notable moments of the album highlighted their fiery heart with ‘The N.W.R.A’, ‘New Face In Hell’ and ‘Impression of J. Temperance’ all inspiring in their own right.
5. The Wonderful and Frightening World Of…
This is the moment The Fall put on weight. The group were suddenly in the heavy-rock sphere and had been Americanised with an oddball twist.
The songs ‘Lay of the Land’, ‘C.R.E.E.P.’ and ‘Craigness’ offered the rare chance for a Fall sing-a-long and the record soars because of it. It provides a Fall album unlike any other
You can gather all you need to know about The Fall’s sophomore 1979 record Dragnet from the stark and confronting album sleeve. It was an album that welcomed new members Craig Scanton and Steve Hanley and highlighted some of Smith’s darkest points.
Two tracks, in particular, showcased the singer’s powerful attitude on ‘Muzorewi’s Daughter’ and ‘Spectre vs. Rector’, may well be two of the band’s greatest songs.
3. Live at the Witch Trials
24 hours to create one of the most influential debut records of all time is a tight turnaround by anyone’s standards but The Fall handled it with a breathless pace. Though the record does suffer from a touch of sloppiness, it is in this album that The Fall stamped their authority on the punk scene and highlighted the future that they lay ahead.
The band were bristling with ideas and weren’t afraid to throw them at you as you went.
2. Hex Enduction Hour
As soon as the spring action of opener ‘The Classical’ smashed through the speakers of your stereo you were sure that this, Hex Enduction Hour, the fourth record from The Fall, was the moment the band certified their sound.
With two drummers working alongside one another, the record boomed across the airwaves and provided some of the most engaging moments of the band’s career. The record even featured ‘Hip Priest’, a track which eventually found a home in Jonathan Demme’s horror film Silence of the Lambs.
1. This Nation’s Saving Grace
Here we are, the finest album The Fall ever created, This Nation’s Saving Grace. The album highlighted everything that was great and good about The Fall. Whether it was Brix Smith’s iconic video for ‘L.A.’ and the guttural bassline that rings out is a precursor to the future sound that would dominate the ‘90s alternative scene.
Meanwhile, Mark E. Smith is again at the frontline of confrontation and expression, marrying the two with effortless guile and slamming it across your face as the double-handed punch it always was.