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Alternative & Indie - Released January 17, 2005 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released June 10, 2016 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released April 19, 1993 | Cherry Red Records

Returning to the indie label world with a bang, the Fall unleashed a winner and a half with Infotainment Scan, one of the band's most playful yet sharp-edged releases. The choice of covers alone gives a sense of where Smith's head was at -- tackling Lee Perry's "Why Are People Grudgeful?" is one tall order to start with, while a cover of the novelty tripe "I'm Going to Spain" is just silly fun (even if the guitar does sound like early Cure!). Even more astounding, though, is what the band does to the Sister Sledge disco classic "Lost in Music" -- nobody will ever mistake Smith's singing for that of the threesome, but the band's overall performance is an honest-to-god tribute to the tight but full Chic Organization sound. Craig Scanlon throws in some scratchy work around the edges, but otherwise the group takes it as it is and does a great job. As for the originals, Smith and crew are in fine form once again, Scanlon, Steve Hanley, Dave Bush, and Simon Wolstencroft once again a dynamic, inventive unit. After the explicitly techno nods of the recent past, Infotainment balances that off with more straight-ahead rock, though with Wolstencroft's strong, sharp drumming still setting a brisk, danceable pace while Scanlon whips up his usual brand of tight, memorable riffing and Bush adds subtle textures and catchy melodies. One of the best numbers is the explicitly Gary Glitter-styled romp "Glam-Racket," a great shout-along, while the beat-crazy "A Past Gone Mad" wins for this line alone: "And if I ever end up like U2/slit my throat with a garden vegetable." "The League of Bald Headed Men" also deserves note, as does another strong motorik-inspired number, "It's a Curse." Best song title of the bunch? "Paranoia Man in Cheap Shit Room," with a high-strung and aggressive arrangement to boot. ~ Ned Raggett
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Alternative & Indie - Released April 10, 1995 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released August 7, 1995 | Cherry Red Records

The follow-up to Cerebral Caustic turned out as one of the strangest things the Fall had yet released, though it was also fairly prescient in terms of what would follow. A slew of incredibly random live cuts, outtakes, and other otherwise unreleased material from throughout the first half of the 1990s, Twenty Seven Points (actually 28 tracks long) is first and foremost a catchall. There's no sense of any particular order or overriding theme -- the liner notes are fragmentary at best -- but for all that there's some good stuff to be had on a generally up-and-down release. Compared to the slew of similar live/demo/whatever collections that would appear with numbing regularity and much less quality over the next few years, meanwhile, Twenty Seven Points is practically essential. Smith himself presumably compiled the contents with an eye towards perversity, which explains the truncated version of "Idiot Joy Showland" that ends after 40 seconds, Smith promising a quick return to the stage. Even crazier is "Glam Racket/Star," which ends up splicing together two different versions of the song (one with Brix, one without) from separate shows. As for straightforward performances, happily, there are plenty to choose from. From the first disc, "Ladybird (Green Grass)" could use a touch clearer sound but runs its motorik-inspired chug quite well, while "The Joke," when it gets started, turns into a sharp, crisp rocker. On the second disc, studio cut "Cloud of Black" creates some murky dance atmosphere; a rough cover of "Strychnine" is another treat. There are spoken word pieces of collected insults and dressing downs, conversations about Frank Zappa books, sudden cuts between tracks, and all sorts of other demolitions of typical live album experiences. It's not necessarily a deathless record, but it's still more of a treat than might be guessed. ~ Ned Raggett
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Rock - Released November 1, 2019 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 4, 2018 | Cherry Red Records

The late '90s were tumultuous years for the Fall. Several long-term members of the band were fired or quit, and the group played some of the most disastrous gigs of its entire career. Levitate, the band's 1997 full-length, ended up being the final album to feature bassist Steve Hanley (who had been in the Fall since the '70s) as well as drummers Karl Burns and Simon Wolstencroft, and it wound up being produced by leader Mark E. Smith himself after producers Keir Stewart and Simon Spencer quit a week into the recording sessions, taking most of their session tapes with them. The result is easily one of the weirdest, most scattered releases in the entire Fall catalog, and one that has always proven to be divisive with fans and critics. The accessibility and pop hooks of the group's '80s run have all but vanished, and Smith's vocals are rough and loud in the mix, sounding like he's shouting directly at you rather than singing. The songs themselves are a haphazard mess of junky breakbeats (somewhat resembling drum'n'bass, especially on opener "Ten Houses of Eve"), abrasive guitars, and smeared, squirming electronics courtesy of Julia Nagle, who played a crucial role in the group during this era. As on 1990's Extricate, the Fall flirt with dance music on many of these tracks, but as wonderful as songs like the single "Masquerade" are, they're only likely to confuse ravers. The same can be said for "4½ Inch" (apparently a nod to Nine Inch Nails), a barrage of smushed breakbeats and multiple Marks yelling about a house on fire. Perhaps the most outright fun moment on the album is "I'm a Mummy," a rocked-up cover of a hilarious 1959 novelty tune by Bob McFadden & Dor (the latter being a pseudonym for Rod McKuen). It loses the punch line of the original, which was a playful jab at the beatnik generation, but the Fall make the song their own. They also cover Hank Mizell's 1958 rockabilly single "Jungle Rock," presumably as a play on the musical genre known as jungle, but it's a very sideways interpretation of the genre; the drums are too slow and basic, and there's not enough bass. Of course, comparing the Fall to any trends or styles of music is entirely beside the point. They always existed on their own terms (or more accurately, Smith's own terms), and the confounding Levitate stands as one of the purest examples of their creative freedom. Although it's undoubtedly going to sound off-putting to anyone who isn't familiar with the band already, it's certainly worth hearing if you're already a fan. ~ Paul Simpson
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Rock - Released November 1, 2019 | Cherry Red Records

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Rock - Released November 1, 2019 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released March 11, 2016 | Cherry Red Records

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 6, 2013 | Cherry Red Records

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