The Fall | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Fall 

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For better or worse, most bands that have been around for a quarter century attain a certain level of stability. But the only consistent thing about the Fall, who played their first gig 26 years ago in Manchester, England, is vocalist Mark E. Smith. Backed by a revolving crew of musicians, he sneers, snarls, and occasionally sings his way through dense, fractured tangles of verbiage that simultaneously impart horror and hilarity without ever lapsing into coherence. The Fall's early-80s recordings, like Grotesque and Hex Enduction Hour, with their barbed guitar lines and square-wheeled grooves, are postpunk classics. Pavement blatantly emulated them on Slanted & Enchanted in 1992, and these days everyone's doing it (cf Ikara Colt or the Thermals). But Smith's got no time for sacred cows, even when he's the beef, and recent Fall records are a far cry from their lo-fi forebears. Nowadays they mash together all kinds of dissimilar elements: cassette recordings and digital mixes, slick synths and garagey guitars, monstrous programmed beats and jaunty rockabilly rhythms. The Fall are hardly a sure thing live--in the middle of one particularly disastrous gig in 1998 most of the band walked off the stage and never came back on. But early reports from this tour are promising; not only have they actually made it over to the U.S. (the last couple tours fell victim to visa trouble), they're playing well and even pulling out vintage chestnuts like "I Am Damo Suzuki" and "Mere Pseud Mag. Ed." TV on the Radio opens. Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600.

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