CULTURE

The Fall to liven up Athens scene

A credible survivor of Britain’s post-punk scene, which began to sizzle around the late 1970s, The Fall seems to have outlasted most of its peers to be in a position to launch yet another tour – this time for a series of limited European dates, beginning in Athens this Saturday. But the group, whose return to the Greek capital after memorable outings in the past, promises to inject some life into an anemic local concert circuit that was seriously dampened by the post-September 11 blues – several foreign acts have either canceled or postponed visits, while others haven’t even considered traveling to one of Europe’s smallest music markets. In any event, The Fall has had to endure its own series of treacherous runs since forming back in 1976. At the center of this influential band’s recurring turmoil has been its controversial frontman, founding member Mark E. Smith, once dubbed «the grumpiest man in pop» by the British press, whose demands and peculiarities have prompted several breakups and countless personnel changes – there have been about 30 different lineups so far – for approximately as many albums. He apparently recruited his first set of musicians, telling them to «play something that sounds like the Beatles,» while, over the years, has cited only two bands as major influences, indie pioneers The Velvet Underground, and the German progressive act, Can. Regardless of his choice of musicians as a vehicle for his use of humor and horror as an attack on hypocrisy and injustice, Smith and his partners have steadily been perceived as a pack of outsiders by the mainstream. Their music has been too abrasive and dense for the regular listener. From their early days, The Fall had arrived as an incongruous lot. They lacked enough smoothness to fit in with the slick New Wave acts of the time, while the group’s warped version of musical sophistication was not in line with the chord-bashing simplicity of punk rock. This sense of remoteness stretches back to Smith’s childhood. Responding to a question about his relatively «normal» dress code, considering the bizarreness of his material, in an older interview, the quirky Smith had remarked: «Having a name like Smith makes you anonymous for the rest of your life. And it’s really good. At school, the teachers would never ask you anything – they’d look down the list and pass Smith, and they’d see some really weird name, y’know, ‘What’s this? I’ll ask him the question.’» Not surprisingly, Smith’s volatile antics, public and private, and his uncompromising determination to explore remote musical territory, have made the bandleader’s act an awkward one to market, as reflected in the list of short-lived record contracts. Life was made somewhat easier for Smith and friends after John Peel, one of the UK’s most respected and influential radio producers, began airing the band’s work on his BBC program early on. Moreover, Peel, who has named The Fall as his all-time favorite band, has frequently invited the act for radio sessions, some of which have been released on the producer’s «Peel Sessions» series. The band’s barrage of albums, one of rock’n’roll’s most prolific, began in 1977 with «Live at the Witch Trials,» a studio recording despite its misleading title. The countless albums, EPs, and singles – most of them critically acclaimed, and a fraction commercially successful – that have since followed include «Grotesque,» «Hex Enduction Hour,» «Perverted By Language,» «Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall,» and «The Frenz Experiment.» Though these albums and countless others haven’t warranted the band full-fledged exposure, its flock of faithful fans, aging and younger, have hung on with pleasure. Whether listeners have tolerated them or not, the band’s huge volume of commendable work has proven an enormous influence on the indie music scene. The Fall’s musical unpredictability, or spontaneous change of songs, is often manifested during live shows, which have led to numerous releases of live recordings over the years. Reflecting the sustained interest in the band, several hard-to-find live Fall albums have been rereleased in recent years, including «The Legendary Chaos Tape,» «Fall in a Hole,» and «Live to Air in Melbourne.» Despite public announcements that the long-lasting band has dissolved on several occasions over the past couple of years, The Fall have bounced back to release new albums, last year’s «The Unutterable,» and this year’s «Are You Are Missing Winner,» as well as a career-spanning compilation album, «Psychic Dance Hall.» The Fall play this Saturday at Club 22, at 22 Vouliagmenis Ave.