CULTURE

Post-millennium post-punk

Two leading British post-punk bands which are still active two decades on – The Fall and Echo and the Bunnymen – will be in Greece for shows in Athens and Thessaloniki this week. Manchester band The Fall open their visit with a show in Athens at the Gagarin club this Friday followed by a second performance the following evening in Thessaloniki at the Mylos club. Echo and the Bunnymen, hailing from Liverpool, will play their first of two shows in Thessaloniki, at the Ydrogeios club this Saturday, with a second show in Athens on Sunday at Club 22. Throughout their extensive course, The Fall’s line-up has been fluid with controversial frontman Mark E. Smith constantly at the helm. Besides having worked up one storm after another with his long list of musical associates since forming The Fall in the mid-1970s, Smith has also run into considerable trouble with the music press. Both revered and hated, the tempestuous figure has garnered a variety of comments, from «despicable drunkard» and «journalist’s worst nightmare» to «working-class hero.» There has been plenty of turmoil, but Smith has remained unperturbed as suggested by the death-defying course of his band, which, after so much, is more of a lifetime’s commitment than simply a band. There have been 24 studio albums to date, including last October’s highly rated «Fall Heads Roll.» Time has produced friends and foes, even demanding expectations from the band’s legion of hard-core fans. One of those was the late British radio producer John Peel, who passed away last year to leave behind an enormous musical legacy. The observant Peel, working mostly through his BBC Radio 1 show, helped countless cutting-edge artists see the light of day, or some light of day, including The Fall. Rating The Fall as one of his all-time favorite acts, Peel once described the band as «always different, always the same.» Smith, himself, has said: «I can only prepare the meal. It’s up to you how you eat it.» The Fall established a distinctive style based on Smith’s snarling, sometimes incomprehensible vocals and bitter cynicism, as well as a fair dose of humor. During the band’s earlier years, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Fall were at their most abrasive and atonal. But a stronger sense of pop melody was ushered into the act’s overall sound by the mid-1980s, when Smith’s then-wife Brix joined the band as a guitarist. Prior to forming The Fall, Smith, who had worked on the docks in Manchester, made several unsuccessful auditions to join local heavy metal outfits. He eventually found several similarly inclined musicians and formed the first of many line-ups of his band, named after the Albert Camus novel. If there was any musical guideline for the post-punk band, it may have come from the experimental rock’n’roll of the Velvet Underground, or the avant-garde rock of German group Can, both repeatedly cited by Smith as his favorite bands. Smith’s current line-up of The Fall includes the frontman’s Greek wife, Eleni Poulou-Smith on keyboards and backing vocals, as well as Ben Prichard on guitars, Steven Trafford on bass and Spencer Birtwhistle on drums. Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen, who surfaced in the late 1970s as one of the finer additions to the UK’s gloomy sounding post-punk circuit, had stopped working as a band in the late 1980s. It appeared that their run had come to an end, but the core duo of singer Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant regrouped for a comeback album in 1997, «Evergreen.» It has been followed by several more, including «Siberia,» an effort released late last year which ranks as one of the band’s finest works to date.