The Fall | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Fall

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Talk of the Fall's music always seems to center on Mark-E.-Smith-as-lyricist: he writes elliptical, evocative verbiage that expresses his obvious unease with how life has to be lived in postindustrial society. But rather than indulge us with verbally explicit commentary, Smith keeps everything purposefully obscure, mumbling and free-associating his way through a series of driving, rocking vamps. This obscurantism is not a bad thing--especially for an artist whose impulses are fundamentally anarchic to begin with, who's probably just as baffled by the contemporary social predicament as anyone, and who knows he's a musician, not a pamphleteer. It's certainly nothing new, either; Smith would have fit right in at Zurich's Cabaret Voltaure in about 1916. At a time when the control of information looks more and more like the crucial issue, the Fall rub our faces in our own paranoia, showering us with broken, disjointed shards of contemporary political vocabulary and surreal imagery, wrapped in a constantly shifting curtain of rhythm. Lots of bands are doing this nowadays, of course, though few as effectively--and many imitators are gracious enough to acknowledge their debt to Smith, who had already embarked on this course back in the late 70s. On the evidence of the latest Fall album, The Infotainment Scam, he's still at it, sounding a bit more relaxed but also more focused than in the past. Smith's apparent relative indifference to the notion of "alternative" pop stardom has enabled him to pursue a greater subtlety without mellowing out too much or just rotting into a parody of himself. Saturday, 10 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

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