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The Fall

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My favorite description of Mark E. Smith, the lead voice and sole consistent member of the Fall, was written in some British music paper more than a decade ago. It said that he chased the English language through a thesaurus with an ax, and while today's Fall doesn't sound much like the scratchy ultraprimitive rabble that debuted 17 years ago in Manchester, the description still stands. Smith's use and abuse of language is more than a little eccentric; he sneers, stresses, elongates, clips, and otherwise distorts phrases, words, and syllables with malevolent glee, and his lyrics obliterate the border between lacerating wit and cranky misanthropy. Early Fall wrote the blueprint for Pavement's Slanted & Enchanted album when Steve Malkmus and Spiral Stairs were still in junior high; the Fall's new album, Middle Class Revolt (Matador), meshes techno beats, rockabilly rhythms, buzzing kazoos, and longtime bass guitarist Paul Hanley's crudely implacable rumble into a sound that is simultaneously slick and raw. As front men go, Smith sets a high standard for audience disregard; like the late Miles Davis, he often performs with his back to the crowd, the better to conduct his band. There's not a year that the Fall's lineup doesn't change; sometimes members return after many years off, and part of what makes their shows interesting year after year is seeing who's playing. In an especially surprising move, Smith's guitar-playing ex-wife Brix Smith has rejoined the band after a five-year absence. Magnapop opens. Friday, 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

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