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MARK. E. SMITH,
1957-2018

Mark E. Smith, the prolific and caustic mastermind of the post-punk band The Fall, died Wednesday morning at his home. He was 60.

No cause of death has been given but Smith had to cancel tour dates last year due to medical issues related to his throat, mouth and respiratory system. Pamela Vander, the band’s manager, wrote that a “more detailed statement will follow in the next few days.”

The Fall’s EP Bingo-Master’s Break Out! came out in 1978 and over nearly four decades, Smith would release 32 studio albums and multiple EPs and live discs with a rotating cast of musicians. Last year saw the release of New Facts Emerge on Cherry Red, The Fall’s fourth album for the label.

The Fall’s sound was abrasive and often atonal, a garage-brewed form of art rock inspired by the likes of The Velvet Underground and Can. Smith used talk-sung shouts that were often slurred on lyrics that could be nonsensical or diatribes against the British class system; this is a man who gave up his job as a shipping clerk on the Manchester docks after seeing The Sex Pistols in 1976.

While they had no chart hits in the U.S., their influence can be felt in acts such as Pavement, Sonic Youth and The Meat Puppets. Smith also worked with musicians he inspired, Gorillaz and Elastica among them.

In 1983, after meeting then marrying Brix Smith, The Fall’s music became more melodic as Brix joined in on the songwriting. Beggar’s Banquet signed the band and released four of their most accessible albums, starting with The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall. They even had singles crack the Top 40 in the U.K.: “There’s a Ghost in My House” in 1986 and a cover of The Kinks’ “Victoria” two years later.

The two divorced in 1989 and after she left the band, The Fall returned to a darker, less formal sound.

Late last year, Smith returned to performing, but in a wheelchair.

 

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