The Fall is part of that triumvirate of early '80s post-punk English bands (including Wire and Gang of Four) who've proved endlessly influential to generation after generation of collegiate coffee-shop rockers. While Wire and Gang of Four have finished dissertations, birthed future Ph.D. candidates, and periodically reunited for art-gallery openings, Fall leader Mark E. Smith has gone down to the pub and gotten completely hammered every night for the last 20 years. For dogged determination, the sheer amount of liver-defying excess surpasses even that of Shane MacGowan and Keith Richards. Yet Smith survives, and he has somehow won the patience of some of the band's original members, coralling them every two years or so to release a record. More amazing still is how consistently good -- or at least interestingly worthy -- every Fall record is.
The infrequent, often disastrous tours are another story. Tales of transcendent shows are balanced with as many stories of nights when Smith decides to drink in a club that's different from the one the band is booked to play. Either way, opportunities to see the Fall are becoming increasingly rare, so take the chance.