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Shift Work

The Fall

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Album Review

Shift-Work marked the sophomore effort from a new Brix-less Fall and is a slightly more subdued effort than the raging Extricate. It also marked a new direction for Mark E. Smith and the band as what once was repetitious grooves became interspersed with pop song structures. Don't worry, the classic riffage is still here in "The War Against Intelligence," "Idiot Joy Showland," and "So What About It." But there does seem to be a softening of Smith, albeit slightly. He still rails against foolish pop stars, mass media, and the spawn of the Manchester scene (side two is headed "Notebooks Out Plagiarists") but also here are paeons to Edinburgh ("Edinburgh Man," surprisingly malice-free), social observation ("Shift Work" looks at a modern marriage and is more wistful than angry), and an electronics and violin led portrait of a DJ ("The Mixer"). Probably what's most surprising is that in retrospect most of this works, although it begins to run out of steam near the end. There are hooks and melodies here, and the group ineffably remain the Fall. The following year's Code: Selfish would return to a much harder sound, leaving this a melancholic, introspective album. [The 2007 two-CD reissue includes 16 bonus cuts.]

Biography

Formed: 1977 in Manchester, England

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Out of all the late-'70s punk and post-punk bands, none were longer lived or more prolific than the Fall. Throughout their career, the band underwent myriad lineup changes, but at the center of it all was vocalist Mark E. Smith. With his snarling, nearly incomprehensible vocals and consuming, bitter cynicism, Smith became a cult legend in indie and alternative rock. Over the course of their career, the Fall went through a number of shifts in musical style, yet the foundation of their sound was a...
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