Although some of the band’s albums reached the British Top 40, the Fall did not seek pop acceptance. A well-chosen 2004 compilation album was titled “50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong.”
But the astringent sound and attitude of the Fall’s early albums, with bottom-scraping bass lines under clattery, unswerving drumbeats and dissonant guitar, became a cornerstone of post-punk, echoing through bands like Sonic Youth, Pavement and Protomartyr. And the Fall found and built a loyal audience that welcomed the music’s corrosive intent while it parsed the spite, mockery, allusions and non sequiturs in Mr. Smith’s lyrics.
On Twitter, Cedric Bixler-Zavala of the Texas post-punk band At the Drive-In called Mr. Smith “one of the pillars of influence for me as lyricist and troublemaker.”
Through the Fall’s studio albums and an avalanche of live recordings, the band’s style changed often, as Mr. Smith, its founder and only constant, hired and often fired more than five dozen musicians.
At various points in the band’s four-decade career, the Fall might sound like punk, hard rock, psychedelia, funk, blues-rock, jazz-rock, electropop or sheer noise. “If it’s me and your granny on bongos, it’s the Fall,” Mr. Smith once declared. The BBC disc jockey John Peel, an early and steadfast supporter, said of the Fall that “they are always different, they are always the same.”
Through it all, Mr. Smith maintained his role as a brain-twisting wordsmith, a contentious bandleader and a perpetual irritant. In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, he boasted: “People still cross the road from me; I’ve still got that. I can clear a pub when I want to. It’s a talent.”
Mark Edward Smith was born in Salford, near Manchester, on March 5, 1957, and grew up in nearby Prestwich. After dropping out of school at 16, he was working as a shipping clerk and studying literature at night school when he saw the Sex Pistols in a sparsely attended show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester. He soon started his own band with friends. The Fall was named after an Albert Camus novel.
“When I formed the group,” Mr. Smith wrote in his 2008 autobiography, “Renegade: The Lives and Tales of Mark E. Smith,” “it was because of sounds; of wanting to make something; combining primitive music with intelligent lyrics.”
The Fall released its first EP, “Bingo-Master’s Break-Out!,” in 1978, and its debut album, “Live at the Witch Trials,” in 1979. Manchester was a center of post-punk innovation at the turn of the 1980s, with bands like Joy Division, the Durutti Column and the Smiths. But the Fall — although less popular and more abrasive — would outlast them all.
The Fall’s closest approach to the rock mainstream, with songs featuring clear-cut beats, riffs and choruses, came in the 1980s, when the band’s guitarists (and Mr. Smith’s songwriting collaborators) were Craig Scanlon, who was in the Fall from 1979 to 1995, and Brix Smith, who was Mr. Smith’s wife from 1983 to 1989, her initial tenure with the band, and rejoined for two 1990s albums.
Her departure was followed by decades of fluctuations in the band’s music, by turns obnoxious and illuminating. Mr. Smith also recorded outside the Fall with Gorillaz and Elastica, and he made an album in 2007 with the German electronic duo Mouse on Mars under the group name Von Südenfed.
The Fall toured constantly through its four decades, playing sets that could be spellbinding or desultory. A notorious 1998 performance at Brownie’s in the East Village included fistfights among the musicians.
For the Fall’s final half-dozen albums, the lineup remained largely stable. From 2002 to 2016 the band included Elena Poulou, whom Mr. Smith married in 2001, on keyboards. They divorced in 2016.
In addition to Ms. Vander, Mr. Smith is survived by his mother, Irene, and three sisters, Caroline, Barbara and Susanne.
Mr. Smith garnered multiple reputations: as a drinker and a brawler, as a contrarian and an insult-slinger (particularly against politicians, institutions and other musicians), and as an artist and an experimenter. In concert, he disdained looking back or playing longtime fan favorites. The Fall’s live sets usually drew only on the band’s most recent recordings and even newer songs.
In his autobiography, Mr. Smith put it bluntly: “The Fall are about the present, and that’s it.”