April 4, 2008

The Fall – The Wonderful And Frightening World of The Fall

Filed under: Hype,Music — tha rhythm tha rebel @ 8:05 pm

[Beggars Banquet; 1984]

The Wonderful And Frightening World of The Fall is a somewhat hidden gem. Sandwiched between Perverted By Language and This Nation’s Saving Grace, two of The Fall’s most popular 80s releases, you could almost be forgiven for not hearing it given the albums it follows and precedes. It was to be the first of many releases with Beggars Banquet, a substantially larger label than they had been with before. This, along with the relatively new addition to the group of American post-punk popster Brix Smith, had an affect on the music. Songs became shorter, production became clearer and one or two tracks (notably C.R.E.E.P.) actually make great pop songs. Released in 1984 with different tracklistings on LP and cassette and re-issued in 1988 on CD with all the tracks from both the previous releases, Wonderful And Frightening isn’t exactly your average Fall album, but then again, what is?

As is common with Fall albums, the opener is a real stunner. “Lay of The Land” begins with dirty distorted guitar and Mark E. Smith mumbling something in a deep voice and then BLAM the rockabilly kicks in and everything is just screaming along with a bass riff like no other. In fact, one of the best things about this album is the bass. Whether it’s plodding along in “Bug Day” or completely driving the song in “Slang King” it’s always prominent. Another Fall trademark is the reference to artists that have influenced and inspired MES. Like “Sing! Harpy” from Extricate, “Elves” is another straight rip off of a Stooges song and makes a welcome addition to the heaving catalogue of Fall covers and quotations.

One of Wonderful and Frightening’s strongest points is it’s variety. Everything from lazy, twinkly tunes (“Disney’s Dream Debased”) to hex-esque rockers (“2 x 4”) is present. But one thing is constant, Brix’s influence can be heard throughout. It’s often understated how much affect Brix had over The Fall’s sound in the mid-80s but without her backing vocals (she could actually sing unlike anyone else previously in The Fall) and pop sensibilites The Fall may have just produced lack lustre attempts at duplicating their earlier classics. Having said that, the usual MES magic is evidently present. Catchy vocal hooks and typically absurd lyrics that seem to really make sense, rather than just mess your head up and appear weird for weird’s sake like so many others. Although not quite as dark and bludgeoning as his more famous works the quality is still there and really hits through in the epic closer “No Bulbs”.

Whilst Wonderful And Frightening might not quite shine as brightly as Grotesque or Hex Enduction Hour it certainly fits right in with the long line of fantastic Fall albums in the 80s and even makes for a great album on its own. There aren’t many greater examples of post-punk purity than The Fall’s work and this album fits that description like a velvet glove.

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