The Fall – The Wonderful And Frightening World Of… / This Nation’s Saving GraceBy Craig Smith • Dec 12th, 2010 • Category: Album Reviews
The Fall circa 84/85 saw the band creatively flourishing and pulling together in ways that were only previously hinted at on record. Signing to Beggars Banquet afforded the band access to proper studios where their previously scratchy monochrome pantomimes evolved into fully realised technicolour effrontery. The Wonderful And Frightening World Of… would usher in a new era for The Fall, both in signing to a new label, and for being the first album in which Smith’s partner Brix would cast her influence and her West Coast pop leanings into The Fall’s rough-hewn Manchester mannerisms.
While The Fall were always one to embrace melody and upfront song dynamics that could be deemed “pop-ist”, at least in a garage sense, they conspired to release a succession of bafflingly addictive non-album singles that tested the patience of the UK charts. With the reissues stripping each album back to their original track-listing minus these singles, the balance between the ‘wonderful’ and the ‘frightening’ in The Wonderful And Frightening World Of… shifts distinctively. The cult-ish (not the band) chanting that offsets the rockabilly rumble of “Lay Of The Land” is unnerving, as is the descent into the murky depths of “Elves”. Listen to your phobias unravel on repeat on “Bug Day” and embrace the madness. Here was the sound of swamp rock from the council estate, inhabited by “new fiends on the loose“ (“2 by 4”) and “the neighbour downstairs with one eye” (“Craigness”). It was The Fall, after all.
The follow-up, This Nation’s Saving Grace produced some of their best work, casting the band into the mainstream without sacrificing their art or Smith’s bilious behaviour — “All those whose mind entitles themselves and their main entitle is themselves, shall feel the wrath of my bombast!” (“Bombast”). It’s The Fall on the attack, less Mark E. Smith and underlings, and more The Fall United. Breaking free from the mottled ravings of Wonderful And Frightening, This Nation’s Saving Grace, the songs presented here are a revelation, the musicianship and playing unparalleled. Here was a band on fire. From “Barmy” through to “Spoilt Victorian Child” it’s The Fall in all their rock n’ roll finery, gear shifting guitar riffs, pounding bass riffs, call and response exchanges abound. Brix’s contributions, the dance floor stutter of “LA”, and the jagged twist and shout of “Gut Of The Quantifier” both cut mean future-Fall grooves. In 1985, The Fall were peerless. Where Morrissey was calling out “Meat is Murder”, Mark E. Smith retorted with “I Am Damo Suzuki”. There was no comparison.
As with previous Omnibus Editions (Bauhaus, The Cult), the people behind the scenes have scoured vaults and came up with an exemplary 4 disc (3 disc for This Nation’s Saving Grace) package of unreleased demos, non-album singles (“Oh! Brother”, “Creep” and “Cruiser’s Creek” all date from this period), session tracks and live recordings. Each album is treated like a work of art and deservingly so. At this point in the career, and for the next few albums at least, The Fall were unbeatable. The legend was made here.