973 - The Fall 'Wonderful & Frightening World of the Fall' (1984)

My Rating: 2.94 out of 5
1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: X
Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Albums: X
The Mojo Collection: X

Chart Peak (UK/US): 62/--

Favourite Tracks: Pat-Trip Dispenser, Lay of the Land, Disney's Dream Debased
Least-Favourite Tracks: Oh Brother, Bug Day

A girl from my work went to a dinner party where one of the guests was The Fall frontman Mark E Smith & the next day she described him as 'the most unpleasant person I have ever met'. I think I would have been disappointed to hear anything else - it strikes me that if anyone is the living embodiment of Punk, it's Mark E Smith. For a start, he'd never consider himself to be punk. And I'm not talking about punk the fashion uniform or punk the corporate machine, but the original anti-establishment, do-it-yourself attitude. It was supposed to be a way of life, but these days even John Lydon is doing reality TV & Sex Pistols cash-in tours. Yet Mark E ploughs on, 29 albums down & he's still spitting venom at everything & everyone around him.

I haven't listened to a Fall album for many years but I really enjoyed this. Unlike the squawky teenage angst of the last record in the list (#974 - Violent Femmes) there is a real simmering malevolence here. While the Violent Femmes swore & sang (rather unconvincingly) about murderous urges, Smith sings of 'Curly-Wurly' chocolate bars & a 'Georgian glazed porch' yet somehow manages to create an atmosphere that is dark, amusing and as the album title suggests, also a little frightening. There's something intriguing about Smith's semi-spoken, oddly-articulated delivery - the way he precisely enunciates lines like 'His oppression abounds / His type is doing the rounds / he is a scum egg / a horrid, trendy wretch' (from C.R.E.E.P.) It might not always be obvious exactly what he's on about, but the enjoyment here is often less what he means & more the way he says it.

Musically it was much more tuneful than I expected too. I especially liked the rumbling, rattling groove of Pat-Trip Dispenser and I suspect a lot of that is down to John Leckie's production. It even gets pretty mainstream in places - Disney's Dream Debased is the harrowing story of a death that Smith witnessed at Disneyworld which has a gentle, lilting melody that makes it all the more unsettling. I suppose the best summary is that I've listened to this album several times now & it's certainly reawakened my interest in The Fall. The fact is that Smith sounds like nobody else & you either love him or hate him. Either way, I'm sure he truly couldn't give a toss.


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