We are all caterpillars and it is our misfortune that, in defiance of nature, we cling with all our strength to our condition, to our caterpillar appetites, caterpillar passions, caterpillar metaphysics, and caterpillar societies. Only in our outward physical appearance do we bear to the observer who suffers from psychic shortsightedness any resemblance whatsoever to adults; the rest of us remain stubbornly larval. Well, I have very good reasons for believing (indeed if I didn’t there’d be nothing for it but to go off and dangle from the end of a rope) that man can reach the adult stage, that a few of us already have, and that those few have not kept the knack to themselves.
–René Daumal, A Night of Serious Drinking
Lately I’ve taken to naming an Artist of the Quarter, where I assign myself to dive deeply into one artist’s catalog over the course of three months. The first was Pink Floyd, and the second is The Fall.
To my mind the early Fall is hit and miss, with bold experiments in barbed pop sitting side-by-side with perplexing nonmusic. But they hit a real groove in the mid-80s, around the time Mark E. Smith’s wife Brix joined the band. The mid-to-late 80s Fall were tight as a belt on Thanksgiving, stunningly prolific, and perfectly balanced between accessibility and provocation.
The first Fall album I bought, 1988’s The Frenz Experiment, is still my favorite. All the songs are great, but something about this one stands out; only The Fall would match a riff clearly and shamelessly lifted from a Spinal Tap song (“Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”) with a disturbing story about an East German athlete and his unfortunate brother, who “patriotically volunteer[s] to be sent on a labor beautification course of the countryside northwest of Dresden.”