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.”