Review Summary: No bulbs in this flat..
Championed by the venerable John Peel, and sounding increasingly more bracing and refreshing as punk was starting to lose its bite; by 1984, The Fall were edging on a household name, provided the household in question was a drunken grot of verbal abuse and clutter.
Though by the time of release of The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall
, Mark E. Smith had already cemented himself as an uncompromisingly immovable object, the album still feels like a fork-in-the-road moment for the band, and one that they navigated extremely well. Brix Start’s presence, oft knocked for stirring The Fall into forcibly commercial territories, is properly felt for the first time here. She’s credited as co-writer on half the songs, and The Wonderful and Frightening World
being put out on indie stronghold Beggars Banquet sent far too many people into splitting their arbitrary allegiances.
Brix’ doing or not, it’s immediately audible that The Fall were letting some of post-punk’s new romantic aspects sneak into their work. The lilting synths that break up the otherwise-vicious “Slang King,” or the distortedly dulcet “CREEP,” as well as the closing beauty burst of “Disney’s Dream Debased,” which just may be the most perfect digest of what The Fall had come to stand for. They pull it off, managing to if not break new ground, then at least peel around its cusps, all the while retaining their corrosive streak.
And there’s only so much an artful Vermont girl with a Brit fetish can do with a ragged, oily old pigeon. The Wonderful and Frightening World
is for the most part, still music for sadistic curmudgeons to hop to. The deliriously malignant “Elves” runs shuddering for five minutes, Smith growing more vitriolic as the song goes on. “Copped It,” resurrected from some of the band’s earliest days together, is a noisy little beast, all bouncy bass and ruptured guitars. And the unhinged bounce of “2x4” is the perfect convergence of Smith’s and Brix’ sensibilities, and their first great duet.
The Fall’s winning dash would go on for a few more years, though as the 80’s rolled over, their frenetic productivity was starting to tangle their laces, albums being cut down by slapdash writing and sloppy production. They were also drifting drastically out of fashion, as the 90’s signaled a shift towards a bigger, poppier sound. The Wonderful and Frightening World
catches them at an indelible moment, a thrillingly nettled band, at the height of their powers, trying to smash themselves to pieces.