The Fall: Bend Sinister (a.k.a. Domesday Pay Off Triad Plus!) (1986)

Look, I'm not here to sell anyone on The Fall.  If you don't like 'em already, odds are pretty good that's not gonna change.  But for those of us who consider ourselves fans already (a pretty broad spectrum ranging from the serious acolyte to the insanely devoted diehard), there is significant disagreement regarding the band's best work. Over the prolific career of the late Mark E. Smith and his revolving band of whomever survived his most recent round of firings or didn't walk off in disgust with the legendarily deranged menace, there were a lot of peaks (and a LOT of valleys); even the worst albums had redeemable tracks, and even the best had some crap I tend to skip. 

Personally, I lean towards the mid-80s period, partially because that's when I happened to get into the band, and partially because I think Smith's then-wife and bandmate Brix added some nice pop hooks to the din which made some of Mark E.'s more bileous rants go down a little more smoothly.  And while I really love much of what's found on 1984's Wonderful & Frightening World and 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace, I give the nod to Bend Sinister.  (Though if I had to pick a favorite from the pre-Brix period, I'd go with the largely excellent Hex Enduction Hour from 1982.)  

Now, what exactly is on or off this album is a little in flux; the vinyl and CD versions differed, and there are various iterations over the years that include or exclude various contemporaneous singles and b-sides.  But the general set of songs from this era was pretty great.

You've got the energetic garage rock riff of R.O.D. kicking off the album, a dark, goth-ish but terribly infectious little number; the positively bubblegum "Shoulder Pads #1"; and one of their best songs in "U.S. 80's-90's," which rocks a terrific riff.  The contemporaneous single included on the CD version, "Living Too Late," is among my all-time favorite Fall songs, a haunting, insistent bass groove topped with unusually discernible Smith ramblings.  It's the sort of song that dug its hooks into my brain on first listen and still haunts me 33 years later.  Add to that a pretty straight cover of the late 60s garage band minor hit "Mr. Pharmacist" and, on some iterations of the album, the jangly pop of "Hey! Luciani," and you've got the closest thing the band ever came to a radio-friendly record (well, in an alternate universe where the radio might actually touch the Fall).

Here's an audio rip of "U.S. 80's-90's":
...and a video for "Hey! Luciani":
...and the video for "Mr. Pharmacist":


  1. I only have the 2CD compilation 50 Thousand Fans, so no big expert here. I agree with you that their best stuff is early to mid 80s. I barely listen to the 2nd CD of the compilation. Cruisers Creek really pops, but probably my favorite is The Classical. Even with the n-word. It snarls and menaces but also captures what I would argue is the Fall's real musical contribution in dispensing with standard song structure without seeming to meander.

    1. I'm with you. The Classical is far and away my favorite Fall song, though for the reason you note it's not something you can play in a large crowd these days. Cruiser's Creek was the one that won me over in the first place, that made me realize they could actually tie Smith's rants to catchy hooks and make great music.


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