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