THE FALL Bend Sinister
Beggars Banquet BEGA 75 (1986)
In a recent record review, a critic cheekily referred to British post-punk legends The Fall as "Britain's best new band", and although the group has been around in name for over thirty-five years, the label is not altogether inaccurate, as the lineup has gone through more changes than the cast of Doctor Who. Frontman/vocalist/lyricist Mark E. Smith remains the constant in the group's ever-shifting personnel, and, as he once told an interviewer, "if it's me and your grandmother playing bongos, it's The Fall."
Bend Sinister showcases one of the strongest Fall line-ups (with Smith's American then-wife Brix on lead guitar) and came out as the group was enjoying a surge in popularity in North America. It's a darker album than their previous efforts for the Beggars Banquet label (The Wonderful and Frightening World of... and This Nation's Saving Grace), but it also contains some of their lightest, catchiest songs ("Shoulder Pads", "Mr. Pharmacist", and "Terry Waite Sez"), as well as murkier, moodier efforts like "Riddler!" and "U.S. 80's - 90's". Smith's lyrics are so obtuse that one wonders if even he knows what they mean, yet their surreality suits the band's shifting tempos and idiosyncratic textures (such as the clattering neo-industrialisms of "U.S. 80's - 90's" or the roiling guitars and pounding drums of "Gross Chapel - British Grenadiers"). Like Chrissie Hynde's Pretenders (or, to a lesser extent, Axl Rose's Guns 'n' Roses), The Fall is the brainchild/creative outlet of one person, and, though his bandmates may come and go, if Smith is on a Fall album, then you can bet it's a Fall album (bongo-playing grandmother or not).