Friday, May 20, 2011

#38 The Fall-This Nation's Saving Grace


Artist: The Fall
Album: This Nation's Saving Grace
Label: Beggar's Banquet
Year: 1985

A lot of these albums I'm writing about...I'm trying to present an idea of what I find in them to be so great...hopefully I can turn someone who is reading this ear's on to a record. While I would argue The Fall are one of the most important rock band of all time (and my friends know they are my favorite), it's incredibly difficult to peg one or two of their albums as definitive statements. The Fall's influence and greatness is the product of their entire body of work and ongoing nature, not one or two "game-changers." So with that, I introduce the first of two Fall albums I put on this list: 1985's This Nation's Saving Grace. Their second during the Beggar's Banquet years, the album is often heralded by critics as one of their best (both of which are on this list). While the choice of Fall fan's is as varied and radical as the fans themselves, its a safe bet to call this one of the definitive Fall albums. So what's the big deal?
The Fall's early albums grew out of, defined, and then re-defined the post-punk sound and feel. Literate lyrics meant the bands could be working class and intelligent (rather than just gutter punks). But as their peers faded away (either breaking up or poor output), The Fall never slowed down. For a variety of reasons (anybody that points to just one is oversimplifying), including Mark's marriage to Brix Smith and a natural desire to expand their sound, The Fall entered a more commercial (see: less abrasive) period. The songs were catchier as well as richer in production.
Again, none of this points to WHY I'm ranking this album (especially in relation to others). So let's tackle that. After two albums with Brix, one that accidentally turned out great (I think had some production issues, thus leading to it's 8-song tracklist: Perverted By Language) and it's slightly weaker follow-up, The Wonderful and Frightening World Of The Fall, This Nation's Saving Grace got everything right. Mark E. Smith's takes to task those who are full of themselves ("Bombast"), but for the most part, his rants are built around more repetitive lyrics than usual. While the album is full sonically full, the ideas are really kept to a minimum. It's a few great ideas, all hammered out. "L.A." is their first real foray into the electronic tendencies that would never really leave their lexicon. "I Am Damo Suzuki" takes cues from several CAN songs to pay homage to the frontman. And "My New House" and "What You Need" prove the band can be as dark and heavy as any other, even with just an acoustic guitar at lead.
There's really not a week spot on the record. Not even a spot that's kinda weak but gets a pass because it's short and is compared to the greatness around it (that can happen to other Fall releases). This Nation's Saving Grace is just perfect, and unlike most bands, after they released this, what is now considered their definitive statement by many...they just kept going as they always did.

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