The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...

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The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...
An abstract painting of a human figure
Studio album by
Released12 October 1984 (1984-10-12)
StudioFocus Studios, London
LabelBeggars Banquet
ProducerJohn Leckie
The Fall chronology
Perverted by Language
The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...
This Nation's Saving Grace

The Wonderful and Frightening World Of... is the seventh studio album by the Fall, released in October 1984. It was the band's first album after signing to the Beggars Banquet label. Brix Smith co-wrote three of the tracks. Paul Hanley left the band immediately after the accompanying UK tour, ending the group's distinctive "twin drummers" period.[1]


The album opens with the supernatural-themed "Lay of the Land", which starts with a chant taken from the television series The Quartermass Conclusion,[2][3] the song described by Bob Nickas and Nikholis Planck in their book on the album as "sinister rockabilly with swirling guitars, doubled bass (Karl Burns also played bass on this song), double drums, and that killer riff from Brix".[4], one of three songs on the album co-written by Mark and Brix Smith.[5] "2 x 4" features Steve Hanley's bass prominently, Nickas and Planck considering it the lead instrument on the song.[6] "Copped It" (one of two songs on the album to feature guest vocals from Gavin Friday of the Virgin Prunes) continued Smith's common lyrical theme of criticism of the music scene.[7] The last song on side one, "Elves", bears a strong resemblance to the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog".[8] Lyrically it was seen as chastising younger bands, with Smith commenting that he was "trying to write about how shitty all Scottish groups are, and how Scottish groups always lecture everybody on how they are from Scotland, and how hard up they are."[9]

Side two opens with "Slang King", which references The Twilight Zone episode "The Four of Us are Dying".[10] "Bug Day" was seen as "revealing Smith's interest in dub, and locking his band in a groove".[11] "Stephen Song" is the second song to feature Gavin Friday. "Craigness" has one of Smith's downstairs neighbours as its subject, although whether real or fictional is not clear.[12] The album closes with "Disney's Dream Debased", inspired by an incident from the Smiths' visit to Disneyland in January 1984.[13] After they got off the Matterhorn ride, Mark E. Smith was upset and decided the ride was evil; Shortly afterwards a female passenger was thrown from the ride and decapitated by an oncoming car, with visitors comforted by employees dressed as Disney characters.[13]

Recording and release[edit]

The album was recorded in mid-1984 at Focus Studios on Borough High Street in London, and produced by John Leckie.[14][2] The songs were largely recorded live in the studio.[2] The recording sessions were so loud that Friday claimed that afterwards his "ears bled for days".[15] Leckie commented on the recording sessions: "Mark would have a can of Special Brew, vodka, and a line of speed going at eleven in the morning, just to start the day."[16]

Three older, previously abandoned songs were revisited during these sessions. "Oh! Brother" and "Copped It" dated back to the group's earliest incarnation (they can be heard on Live 1977 issued by Voiceprint Records in 2000),[17] and "Draygo's Guilt" was being performed live in 1981 (it can be heard in the Live in Leeds section of the Perverted by Language Bis DVD, issued by Cherry Red in 2003).

The album's cover artwork (like that of its predecessor Perverted by Language) was painted by Danish-born artist Claus Castenskiold.[18]

The album was released on 12 October 1984, with the Call for Escape Route EP released at the same time. The cassette version was titled Escape Route from the Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, and included tracks from the EP and singles released earlier in the year.


The album was released on CD for the first time in 1988, with a similar tracklisting to the original cassette edition. A four-CD 'omnibus edition' box set edition was released in 2010, featuring outtakes, sessions, demos, and live recordings from the Pandora’s Music Box Festival, and with a 48-page book included.[19]


Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music4/5 stars[20]
Mojo4/5 stars[21]
Q4/5 stars[23]
Record Collector3/5 stars[19]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4/5 stars[24]
Sounds4.5/5 stars[25]
Spin Alternative Record Guide9/10[26]

Richard Cook, reviewing the album for the NME, praised it, stating "They have their own world, which still has wonder and fright in it, and every time they play, the doors to it swing open."[28] Andy Hurt, for Sounds, was equally positive, giving it four and a half stars out of five, commenting "The preferred line of attack remains insidious subversion, Mr. Smith's nasal nastiness doing its worst over that deceptively straightforward backing", and calling it "the ideal Christmas gift".[25] Trouser Press considered it to be "easily one of the band's best records".[29]

Ned Raggett, in a retrospective AllMusic review, feels that the album is not aimed at the commercial market, describing Mark E. Smith's vocals in "Elves" as "audible, tape-distorting spit", Craig Scanlon's guitar work in "Lay of the Land" as "feedback ... over the clattering din" and Smith's lyrics in places as "coruscating and side-splittingly hilarious" and "portray[ing] a Disneyland scenario in hell"; overall his view is that it is a "smart, varied album".[14]

Ryan Schreiber in a Pitchfork review described it as one the highlights of The Fall's career full of "artsy and other-worldly" songs ranging from "bouncy and insane ... Sex Pistols- meets- Plastic Bertrand new-waviness" to "refreshing pop rock".[22]

The album reached no. 62 in the UK Albums Chart in October 1984.[30] NME ranked it number 14 among the "Albums of the Year" for 1984.[31] In a 2018 list, Billboard selected it as the band's second best album, calling it "furiously catchy".[32] It was voted number 973 in the third edition of Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums (2000).[33]


The Fall embarked on a month-long tour to support the album release, playing to ever-growing audiences throughout UK and Ireland. Things took a turn for the worse when in Cardiff the band's van was broken into and almost all the gear was stolen, including Brix's rare Gretsch guitar (which would be recovered years later). After a lacklustre next day's show played on replacement gear hastily provided by Beggars Banquet, an argument exploded as furious Mark E. Smith blamed the band for allowing the theft to happen. As a result, Steve and Paul Hanley immediately left the band, fed up with Smith's treatment. This left The Fall with a single drummer and no bassist. Both Hanleys were persuaded to return for a televised performance on The Old Grey Whistle Test, where The Fall played "Lay of the Land" accompanied by the Michael Clark Dance Company. Eventually, Brix talked Smith into making peace with Steve Hanley, whom she considered as the anchor and the most reliable person in the band; Hanley's departure was then changed to a temporary leave, as he was under the additional stress of having to look after his ill premature-born son. In the meantime, the bass player's position was taken by Simon Rogers, a classically-trained musician whom Smith met through mutual acquaintance Michael Clark. A capable multi-instrumentalist, Rogers remained in The Fall as a keyboardist/guitarist when Steve Hanley finally rejoined in May 1985.

Track listing[edit]


The Fall
  • Karl Burns – drums, percussion, bass guitar on 'Lay of the Land' & 'Pat the Trip Dispenser', backing vocals
  • Paul Hanley – drums, keyboards; grand piano on "Clear Off!", guitar, backing vocals
  • Steve Hanley – bass guitar, acoustic guitar on 'Disney's Dream Debased', backing vocals
  • Craig Scanlon – lead and rhythm guitar, backing vocals
  • Mark E. Smith – vocals, tapes
  • Brix Smith – lead and rhythm guitar, vocals


  • Gavin Friday – vocals on "Copped It", "Clear Off!" and "Stephen Song" (credited as a "friendly visitor")
  • Claus Castenskiold – cover painting
  • Joe Gillingham – engineering
  • John Leckie – production, backing vocals on "Lay of the Land"


  1. ^ "The Fall gigography: 1984" Archived 30 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine. The Fall Online. 29 October 2008. Accessed 16 November 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Rogers, Jon (2010) "The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall",, 4 December 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2018
  3. ^ Thompson, Dave (2003) A User's Guide to The Fall, Helter Skelter Publishing, ISBN 1-900924-57-9, pp. 77–78
  4. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 22
  5. ^ Ham, Robert (2015) "The Wonderful And Frightening World Of... (1984)",, 12 February 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2018
  6. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 24
  7. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 27
  8. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 32, 34
  9. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 35
  10. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 41
  11. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 50
  12. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 63
  13. ^ a b Nickas & Planck, pp. 17–18
  14. ^ a b c Raggett, Ned. "The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall – The Fall". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  15. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 36
  16. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 39
  17. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 28
  18. ^ Nickas & Planck, p. 11
  19. ^ a b Kennedy, Jake (Christmas 2010). "The Fall – The Wonderful & Frightening World Of… The Fall: Omnibus Edition". Record Collector (383). Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  20. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  21. ^ Harrison, Ian (October 2016). "Rebellious Jukebox". Mojo (275): 62–67.
  22. ^ a b Schreiber, Ryan. "The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of...". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 16 August 2000. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  23. ^ Price, Simon (September 2015). "The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World Of ... / This Nation's Saving Grace". Q (350): 120.
  24. ^ Gross, Joe (2004). "The Fall". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 292–95. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  25. ^ a b Hurt, Andy (13 October 1984). "The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World Of...". Sounds.
  26. ^ Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  27. ^ Pinnock, Tom (August 2015). "The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall / This Nation's Saving Grace". Uncut (219): 92.
  28. ^ Cook, Richard (1984) "Slang Kings: The Fall: The Wonderful and Frightening World of...", NME, 13 October 1984, p. 35
  29. ^ Azerrad, Michael; Wolk, Douglas, Pattyn, Jay "Fall", Trouser Press. Retrieved 24 March 2018
  30. ^ Dave Simpson (18 September 2008). The Fallen: Searching for the Missing Members of The Fall. Canongate Books. p. 147. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  31. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year". NME. 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2018.
  32. ^ Dayal, Geeta (2018) "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks", Billboard, 25 January 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018
  33. ^ Colin Larkin (2006). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 294. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.


  • Nickas, Bob & Planck, Nikholis (2014) The Wonderful and Frightening World of...the Fall, Karma, New York, ISBN 978-1-938560-65-1

External links[edit]