There are three main periods The Fall may be grouped into: the raw punk early years, the more "melodious" classic years, and the post-'90s period up to Mark E. Smith‚Äôs passing in 2018. The Frenz Experiment, originally released in 1988 and reissued this year by Beggars Banquet, is part of the "classic" years, a time when the band churned out a series of nearly perfect albums.
I came upon The Fall in 1987 by way of the compilation of early singles Palace of Swords Reversed. I remember not being entirely sure what to make of them, but loved "Totally Wired." In those days, I got most of my music from college radio and MTV‚Äôs 120 Minutes, so unless either were spinning The Fall, I had so much other music vying for my attention.
When lo and behold, the band had themselves a bonafide radio hit with "Hit the North (Part 1)," a funky, groovy little number that, what‚Äôs this? ‚Äî was danceable? The wonderful and frightening world of The Fall was suddenly opened to myself and so many others. Additionally, along came a lovely rendition of The Kinks‚Äô "Victoria" that saw airplay on MTV, and the band started to have greater access to the American psyche. It was the album in which I fell in love with The Fall, and became a lifelong listener (as well as a glutton for punishment in attempting to obtain their entire catalog).
The Fall were a band for whom the word "prolific" could have been created, releasing more than 30 studio albums, nearly 18 live albums, and appeared on countless compilations in their 42 years existence. With so many albums to choose from, why reissue Frenz Experiment, as opposed to, say, an earlier classic from their catalog like Perverted by Language? Many have tried to rank the band‚Äôs albums, or at least provided a guide through their massive catalog.
It is precisely on the strength of the aforementioned tracks, along with string of nearly perfect tunes that make this a perfect choice for reissue. From the opening track "Frenz" it is obvious the band is favoring tuneful, near pop sentiments, making this one of their most accessible albums in their catalog. The band sounds almost positively joyful, particularly on tracks like "Athlete Cured" and the suave "The Steak Place," the usual blaring politics dampened in favor of downright humor and joy, MES at his snarkiest but most fun (have a listen to "Oswald Defense Lawyer" or "Guest Informant" as proof). The band sounds as if they had a great time making the album.
The reissue contains the original album, singles and b-sides from "There‚Äôs a Ghost In My House,"¬†"Hit the North"¬†and¬†"Victoria"¬†releases.¬†"But wait, there‚Äôs more! Act now and you‚Äôll also get..."¬†a previously unreleased 4-track BBC session, and finally, a cover rarity of The Beatles¬†"A Day in the Life."¬†There is a 24-page booklet with new interviews included in the set.