Back in 1984, the Smash Hits sticker album included a sticker of The Fall.
It was a bizarre sight, set against the plastic smiles and pastel suits of the likes of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran. New member Brix Smith stood at the front, dripping in LA cool, while Mark E. Smith stood back a little, grimy, ill looking.
In a way this was the perfect image of the band in 1984; during the years this compilation covers, Brix injected a pop pizzazz into the band, while relatively new guitarist and bassist Craig Scanlon and Steve Hanley were in their early tenure as long suffering but nonetheless essential members of one of The Fall's classic lineups.
The death of Mark E. Smith earlier this year persuaded many to dive back into their vast back catalogue, but for many (including myself), the entry point into their weird and wonderful world was this perfect collection originally released in 1990. Covering the years 1984 to 1989, this era isn’t really indicative of the music before or after this period, but as time told, The Fall were capable of brilliant albums either side of this period. This was their unlikely pop phase, with some tracks even bothering the Top 40.
The cheeky jangle of "C.R.E.E.P", the jittery, proud "Hit the North", the reserved fury of "Cruiser's Creek" and the covers of R. Dean Taylor's "There's A Ghost In My House" and The Kinks’ "Victoria" are all stone cold Fall classics.
Their love of krautrock, and Can in particular, is referenced brilliantly on "Big New Prinz" and "Wrong Place, Right Time". Nagging, repetitive and angular, these are archetypal Fall tracks and continue to thrill thirty years on. LCD Soundsystem owe a great deal to these slices of genius.
It's important to remember that the full scope of The Fall's brilliance is not limited to these years. The run of albums from 1990’s Extricate to Middle Class Revolt in 1994 was similarly fruitful, and later albums like Are You Are Missing Winner, Reformation TLC and Your Future Our Clutter proved that post-punk's favourite curmudgeon still had the bile and bite to spread fear amongst bongo players the world over.
The Fall have, of course, been compiled repeatedly over the past forty years, the most comprehensive being last year’s brilliant three-disc collection Singles 1978 – 2016. Yet as a means of understanding the true essence of The Fall in their imperial phase, this collection remains utterly perfect.