Don't listen to those who maintain this record is a dark, bleak, un-pop-friendly departure from their previous work. Legend has it that their record company, WEA, wanted accessible pop tunes, and the Sound responded to the pressure with "All Fall Down." Offended, WEA then sent the band packing, while the record was said to have polarized even the most hardcore Sound fans. While there's nothing here that would've really dented the top 40 charts, there's also little to suggest that this is anything but the next logical progression from their 2nd record, the stunning post-punk "From the Lion's Mouth." "All Fall Down" is a bit more challenging in some ways, but the handful of such moments are balanced nicely with some musically upbeat, poppy, melodic songs. To put it simply, this just isn't the challenging, cold beast most critics would have you believe.
The poppier element here is best exemplified by "Calling the New Tune" and "Party of the Mind," two upbeat, hooky songs, while "We Could Go Far" ends on a beautifully melancholy note with chimey melodic guitars and soothing synths. Other songs like the dissonant "Glass and Smoke" and the title track hint at the kind of bleakness critics often point to, but those are only the darker numbers that are apart of a much more varied whole. "In Suspence," and "Red Paint" straddle the line between pop and bleakness quite effectively.
Ultimately, this record displays a better, more texturally interesting (and appropriate - with alternately lush and harsh minimalist atmospherics) production than "Lion's Mouth," which in turns displays the varied and seemingly conflicting moods the band effortlessly throws out. I always thought "Lion's Mouth," despite great songs, suffered a bit from relatively dry, artless production, while "All Fall Down" remedies that problem. Song for song it's not their best record (in my opinion that title belongs to their following ep, "Shock of Daylight"), but a strong and satisfying one nonetheless, where the whole is perhaps greater than the sum of its parts. Basically, if you like the Sound, there's absolutely no reason not to buy this record. I'd give this 3 1/2 stars, but Amazon doesn't allow you to grant 1/2 stars.