The Fall, Grotesque (After The Gramme)

Douglas Wolk

By Douglas Wolk

on 07.11.12 in Reviews

Grotesque (After The Gramme)

The Fall

The Fall began their initial tenure at Rough Trade with a frothing-at-the-mouth live album, Totale’s Turns, that recapitulated their first two years, then took a huge leap forward with the two singles that open this edition of the 1980 album Grotesque: character sketches jacked up on trucker speed, backed by a band that always seemed about to twitch free of the riffs holding it together. Grotesque, though, is where they broke loose from everybody else’s idea of songwriting: These are songs as horror fiction, as fragments of cosmology, as anti-tune demonstrations (which are more convincing in the context of “The Container Drivers”‘ outrageously hard-and-fast rockabilly), as cultural revenge fantasy. Mark E. Smith’s lyrics and performances are both defiantly working-class and indignantly highbrow — the narrator of “The N.W.R.A.” imagines a Northern English counterrevolution after some kind of conquest that corrupts even his own song “English Scheme.” And if you’re curious about where Pavement got their signature sound, look no further than “New Face in Hell.”