“Grotesque (After The Gramme)” by The Fall - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1980Album Chart of the Decade: 1980s

TJR says

For their third new music album there was one change to the starting line-up, with a 16-year-old Paul Hanley (bassist Steve’s younger brother) replacing Mike Leigh on drums. If this is a deliberate policy, it seems to be working well, and this rough-and-ready offering – loose-caboose Post-Punk-Rock-a-Billy with kazoo accompaniment and a frontman ranting ten-to-the-dozen – is a winner all the way. “Pay Your Rates” sets the tone as the album kicks-off memorably: “Pay The Borough!” screams the frontman, as if he’s on a commission, before sneering “If your rate’s too high, write a snotty letter”. Pot calling kettle there methinks. This is followed by “English Scheme”, which has a cheerful menace about it, as an observational MES focuses on the lower-class struggle to get out: “Like your psychotic big brother, who left home for jobs in Holland, Munich, Rome, he’s thick but he struck it rich”.

This maintains the high standard of the opening, and suddenly you’re thinking, can they keep this up? Suggesting that, yes, they certainly can, the cool jangle of “New Face In Hell” servers as the band’s tip-of-the-hat to the VU, and is combined with a superb delivery from the the lead singer, who seems to be on his 47th page of A4 already. On this one, he’s off on another of his storytelling journeys, and we’re regaled of a tale about a CB enthusiast who stumbles into classified secrets and is subsequently framed by the State for murdering his neighbour. A disdain for the whining masses is apparent again on the magnificent swinger “C’N’C-S Mithering”, on which I realise the joy of repetition really is in me; I’m thoroughly hooked on The Fall groove. When side one's closer, “The Container Drivers”, blast in, the excitement factor is sky-high; the energy assault doesn’t let up for a second. I dunno what his beef his, but MES doesn’t seem too enamoured with them: “Bad indigestion, bad bowel retention, speed for their wages, sun tan, torn short sleeves”. Personally, I think he just enjoys a good sneer and it’s quite funny.

Were it not for the lame “W.M.C.-Blob 59” (the artsy-sketch bobbins now seemingly obligatory) I’d have reckoned this album to exist in the rarefied atmosphere of “elite masterpiece” status and it would’ve been my album-of-the-year. The Hanley brothers are great together on “Gramme Friday”; I just love that lazy, laid-back Fall swing. It might be a song about a speed-freak, but they make MES seem as cool as the Pink Panther. “The N.W.R.A.” serves as a glorious finale – once again the lead singer leads us into a complicated tale about a grotesque character, Roman Totale, who is leading a future-revolution, designed to restore the North of England to former glories. Forget futures or pasts, in the here-and-now the North, led by The Fall, are a super-power to be reckoned with.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:58] 10.0.png The Fall - Pay Your Rates (Mark E. Smith) Post-Punk
A2 [02:06] 9.7.png The Fall - English Scheme (Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Post-Punk
A3 [05:40] 9.7.png The Fall - New Face In Hell (Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Trance Rock
A4 [07:36] 9.5.png The Fall - C’N’C-S Mithering (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Trance Rock
A5 [03:08] 10.0.png The Fall - The Container Drivers (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
B1 [04:20] 9.2.png The Fall - Impression Of J. Temperance (Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Post-Punk
B2 [01:43] 9.3.png The Fall - In The Park (Mark E. Smith) Rock n Roll / Rockabilly
B3 [01:19] 4.0.png The Fall - W.M.C.-Blob 59 (Mark E. Smith) Avant-Garde
B4 [03:19] 9.8.png The Fall - Gramme Friday (Mark E. Smith, Craig Scanlon, Marc Riley) Lo-Fi
B5 [09:08] 9.5.png The Fall - The NWRA (Mark E. Smith, Steve Hanley, Craig Scanlon) Trance Rock

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