Grotesque (After the Gramme)
|Grotesque (After the Gramme)|
|Studio album by The Fall|
|Released||17 November 1980|
|Studio||Cargo Studios, Rochdale/Street Level Studios, London|
|Producer||The Fall, Geoff Travis, Grant Showbiz, Mayo Thompson|
|The Fall chronology|
Grotesque (After the Gramme) is the third studio album by English band The Fall. It was released on 17 November 1980, and is their first studio album release on the record label Rough Trade. It topped the UK Independent Chart, spending 29 weeks on the chart in total.
Background and recording
This was the first album for drummer Paul Hanley (Steve Hanley's younger brother), who joined The Fall earlier in the year aged just 15. Kay Carroll, singer Mark E. Smith's then girlfriend and the band's manager, played kazoo on "New Face in Hell" and added backing vocals. It was recorded at Cargo Studios in Rochdale and Street Level in London, with production by the band and Grant Showbiz, Geoff Travis, and Mayo Thompson.
The album was preceded by two acclaimed singles "How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'" and "Totally Wired", which were subsequently included on CD reissues of the album. The eye-catching full colour sleeve (the group's first) was drawn by Smith's sister, Suzanne.
According to the Slates & Dates press release, this album was, at one point, to be titled After the Gramme – The Grotesque Peasants.
The Fall's music at the time was described as "Mancabilly", and by Smith himself as "Country 'n' Northern". The album opens with "Pay Your Rates", the lyric described as one that "excoriates small-minded conformity". Second track "English Scheme" was seen as Smith "sneering at the middle class liberals". "New Face in Hell" takes its name from the 1968 film P. J. which was retitled New Face in Hell in the UK. It has been described as "a paranoid tale of sinister government agencies 'disappearing' innocent amateur radio hams". "C'n'C–S Mithering" was seen by AllMusic reviewer Ned Raggett as "a brilliant vivisection of California and its record business, and the attendant perception of the Fall themselves", and by Stereogum's Robert Ham as "his sprawling screed at the vapidity of the music industry". Side one closes with "The Container Drivers", which Al Spicer described as "[shattering] the stereotype of the noble trucker, depicting a world of loudmouthed ignorance and bowel-rotting gluttony".
The second side opens with "Impression of J. Temperance", a "stark, mud-stained tale of cloning gone horribly wrong". "In the Park" deals with outdoor sex. "W.M.C. – Blob 59" combines lo-fi tape recordings of rehearsals and conversations. "Gramme Friday" was described as a "hymn to amphetamines". The album's closing track, "The N.W.R.A" ("The North Will Rise Again", not, as some supposed, "The North West Republican Army") was viewed by AllMusic as "Smith's own take on the long-standing "soft south/grim north" dichotomy in English society", while Robert Ham saw it as "a literary vision of political upheaval in Northern England". Rolling Stone merely saw it as Smith shouting out his hometown.
Johnny Waller, reviewing the album for Sounds gave it five stars. The album received a lukewarm reception from the NME who described it as the band's "least flawed album". Robert Christgau gave the album a B rating, describing it as "poetry readings with two-chord backing". Trouser Press view the album "[removing] the Fall even further from the world of easy listening", describing the tracks as "mostly one-or-two-chord jams played too slowly to be hardcore, but structured similarly".
Retrospective reviews were more positive; AllMusic opined that the band "really started hitting its stride" with this album, Ned Raggett commenting on the "sharp rockabilly leads and random art rock racket". In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Grotesque was described as "the first truly great Fall album". Stereogum saw the band "hitting their creative stride as songwriters and players" on the album, stating "Some of it is still very tattered around the edges, but the majority of it finds that unique static charge that made their '80s work so compelling."
In a 2018 list, "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks" from Billboard, Grotesque was included an number 5, the album's "slightly cleaner sound" noted, with "The N.W.R.A." and "The Container Drivers" picked out as highlights. The album was included in Al Spicer's 1999 book Rock: 100 Essential CDs, in which he described it as "among the Fall's most powerful statements, and recorded by the most inventive of the band's constantly evolving line-ups".
Grotesque was first reissued through Castle Music in 1993. In 1998, Cog Sinister, Mark E. Smith's own imprint, released a poorly mastered edition with significant vinyl noise. However, an improved edition followed almost immediately through Castle, adding four bonus tracks: "How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'", "City Hobgoblins", "Totally Wired" and "Putta Block", the last of these being slightly edited from the original "Totally Wired" single. The final and current edition, again on Castle, was properly remastered, including the four bonus tracks ("Putta Block" still being slightly cut) and a "self-interview" by Smith which had been used for promotional purposes upon the album's original release.
The original ten-track album was reissued on vinyl by the Turning Point label in 2002, with a two-LP edition being issued by Earmark in 2005. The latter edition replicated the definitive track listing of the 2004 CD. It was released again on vinyl in 2016 by Superior Viaduct.
All lyrics written by Mark E. Smith.
|1.||"Pay Your Rates"||Smith||2:58|
|2.||"English Scheme"||Marc Riley, Craig Scanlon, Smith||2:06|
|3.||"New Face in Hell"||Riley, Scanlon, Smith||5:40|
|4.||"C'n'C-S Mithering"||Smith, Steve Hanley, Riley, Scanlon||7:36|
|5.||"The Container Drivers"||Riley, Scanlon, Hanley, Smith||3:08|
|1.||"Impression of J. Temperance"||Riley, Scanlon, Smith||4:20|
|2.||"In the Park"||Smith||1:43|
|3.||"W.M.C. – Blob 59"||Smith||1:19|
|4.||"Gramme Friday"||Scanlon, Riley, Smith||3:19|
|5.||"The N.W.R.A."||Scanlon, Hanley, Smith||9:08|
- The Fall
- Mark E. Smith – vocals, tape operation, kazoo (track 3), guitar
- Marc Riley – guitar, keyboards
- Craig Scanlon – guitar (credited as 'Craig Scanlan')
- Steve Hanley – bass guitar
- Paul Hanley – drums
- Kay Carroll – additional vocals
- The Fall – production
- Geoff Travis – production
- Grant Showbiz – production ("Pay Your Rates", "The Container Drivers")
- Mayo Thompson – production
- John Brierley – engineering
- George "Porky" Peckham – mastering
- Lazell, Barry (1997) Indie Hits 1980-1989, Cherry Red Books, ISBN 0-95172-069-4, p. 84
- Strong, M. C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, pp. 63-4
- Raggett, Ned. "Grotesque (After the Gramme) – The Fall: Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Blincoe, Nicholas (26 April 2008). "Mark E Smith: wonderful and frightening". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 January 2018.
- Spicer, Al (1999) Rock: 100 Essential CDs, Rough Guides, ISBN 1-85828-490-2, pp. 65-6
- Brackett, Nathan & Hoard, Christian (eds.) (2004) The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, Simon & Schuster Ltd., ISBN 978-0743201698, p. 293
- Pinkerton, Nick (2018) "Totally Wired", Film Comment, March/April 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2018
- Ham, Robert (2015) "Grotesque (After the Gramme) (1980)", stereogum.com, 12 February 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2018
- Edge, Brian (1989). Paintwork: a Portrait of The Fall. Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0711917408.
- Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: The Fall". robertchristgau.com. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
- Waller, Johnny (1980) "Fall-ing in Love Again: The Fall 'Grotesque'", Sounds, 15 November 1980, p. 44
- Thompson, Dave (2003) A User's Guide to The Fall, Helter Skelter Publishing, ISBN 978-1900924573, p. 43
- Azerrad, Michael; Wolk, Douglas; Pattyn, Jay "Fall", Trouser Press. Retrieved 4 March 2018
- Dayal, Geeta (2018) "The 10 Best Albums by The Fall: Critic's Picks", Billboard, 25 January 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018