The Fall - Grotesque: After the Gramme (1980), 8/10

After listening to The Fall for quite some time, Grotesque firstly and finally grabbed my attention with an unrelenting grasp, perhaps a fittingly titled and styled entry point for an outsider for its herky-jerky disjointed approach to post-punk along with an impressive array of varied material. I would later appreciate Perverted by Language for very different reasons, but this earlier release from the band hosts an immediately punchy and effective set of songs that excel for their wordplay and vocal delivery, of course, but are matched with a more fitting instrumental and melodic aesthetic than perhaps any other album they produced. Its first half is very close to perfectly written and delivered, and while not every song has the same drive as something like “New Face in Hell” or the wonderfully titled “C'n'C-S Mithering”, the consistency in sound and entertaining, humorous lyricism is simply phenomenal, only marginally losing steam during the last portion of the album. Mark E. Smith’s eccentric performances are as endearing as they are wonderfully manic, as are hilarious yet pleasantly odd choices like including the kazoo and practically out of tune and out of rhythm passages sprinkled throughout this set of shockingly infectious yet rambling melodies. There are genuine moments of surprise even when considering the expected madness, like the bass hook during the later half of “Impression of J. Temperance” that give chills and a sense of wonder even for such an offbeat group of musicians. The electric rockabilly rhythms intertwined with Smith’s yelping vocals, oozing with attitude, reminisce in true foundational punk rock, yet rise above the simplicity of their influences to create something entirely new and surprisingly surreal. While one could argue the band traversed more ambitious or even uncommon ground later in their career, Grotesque achieves a unique blend of sounds in a very tight and effective package, making it one of their strongest efforts and one of the most enduring albums of the post-punk movement. An essential piece of punk rock history for its singularity in achieved sound.