Grotesque offered a modern-day hallucinatory equivalent to Hogarth's caricatures of the English lower classes taking their pleasures, an idea pursued further on such singles as "Lie Dream of the Casino Soul", a critique of the Northern Soul scene.
The Fall - Lie Dream of the Casino Soul 1981
On "I'm Into CB", for instance, Smith method-acts the role of a hapless radio ham (codename Happy Harry) who still lives with his parents: "My father's not bad really/He got me these wires and bits/Apart that he talks to me hardly".
The Fall - I'm Into CB 1982
For the NME's Barney Hoskyns, this era of Fallmusic - bookended by Grotesque and the mini-LP Slates - threw the listener into deraging 'wastelands of sound without themes, messages, or politics. These records were politics, living conjurations of the crass and the grotesque in Northern prole life ... What The Fall's music implied was that the whole bastion of comfortable working-class traditions - the institutions of barbiturates, boozing, and bingo - could be transformed, could even transform themselves, into a deep cultural revolution".
Smith had broached this notion in the sleevenotes to Totale's Turns, a sort of live greatest hits. Alluding to the Northern circuit of working men's clubs where The Fall played early on for lack of other opportunities, he speculated wildly: "Maybe one day a Northern sound will emerge not tied to that death-circuit attitude of merely reiterating movements based in the capital".
This fantasy scenario inspired Grotesque's epic closing track 'The N.W.R.A.', which stands for "North Will Rise Again". 'It's just like a sort of document of a revolution that could happen - like somebody writing a book about what would have happened if the Nazis had invaded Britain', Smith told the NME.
The Fall - The N.W.R.A. 1981
Reading speedfreak science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick gave Smith concepts like like 'pre-cog' and 'psychic time travel'. The latter informed the song "Wings", during which he recruits gremlins and goes back through a 'timelock' into the 1860s.
The Fall - Wings 1983
A teenage phase of bumping into ghosts while out walking inspired songs like "Spectre Vs. Rector" and "Elves", in which Smith shrieks, 'The fantastic is in league against me!'
The Fall - Spectre Vs. Rector 1979
The Fall - Elves 1984
The culmination of The Fall's fascination with the supernatural came with 1982's Hex Enduction Hour, half of which was recorded in Iceland, a country where most of the population still believes in elves.
The track "Iceland" was improvised in a Reykjavik studio with lava walls, the band oozing out a drone of two-note piano cycles and banjo that sounded like sitar, topped with incantations from Smith about casting 'runes against your self-soul'.
The Fall - Iceland 1982
Hex is The Fall at their most forbidding and primordial. On "Just Step S'Ways", the group's two-drummer line-up brings a new polyrhythmic tumultuousness to the band's juggernaut rumble.
The Fall - Just Step S'Ways 1982
"Hip Priest" has an almost jazz-like swing, while the guitars on "Who Makes the Nazis?" sound like flint shards hewn from a mountain face. And in case you are wondering who makes those Nazis, it's 'intellectual halfwits'. Ouch!
The Fall - Hip Priest 1982
The Fall - Who Makes the Nazis? 1982