Perfect Sound Forever

The Fall Totale's Turns

by Kevin Chanel (from CHINMUSIC)
(May 1998)


Actual conversation, U.K., circa 1980.

"Ey Chalkie, it's me, Nigel..."
"'Ello bloke. Wass' up, gee-zah?"
"Ol' Malc' tells me 'ere's a new el-pee from Smif' n' the lads out today.
'E sez it's a bloody live album."
"Blimey, that sounds smashin'...I'll bet all the 'its are there, like the fookin' breoo-yant 'Psychick Dancehall' and 'Rebeoo-yus Jukebox' and the lot. I sawer 'em do 'Dice Man' live a fortnight ago and they kicked me arse wif 'at one. I surely 'ope it's on the new re-cord."

Well as you can surmise (if you've actually heard Totale's Turns) our mates were set up for the big letdown come listening time. For this is the album that began the time-honored (for you brits: "honoured") tradition of die-hard Fall geeks seeing the Naked Emperor Mark as much more impressive than he's actually ever been. Purveyors of this tack are the same that will go to their grave whining about the brilliance of the truly useless "WMC-Blob 59", "And This Day", and "Detective Instinct" (to name but a few). Instead of recognizing The Fall for their many great songs throughout the years, they purposely glom onto the marginal-to-shitty recordings and dull-ache 7+ minute nowheresville tunes (read: "Spector Vs. Rector", "Muzorewi's Daughter", "New Puritan", etc.) as though these were where the true Smith genius lay.

On Totale's Turns (It's Now Or Never)...whatever the hell that means, Smith for the first time forces an unsuspecting public into the big room with no walls, windows, or scenery, locks the door, and whines at them for 45 minutes. Sure, he could've played the band's A-list material, but then he'd be selling out...for some reason. Naw, make the audience regret they ever liked The Fall. That'll make it "Art".

Truth is, this record makes for quite a nice companion to the crap-like recording of Dragnet. Sure, it's taped a bit better, but by choosing only the worst songs in the Fall oeuvre, Smith wisely drove a wedge between casual fans, ardent followers, their girlfriends, and lapdog critics. I'm certain when this was unleashed there was a vast bastion of scribes drooling on and on in print about the "sheer honesty of the lo-fi documentation" and whatnot.

Whatever. Bottom line goes: The record just ain't got guts. There are three highlights to the whole album, and only two of them are musical. They are as follows:

  1. "Roche Rumble". The only reason to buy the damn thing at all. Having seen them dredge it up in L.A. on the This Nation's... tour, I spent months trying to find whatever version I could lay my hands on. This one popped up first, and I was happy with it. A tour-de-force. Much better than "Cats".
  2. "That Man". Hilariously silly, even by Smith's standards. Little kids often think he's saying "Bat Man...loves you/Batman cares for you..." Wacky. Madcap.
  3. Pre-song banter snippet: (to some gobbing audience pseudo-punk, likely) "Are you doing what you did two years ago?...Yeah?...Well don't make a careeeer out of it!"
Otherwise it's just fodder for collector/completist tripe. Like Fall In A Hole or Frenz. Half as interesting as the twice-as-pointless Twenty-Seven Pints (sic). Just not as polished.

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