Sunday, 4 December 2011

T.V. Smith at the Signal Gallery Punk and Beyond Exhibition December 01st

I must admit that I did not know much about T.V. Smith's post-Adverts career, in fact come to think about it, I don't really know much about The Adverts either...Rather like the U.K. Subs, who were also right there at the birth of British Punk Rock - both bands appearing at The legendary Roxy Club - they seem to have been somewhat air-brushed out of a lot of Punk Rock history books and documentaries. Whether this is by accident or design I'm not really sure. They do have a voice in John Robb's excellent "Punk Rock; An Oral History", but are not often lauded in the same way that their contempraries The Clash, Pistols, Wire and Buzzcocks are for example. To me they are up there as the authors of one of THE classic Punk albums in "Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts". Along with The Rezillos and X-Ray Spex they seemed to have a short-lived spell in the spotlight but managed to leave a legacy of some classic singles and a masterpiece album, and what a materpiece "...Red Sea..." is! However, I wasn't so keen on their follow-up "Cast of Thousands", in fact it got sold pretty quickly I'm sad to say...I also didn't follow T.V. Smith's music after that except for the excellent "Tomohawk Cruise" and only got to see him at The Ruts' Paul Fox benefit show at Islington Academy a couple of years ago. But music is like that, you branch off on different tangents, lose touch with certain bands but follow the careers closely of others but in the end you always come back to quality, and The Adverts first album was certainly quality. It was always pushing against the musical boundaries of Punk Rock. Lyrically too they were straining at the leash from the off, with "Safety In Numbers" they were already questioning the point and validity of the Punk and New Wave "movement". Certainly one thing that resonates is the superb lyrics and how the themes are still pretty relevant today. In fact from the solo songs T.V. Smith plays tonight there are real parallels between "Bored Teenagers" and his later "Generation Y". His world weary take on the state of Britain is also still very much apparent. Tonight he plays a selection of solo material and a choice of classics from The Adverts including "No Time To Be 21", "New Church", "The Great British Mistake".
He is funny and self-effacing yet still retains an edge and a dissatisfaction with the ills of modern life. Whether it is the slacker generation or the obsession with minor gripes and grumbles whilst ignoring the bigger issues. One of his takes on consumerism is wittily summed up in "Xmas Bloody Xmas" which tickles the funny bone instead of just bashing you around the head. "Every musician has to have a Xmas song, and that was mine!". The sentiments are not exactly of mistletoe and wine. He claims that the worst thing you can do performing in such an intimate setting is to perform a ballad, but then duly goes ahead and expertly does just that with the sublime "Generation Y". "I might have to get a bit closer in the quiet bits" he says, "don't get nervous..." He's an impassioned performer, eyes shut tightly as he sings, sinews straining as he stomps the beat with his boots on the gallery's wooden floor. It was a marvellous performance in such stripped down circumstances and close proximity of the audience. He ends with "Gary Gilmore's Eyes", which he "leaves for last as that's what real musicians do, leave the hit for last...". It was such a thoroughly enjoyable evening so I had to say hello afterwards, although I felt a bit of fraud with just my love of "Crossing The Red Sea" as common ground. However, he was very charming and patient, despite my obvious lack of knowledge of his solo work. Still, that's one of the great things about music, it's a constant voyage of discovery, and re-discovery too, so I left the show armed with his new album and book "Getting There: Punk Rock Tour Diaries Volume 1" and I look forward to my own little voyage with the works of T.V. Smith!

T.V. Smith at Signal Gallery - Photos by Steve Worrall
T.V. Smith with Gaye Advert in front of Gaye's artwork - Photo by Steve Worrall
I bought a copy of T.V. Smith's new album, "Coming In To Land" at the show to kick-start my voyage into his solo work, and I must say it has been on constant rotation ever since. It is a great album, extremely strong from start to finish, each song is memorable even after the first couple of listens, especially the banjo and mouth-harp driven "True Believers". The witty "Complaints Dept." has neurotic half spoken verses but bursts into a beautiful, delicate chorus and whistling refrain. There are muscular guitar riff driven songs such as "Man Down" where Smith's voice is superb, reminiscent of Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs. But my favourites are probably the epic title track and album closer "No Message Please" which is an acoustic led singalong, a perfect way to end an excellent album. I will now have the pleasure of delving into T.V. Smith's back catalogue and look forward to discovering some more great music along the way!

T.V. Smith is playing at the New Cross Inn on December 11th where'll perform the Best of The Adverts with The Valentines. Check the web-site here for the store and news of other live shows.

With sincere thanks to T.V. Smith, Gaye Advert and the Signal Gallery

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