When the four Adverts (including female bassist Gaye Advert) debuted on a 1977 Stiff 45 with “One Chord Wonders,” the young Londoners could barely play their instruments, but that didn’t keep vocalist Tim (T.V.) Smith’s song from offering a witty commentary on earnest incompetence. By the time they re-recorded the tune for their first LP, the Adverts had acquired just enough proficiency to make a positive difference.
In its own way, Red Sea is the equal of the first Sex Pistols or Clash LP, a hasty statement that captures an exciting time. Smith’s tunes almost all offer a new wrinkle on issues of the day; when they fall into a rut, as in “Bored Teenagers,” his breathy, urgent vocals compensate. It’s too bad the original album didn’t include the ghoulishly funny “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes,” a wicked single about a blind person who receives a transplant from you-know-(but-may-not-remember)-who. (That omission was rectified on the 1982 reissue but then repeated when a pressing boo-boo left it off the vinyl version of the ’90 reissue. The CD, however, does contain that tricky little item.)
Oddly, Cast of Thousands is as feeble as Red Sea is vital. Fatigue and depression permeate the LP, suggesting that Smith’s muse had made a hasty exit. One need only read the back-cover quote from 1 John 2:15 to get the picture: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” Pretty punky, huh?
The Adverts’ John Peel broadcast session EP was recorded in early 1977 and contains live-in-the-studio run-throughs of all the aforementioned songs plus two others. For a full-length live Adverts album, try the Roxy record, a ’77 show that reviews the group’s repertoire with appropriately raunchy sound.
After the Adverts expired, Smith formed the Explorers — originally a trio, but expanded to a five-piece (including an ex-Doctors of Madness bassist) by the time of its solitary album. A far cry from the Adverts’ stripped-down guitar drone, The Last Words uses synthesizer and slick musicianship to mold an engaging dance program that benefits from Smith’s strong voice and inventive songwriting. There are touches of Sparks, the Only Ones, new romantics and others; a great record from a gifted performer.
Channel 5 finds Smith going it alone on a tiny indie label, with only ex-Adverts keyboard player Tim Cross, the venerable Tim Renwick (bass/guitar) and a drum machine helping out. The LP reverts to Smith’s earlier no-nonsense, no-frills sound (if not exactly Adverts-styled punk), with his guitar leading the charge. A pleasant little record with strong songs, clever production and Smith’s burgeoning social conscience (“On Your Video,” “War Fever”). Sharp lyrics make the spry “A Token of My Love” the best track on this entertaining (if sobering) record.