When the Adverts (including brilliantly named bassist Gaye Advert) debuted on a 1977 Stiff 45 with “One Chord Wonders,” the young London (by way of Devon) quartet could barely play their instruments. But that didn’t keep vocalist-guitarist Tim (T.V.) Smith’s song from offering a witty commentary on earnest incompetence. By the time they recut the tune for their first LP, the Adverts had acquired just enough proficiency to make a positive difference.
In its own way, Red Sea — produced by John Leckie — 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.)
The Adverts underwent a revamp, changing drummers and adding a keyboard player, and graduated to a major label. The resulting quintet made Cast of Thousands, an album as feeble as Red Sea is vital. An ambitious but misbegotten attempt to leave the past behind, it’s a melodramatic, overproduced stab at nothing in particular. 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.