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The Adverts
Cast Of Thousands (reissue) Mick Middles , June 1st, 2010 10:07

The Adverts were beautiful, playing night by night in the blackened cellars of 1977. Arguably no other band so perfectly captured that lo-fi existence, skimming away as support to The Damned, The Jam and Buzzcocks. For a while, back then, they seemed positively omnipresent and one fondly remembers them on stages from Stafford to Covent Garden. Theirs was an approachable punkism. You would encounter them at the bar or – almost on every visit, it seemed- wandering through Notting Hill Gate.

They also had two major sources of power. The charm and wit of TV Smith, whose naïve but skilful lyrical twists pulled at the edges of every song, forcing the point across. It was a punk that we loved; less aggressive than, say Slaughter and the Dogs. Less obvious too, for it was moving in a direct line towards post punk. (But we will come to that in a minute) The other major attraction, one has to say, was bass player Gaye Advert. I know I can speak for the rag-taggle Manchester punk contingent in claiming Gaye to hold the ultimate in punk glamour. We adored her above the coldness of Siouxsie Soux or the sheer distance of Debbie Harry. It was truly thrilling to encounter such beauty within the confines of Rafters... trust me on this.

The Adverts' debut album, Crossing the Red Sea With The Adverts (glorious title courtesy of the great Sounds journalist, Jane Suck (Solanos) was everything we wished for in an Adverts album. All those hooky little songs bubbling away... rough and, perhaps not of the highest musical quality, but it captured those lost darkened moments.

All should have been well. The audience immersed in musical naiveté was, indeed, becoming increasingly sophisticated and tuning in to the whole raft of post-punk adventure. Surely, given TV Smith's own growing awareness, The Adverts would surf to the new level? Problem was... had they languished in that area of spirited naiveté, then surely their entire audience would move beyond them, picking up on The Pop Group, ATV and A Certain Ratio? Aware of this, and emboldened by an increasingly deft musicality – yes, unlike The Damned, The Pistols, The Clash or Buzzcocks - The Adverts really had started at the learn-a-chord-form-a-band stage...well, nearly. Furthermore. TV Smith's head was exploding with wildness, with ideas longing to be framed by Howard Pickup's spiked guitar and Gaye's pulsating groove. On Cast of Thousands, The Adverts moved into experimentation.

For reasons that now escape me, the press – which, I have an awful feeling, included yours truly – couldn't stand the thought of a wild, free and comparatively sophisticated Adverts. Cast of Thousands was unanimously slaughtered. It's difficult to think of a another example from that era whose direction had been so cruelly snatched away, leaving them floundering and, in the case of Gaye Advert, bitter enough to spend the next thirty years horse riding in Devon. TV Smith would gather his pride and relaunch to some success with his Explorers. A clever move... but not quite the same.

So, as the man himself explains, it has been a bitter-sweet experience for TV Smith to preside over this celebratory re-mastered re-issue. He does now admit that press and public were expecting "blocks of electric guitars". Nevertheless, it's a shame that the reviewers of yesteryear couldn't find it within themselves to give this two or three spins. Not that it is an easy listen, still. (Though there are moments of extreme beauty- 'I'll Walk You Home' complete with Gaye heart shattering bass and 'Television's Over', a supreme example of a great lost post punk moment. Despite that, it contains the horribly prophetic lines, "Time to pull out the plugs, have we run out of love, have we been deserted or let loose." In true if ironic style, TV Smith's succinct lyrics captured the moment. Just a pit it was the moment that buried The Adverts. There is much to admire here. Good too, to note that it was this record, rather than 'Red Sea', that so captivated the young Henry Rollins and fired him to his own aesthetic goal. Two songs in particulate, 'Television's Over' and the brittle beauty of 'My Place' are duly logged as his all-time favourite Adverts songs. Smart guy, Mr Rollins and a man who knows when to buck a trend.

For those who prefer to recall the band in the punk mess that is regarded as the band's true home, this re-issue contains a second CD bulging with hit-laden sessions. While it's illuminating to find myself reacquainted with 'One Chord Wonders' and 'Bored Teenagers', these old nuggets not merely carry curiosity value. As such, I have found myself constantly returning to the main album and, in particular, the title track which is a thrilling, rolling, tumbling, swirling mess of adventure and hope. That it failed now seems to merely add to its charm. Perfect... in its own world.