FEELING RUTHLESS, you could divide the entire spectrum of pop and rock’n’roll into two.
Firstly, that designed for the lumphead in all of us that doesn’t care about anything just so long as there’s guitars going kerang, kerang, whine, whine. Second, for our sickly sweet hearts, there’s the nice harmony and pleasant tune school which keeps that part of us as happy as we were as babies at the breast (or the bottle). And, like every good person who doesn’t know their own mind, we try very hard to ensure the two experiences don’t mix up, musical miscegenation style. The only artists to consistently straddle that great divide have been the Beatles and maybe Elvis.
Now Advertising have come along to give us all a hard time, confusing us by blurring that borderline. (No, Advertising are not the new Beatles. They’re just on the same label – fat lot of good that’s doing them though; EMI have apparently shunted them into an all-time classic rock and roll Catch 22 by refusing to advertise this album until it starts selling well.) Sure, they play pop and there’s no clanging guitar blowtorches here but they throw at least two of the rules of pop out of the studio door. One, they play live (not always very convincingly, admittedly). Two, Simon Boswell and Tot Taylor write about real peoples’ real problems and real lives. Their lyrics bring to the pop melodies a distinct overlay of, dare I say it, maturity, intelligence and ironic smiles.
(An aside to any rock historians – yes, I know Carole King wrote intelligent pop songs but, the way I hear them, she spent most of her time trying to make out they’re really stupid songs.)
One fairly crass marker of that approach is that there’s more educated name-dropping and prickly puns on this record than label-mate and pop competitor Paul McCartney has managed in his whole career. Fortunately, their humour and subject matter is far from crass. If Simon and Tot’s vision of success is hordes of young girls at their feet, writing about divorce (‘My Advice’) and the funny side of everyday, even mundane, unrequited passion (just about everything else) ain’t the way to go about it. All they’ll end up with is cynical neurotics. John Peel probably has the same problem.
For once, the inclusion of a lyric sheet is a blessing. It’ll learn those that ain’t got ears that they ain’t hearing a batch of anodyne love songs. And it’ll learn those of us with defective hearing the right words. With the help of the printed lyrics, ho more did I wallow in the illusion that “It’s her solicitors” was “Just some silly turds”. It also taught me the correct spelling of Rachmaninov. And you can’t say fairer than that.
The music – with a couple of exceptions, notably ‘Mean To Me’ and ‘Jealousy’ – gives just the right flavour, combining some echoing familiarity with the necessary twists and turns of their own. Apart from the occasional, almost embarrassed hesitancy, the album’s main fault is that it sounded awful on the 1901 Victrola which passes as an office stereo and that’s as good a guide as any to how it’ll come over on a tranny. So, maybe you should forget any Paul Burnett record of the week hopes boys.
But, even if they didn’t use session men, it’s still the perfect summer selection for any actual or potential closet Monkees freak.
And I didn’t even once mention…
© Peter Silverton, Sounds, 24 June 1978