The Adverts: Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts

ONCE UPON a time, the fastest way of revealing yourself as an Old Fart Who Didn’t Understand The New Wave was to allege – in even the mildest and most non-derisive terms – that occasionally the musicianship left something to be desired.

It is now – by my reckoning, at least – late February of 1978, and most of the New Wave bands who’re still around have obtained a sufficient command of their instruments to do justice to their material, The Clash and the late lamented Pistols got to be very good very fast. The Damned and The Stranglers and The Jam played good right from the beginning. The likes of XTC and Magazine cheated by having been good musicians before the New Wave even got started.

The Adverts are in the curious position of having one of the best lead singers currently functioning, and a repertoire of some highly interesting songs (good words, good chewns, nifty chord changes) while still being total musical featherweights despite having gigged solidly for well over a year.

I don’t know how they do it. They even open the album with ‘One Chord Wonders’, a reprise of their first single for Stiff, which deals rather sardonically with this problem. The fact that the intervening period between the Stiff session and this one hasn’t improved their rather ramshackle playing by one iota could be interpreted as some kind of amusingly ironic gesture, or simply as an indication of loyalty to old ideas of determined amateurism.

Laurie Driver (drums) thumps away enthusiastically, the very lovely Gaye Advert (bass) thumps away somewhat less so, with the result that she drags the beat ever so slightly all the way through, a state of affairs not particularly improved by guitarist Howard Pickup’s rather Mickey Mouse sound. The end result is more Garage Band Purist than anything else, especially when you take the sophistication of the material into account.

As stated above, T.V. Smith writes and sings very well indeed, ‘One Chord Wonders’ is a song of more than a little wit, and ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ (regrettably not included here, though its B-side ‘Bored Teenagers’ puts in an appearance) was truly excellent.

‘No Time To Be 21’, the current single, ‘The Great British Mistake’, ‘Drowning Men’, ‘On Wheels’, ‘New Boys’; all fine songs with an odd tint of fluorescent psychedelia infiltrating the monochrome.

If The Adverts could learn to play these songs in any manner other than the most totally obvious bang-their-way-through-the-chords manner – or as least bang their way through the chords with one quarter of the zap and flair of The Ramones or the Pistols – they’d be one of the most exciting bands around. Can you imagine these songs played with the kind of raunch that Steve Jones and Paul Cook could bring to them? Gaye’s certainly no worse a bass player than Sid Vicious.

Unless the Adverts can be ramshackle and unmusical in as exciting a manner at The Velvet Underground, they’ll be in the unusual position of having a repertoire to which they are simply not competent to do full musical justice.

Weird one. Be glad it ain’t your problem (unless you’re T.V., Gaye, Howard or Laurie, in which case – hi!!!)

© Charles Shaar MurrayNew Musical Express, 25 February 1978

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