New Releases Reviews

Album review: TV Smith’s fluid and insightful ‘Handwriting’

A melodic Punk album which makes you think, written with a totally new musical landscape!

Punk credentials don’t come with much more eminence than those of founder member and songwriter of The AdvertsTV Smith. The Adverts burned briefly but brightly, lighting the way from late 1976 with Stiff Records single ‘One Chord Wonders‘ followed by hit singles ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes‘ and ‘No Time To Be 21‘, which earned them radio and TV appearances and extensive media interest. A debut album released in early 1978, ‘Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts‘, is still considered a genuine classic of the era and is often cited as one of the twenty best punk albums ever released.

The Adverts produced only one more album, ‘Cast Of Thousands‘, before they split in 1979. TV Smith went on to form new bands TV Smith’s Explorers in 1979 and Cheap in 1986, before becoming a solo performer in the early 90s. Releasing a staggering post-Adverts output of a further seventeen albums, he returns in 2024 with ‘Handwriting‘, a fantastic follow up to 2021’s ‘Lockdown Holiday‘. 

TV Smith - May 2023

Produced by Gerry Driver, renowned folk producer and multi-instrumentalist, ‘Handwriting‘ uses no conventional rock instruments. TV sings and plays acoustic guitar on twelve of his finest songs to date, while Gerry backs him up on harmonium, mandolin, bazouki, banjo, piano, tenor guitar, bass guitar, percussion…and much more!

Proving that you don’t actually need a full electric band to create a dynamic and powerful Punk album, opening track ‘Who’s Got The Time?‘ with its lively beat and strident vocals makes you sit up and listen! The clever cultural references from across the decades (including one to ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes‘) against the musical ticking of time get TV’s point across. Watch the video by the talented and creative Tom Blyth:

Blank Screens‘ is a slower song about the ‘world of the absurd’ of control and distraction via screen addiction. With a catchy-as-hell singalong chorus, and a musical bow to traditional instruments, it fits perfectly into the album.

Title track ‘Handwriting‘ is set in an all too easily imaginable future. The ‘antique IKEA desk’ containing banned equipment in a world of screens and drones.. “Handwriting cannot be tracked; So what if all these words turned into acts?” An ode to the seditionaries of the next generation!

Harking back to 1960s protest songs, ‘Common Enemy‘ implores us to stop fighting amongst ourselves. The line which stands out for me is “The powers we elect; Show us who we should suspect” – simple yet profound.

A Convincing Lie‘ is the song I love most on this album – the lyrics are spot on about the way we’ve been treated like fools by the authorities, and it’s got a cracking tune which keeps the sombre words somewhat buoyant.

Live favourite ‘One Minute To Midnight‘ sounds even more powerful on the album – the urgency to do something about the devastation caused by climate change and habitat destruction on this planet cannot be overstated! TV’s frustration in trying to get people to listen and understand is palpable.

As Good As It Gets‘ has another catchy chorus. The political message against the propagators of the ‘politics of greed’ and their exploitation of workers is strong – TV urges us not to accept the status quo, nor to tolerate our precious time being wasted!

The brilliant ‘Hurry On‘ is darkly comedic. Musical hints towards old slapstick movies underline the clever lyrics – we’re all being told to move on, nothing to see here, while the powers-that-be laugh behind our backs as they conduct their increasingly nefarious schemes. Their belief that the public are ‘too slow to catch on’ is indeed sick, and hopefully will be their undoing.

Should we accept the crumbs we’re given? In ‘Best Of The Worst‘, TV wants us to get up and do something, rather than accept our lot and remain fearful. Gerry’s multiple musical talents come to the fore in this song with its rich instrumental tapestry.

Post-lockdown blues are the subject of ‘Scared To Show Your Face‘. Something which has been largely swept under the carpet, the lingering after-effects, both psychological and physical, remain a painful reality for far too many, not to mention the moral and financial implications.

TV Smith and Vom Ritchie - Rebellion Festival 2023
TV Smith and Vom Ritchie - Rebellion Festival 2023

You Need Help‘ picks up the pace again, with an encouraging song about realising that you’re part of a community, despite the constant push towards a belief in individualism. “It’s not down to you; You need a backup crew; You just can’t do it; All by yourself”.

Final track ‘Children Of A Dying Sun‘ is TV’s last appeal to us all to come to our senses, stop the fighting, and pull together as one. Haunting and fragile, but also tender and welcoming, simply allow this song to gently enfold you in its arms and then strive to make the world a better place.

Although not overtly a concept album like ‘Lockdown Holiday‘, which was written during and about the pandemic, there is a thread running through ‘Handwriting‘ to take heed of our probable future, should nothing change. You have been warned..

Available on CD from HERE (UK only) and internationally from HERE

Also available on neon pink vinyl in Europe HERE. UK record collectors will have the opportunity to buy a glow-in-the-dark vinyl soon!

You can also stream or download the album HERE

The ‘Handwriting’ tour opened this month in Germany, and will travel across Northern Europe and the UK – dates below:

TV Smith - Handwriting tour 2024
Handwriting - TV Smith - album cover

Main Photo Credit / All Live Photos: RUTH RAE

  1. Who’s Got The Time?
  2. Blank Screens
  3. Handwriting
  4. Common Enemy
  5. A Convincing Lie
  6. One Minute To Midnight
  7. As Good As It Gets
  8. Hurry On
  9. Best Of The Worst
  10. Scared To Show Your Face
  11. You Need Help
  12. Children Of A Dying Sun
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