TV Smith: Acoustic Sessions Vol 1 (Self Released)
Billed on TV Smith’s website as “At last, the CD that TV fans have been waiting for!” the latest release from TV Smith features re-recorded versions of some of his best songs featuring guitar and vocal only, recorded “live” in the studio with producer Jon Caffery.
“I’ve got something you want that you don’t even know about” … was the cryptic text message I received from Ian Critchley, music writer for Louder Than War. Intrigued, a swift phone call ensued. “TV Smith’s sent me his new album to review but I’ve got to keep it under wraps as he’s premièring it at the Earthbound show in Germany next month.”
“Ha!” thinks I. That clears up the surprise promised on the merch stand and here’s me thinking it might have been “The Immortal Rich” punk piggy-bank or even the “Worn Once” disposable underwear (don’t think many “TV Smith” TVs would have fit in the overheads on the plane).
I headed straight to Ian’s to check it out. On arrival, he had shown great restraint and had not even removed the shrink wrap (more self-control than I’d have been able to muster). We studied the product with an air of anticipation. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I knew from about four months ago that the proposed new studio album was only “a couple of songs short” of being completed, but this wasn’t it! Acoustic sessions Vol 1? There were none of the new songs that Teev’s been trying out live this year. Is it a live album? The packaging had a distinct lack of information. “Looks like we’ll have to open it then”. I was given the honour of de-flowering the album and reverently peeling off the wrapper (guess that’s my Xmas present taken care of this year then, Ian?). WHAT!? No booklet, just a picture of TV on-stage somewhere (not that “just” is an appropriate adverb to use for anything associated with the man himself but I couldn’t think of anything else to use).
THIS IS THE TV SMITH ALBUM I’VE BEEN WAITING SOOO LONG FOR.
It’s exactly what it says on the tin / sleeve – acoustic versions of 24 songs from throughout TV’s illustrious (though sadly overlooked) career, which sound as if they’ve been recorded live in the studio (Tim’s famous garden shed?). This is TV stripped down to the basics, just the voice & acoustic guitar, and it’s an indication of the strength of his songs that this is all he needs. Sometimes, in the studio, performers lose a little bit of something doing acoustic renditions, but these tunes capture all the excitement & passion that TV puts into his gigs, which anyone who has seen him live will testify is powerful indeed. And it’s got something that many of my favourite albums have (or appear to have) – SPONTANEITY – think Dr. Feelgood’s “Down By The Jetty”, and also the first Clash album. I’m not saying it was (we’ll have to get the details from TV) but I’m saying it could have been recorded in one session. It certainly sounds like it. After all the songs and arrangements have been tried & tested in the most unforgiving of environments, that of a live show. And they all obviously work, and how!
In fact, the running order of this platter is sequenced similarly to a show’s set list. Starting with a trio of songs often used to get a gig going, “Only One Flavour”, “No Time To Be 21”, and “Not A Bad Day”. There’s a surprise with track 4 – “Pushed Again” the lyrics of which were originally written for Die Toten Hosen (The Dead Trousers does seem to lose something in translation). There’s a couple of Cheap anthems, an Explorers cut, Adverts songs, from the second song they recorded (the b-side Quickstep was put down on tape first if I remember correctly) to “Television’s Over” from the second album (they were originally written on an acoustic guitar after all), and something from all of Tim’s solo outings up to but not including 2006’s “Misinformation Overload (“Not In My Name” – as topical now as it was then – was originally a free download and a hidden track on “Not A Bad Day”), although strangely there’s nothing from 1983’s “Channel 5”.
The last song is “Useless” (that is to say, the title is!), and this is my only slight criticism, I think this song might have been better earlier in the running order and maybe the set concluded with (possibly) “The Future Used To Be Better”?
Does it really matter that none of these songs are new? Not in the slightest. If you’ve already heard these in their original forms, you’re gonna love these new versions. If you not, I can’t think of a better introduction to Britain’s finest.
You can’t please all of the people all of the time so there’s going to be some of your faves not included here (I know there’s some of mine), but it does say Vol 1 so hopefully, there’s going to be a continuing series of these releases (I’ve got the track lists sorted out till about Vol 10, Tim!).
The only drawback to this release is that next year’s new release is going have to be bloody good to top this one, but then again I expect I’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Just a couple of questions to leave you with, Teev, (apart from when can we expect Acoustic Sessions Vol 2).
1. Why has there been ten years between TVS001 (Not A Bad Day) and this?
2. Did Phil Spector buy his studio from B & Q?
Answers on a stamped addressed cheese sandwich to the usual P.O. Box.
The CD is available from www.tvsmith.com where you can also check out forthcoming gigs, merchandise and much much more.
All words by Alan Grundy. This is Alan’s first piece of writing for Louder Than War.