Amy Britton and TV Smith at Foremans Bar, Nottingham

TV Smith
Foremans Bar, Nottingham
23 MAY 2013

Louder Than War’s Amy Britton headed to Nottingham to catch an intimate TV Smith gig and catch up with the man himself.

Sometimes you want to go were everyone knows your name, and I’m back at my punk rock Cheers, the ultra-intimate Foremans, to interview and review former Adverts’ frontman TV Smith.

I’m expecting a good interview – Smith has always struck me as fiercely intelligent and interesting, as reflected in his brilliantly crafted, socially aware songs (both with the Adverts and in his solo career.) I get exactly that – as well as him being accessible and great company. I’m looking forward to hearing some new material from him tonight, but I have to be obvious to start out by asking a bit about The Adverts…

LTW: Crossing the Red Sea has really endured – it’s still often considered the greatest punk album. Did you feel you were writing something timeless, or did it seem strictly topical?

TV Smith: Timeless never came into it. We were 20 years old and just writing what was in our heads. If it is timeless then that’s because of the political environment – we are in exactly the same political environment we were. The establishment is more sophisticated, but its still the same. Kids are still dissatisfied.

LTW: So you never saw yourself as the voice of a generation?

No, because we never even thought in generational terms – yes, I mean its about age to a point – well, Bored Teenagers, but it never came into it to much. I actually feel more like the voice of a generation now, because no one is speaking for the over 50s. We still have something to say, but people aren’t talking about whats going on – if they are, it is likely to be at small punk gigs. There’s no other politically cohesive movements now.

LTW: So you’re happy to embrace punk ‘nostalgia’ then?

Depends what you mean by nostalgia. I don’t see it as nostalgic, I’m just doing my own thing and I’ve never really stopped . If punk is a framework to talk about the problems of the world and being proactive, then that’s got to be good.

LTW: Boredom’s a big theme in Adverts lyrics…at the time of forming the band, were you bored?

Oh, painfully. Painful boredom as a teenager was everywhere, but we used it to create…

LTW: It’s like the Situationists claimed, the first step to preventing boredom is realising you’re bored…

That’s true, it gives you a place to go and create. It’s a fine line between boredom and meditation. Our lives revolve around the internet and smartphones, social networking, has its positives but there’s downsides too. We have not had a chance for rest or pause in the past 30 years.

LTW: Is it true that Stiff pitched you with “sign with us we’ll make you poor,” is that a punk myth?

I’ve told the anecdote so much I don’t know if its true anymore!

Stiff was run by very strong characters and that was what was good about it- it came across, they put their own stamp on it, their personality. You didn’t always get what you wanted in terms of artwork and the like, but it was great for the audience and the buyer.

Obviously we weren’t happy with the artwork just with Gaye’s face on it, it just made us ‘the band with the girl bass player’, but with hindsight it is a great piece of work.

The Damned were Stiff’s big punk band, however, and if we hadn’t left we would have spent the rest of our lives just being a support band to The Damned.

***

There’s already been some reviews of this tour on Louder Than War, so I’ll keep it brief.

Tim’s told me that the joy of small venues is being right in front of people “and knowing that they’re getting it.” He’s certainly getting that tonight.

The banter and wit flows freely and the audience hold on keenly to his every well-placed note. His new material is as well-crafted as ever and the acoustic format suits him, leaving his lyrics – which are as political and impassioned as ever – exposed and showcasing the power of his voice.

Smith remains, however, wryly aware of people wanting to hear Adverts classics, preceding a new song by saying “ I know saying you’re playing a new song is about as popular as saying your dog’s died – but its good to premiere them somewhere like this, because then if it goes wrong then no one will know but us!”

The Adverts songs which pepper his set were, of course, among the most powerful of their era, and the acoustic format gives them as new lease of life. This set proves so many of the points he made in our interview.

The relevance of his late 1970’s classics endures. Kids are still dissatisfied with governments, and in spite of a world filled with technology trying to us to forget that we are bored. Bored Teenagers feels like it could be a soundtrack to the riots of nearly two years ago and New Church ties in neatly with so many of the scandals the church has recently been through – written at a time when critiqung religion was much bolder, less of an easy target, its line of “power for the strong/twisting into something evil, something wrong,” resonates powerfully.

And all that about small punks gigs being were the older generation are actually talking about the world? I’m certainly seeing that in action tonight. I’m also seeing the younger generation merging with the younger generation – Smith is right, it’s not nostalgia, it’s something timeless. The idea of nostalgia is somehow transcended.

Great venue, great set, all in all another great night, and I leave safe in the knowledge that, even though he’s denied it himself, TV Smith can still be relied on to be the voice of not just a generation, but any generation.

Photography by Arthur Hughes. Interview kindly arranged and enabled by Jason Whittie.

All words by Amy Britton. You can read more from Amy on LTW here.

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