TV Smith: Lucky Us (Unreleased Songs) – album review

TV Smith: Lucky Us: Unreleased Songs And Demos Volume 2 1983-1986 (Boss Tuneage)
Out: Now

A collection of previously unavailable material makes for a nice fan piece, but may be for completists only. Ged Babey tells us more.

Following on from 2010’s “Sparkle In The Mud” demos comp… 22 previously unreleased tracks from the period between TV SMITH’s EXPLORERS breaking up and the release of the “Channel 5” album through to the formation of TV SMITH’S CHEAP. All 22 tracks have never been commercially released before, and in effect compile what would have been two “missing” albums. “Lucky Us” has been titled as a fitting tribute to Tim Cross, TV’s long time collaborator who sadly died in July this year after a battle with lung cancer whilst this album was being compiled.

The inlay card essay by Dave Thompson makes it clear that these songs were recorded at a time when Tim was starting to lose faith …and it was his friend and musical collaborator Tim Cross who kept him going. It was the Eighties, ‘a pretty dismal place to live’ as Dave notes. On the musical landscape synths and shiney-happy pop was the order of the day. Tim Smiths articulate songs of subtle protest were not what was required.

Sounding a bit like the synth-driven Psychedelic Furs or Talk Talk at best this could be presented as TV Smiths equivalent of Pete Shelleys Homo-Sapien album…only its not. Nor is it TV Smith going through a ‘New Romantic phase’ despite the fact that at worst some of this cd does sound like Howard Jones or Nik Kershaw in a bad mood, on a low budget, but with decent lyrics! The rinky-dink keyboards and Numanoid vocals of Trans-Time, which regrettably is the opening track really is the worst thing TV has ever committed to tape. Its as if he’s agreed for it to be included as a bizarre bet or a dare. Things do gradually improve though… and get gently funky, there’s a touch of cod-reggae here, a bit Bowie there, a bit Pet Shop Boys there … It’s a world away from Crossing the Red Sea. If you’re looking for punk rock guitars, you’ve come to the wrong place.. although Girlschools Kelly Johnson does play a great geetar solo on Love Chain Letter. And the song TV wrote for the Lords of the New Church, the Lords Prayer appears here standing head and shoulders above the rest of the material.

This album really is for loyal TVS completists only, but also one for collectors fascinated by early electronic-y, 80’s ‘new pop’ which emerged after-punk.

TV Smith’s Website can be found HERE

All words by Ged Babey. You can read more of Ged’s posts for LTW HERE.

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


  1. “Sounding a bit like the synth-driven Psychedelic Furs or Talk Talk at best this could be presented as TV Smiths equivalent of Pete Shelleys Homo-Sapien album…only its not.”

    Of course it’s not. This is a collection of demos. As such, the songs demand a rather more sympathetic ear than a polished studio album produced by Martin Rushent.

    It is also incorrect to say that this collection lacks subtle ‘protest’ songs. See: Finger of Fashion, Divide and Rule, King of Hearts, Lord’s Prayer and Leisure Time (you might have mentioned that both of these were subsequently recorded by TV Smith’s Cheap), Safe House, Real Fake etc

    It’s true that the arrangements are a mixed bag, and that all the health warnings about synth-heavy 80s demo material, drum machines and variable quality apply. In that respect, okay, Lucky Us is not the ideal starting point for the curious Adverts fan.

    But this review nonetheless does the songs a disservice. There is still much for the casual music fan to enjoy if forewarned of the de facto limitations to which demo material is subject. The lyrics are characteristically smart and Smith’s ear for melody is perhaps only matched among his punk contemporaries by Shelley.

    For whatever it’s worth, I find Lean Towards the Light and the choppy Divide and Rule to be amongst the loveliest pop songs TV Smith’s ever written.

    “It’s a world away from Crossing the Red Sea. If you’re looking for punk rock guitars, you’ve come to the wrong place.”

    Hmm. Although that sentence is framed as a statement of fact, it comes perilously close to the “Why can’t he just make records like the first one?” complaint when read in the context of a generally negative review.

    TV Smith has released 11 albums since Red Sea, only two of which rely heavily on “punk rock guitars” (one of which is to be included on the forthcoming Cheap anthology). Smith has been on the end of this somewhat tiresome observation ever since Cast of Thousands in 1979. But a cursory glance over his back-catalogue reveals that loud guitars are the exception, not the rule. Smith’s tastes have always tended to more imaginative – even progressive – arrangements.

    At the unforgiving level of works-in-progress, these experiments are admittedly hit and miss (by my lights, anyway). But the hits outnumber the misses and, in any case, the freedom to experiment with styles is part of what demoing new material is about.

    Getting past the dated sound only takes a few listens and rewards the effort. As a hint of what might have been, these tracks provide a fascinating – and often highly enjoyable – glimpse of a restless outcast’s notes from the 80s wilderness.

    A clip of TV Smith performing a punked up version of The Lord’s Prayer with the Midnight Creeps can be seen here:!/photo.php?v=419246078096175

  2. I don’t generally respond well to criticism but when its as well thought out and as constructive as that, I have to say … fair points , well made.

    I did find the album ‘hard to love’ but went with this substandard review to ‘Publicise its availability’ rather than not review it at all … and had to give my honest opinion to who I consider to be “my readership” – people who prefer punk-rock-guitar -so that they didn’t purchase something they’d be disappointed with. ‘.

    Jamie -to make amends please feel free to write another TV Smith piece – (Top Ten TVS Songs?) Why TVS is the UKs Greatest Living Protest Singer? Whatever you like … and I will urge the Editors to publish it on LTW . (


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