Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September 8: The Adverts, "Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts"

Artist: The Adverts
Album: Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts
Year: 1978
Label: Bright

Until the mid to late 1980's, women playing major roles in hardcore and punk music was not unheard of, but it was certainly a rarity. This was not only true in terms of women fronting bands, but playing any role within louder, more aggressive bands. The handful of exceptions to this rule remain some of the finest and most important musical moments in history, and the influence that they had stands to this day. One of these exceptions was the woman who most attribute as the first female punk star, Gaye Advert of The Adverts. Playing an absolutely vicious bass guitar, as well as lending backing vocals, Gaye quickly became an icon of the puck scene. The band also stands as one of the few punk bands who were able to gain decent commercial success without compromising their sound. Like so many of the late 1970's punk bands, the group was over with almost before they got started, as the band only lasted a bit over three years. However, in that short time period, they released some of the most memorable songs in the history of the genre. With only two full length albums to their credit, the group concentrated all of their sound and talents into these records, and the finer of the two is The Adverts' sensational and massively influential 1978 debut, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts.

In many ways, The Adverts' success can be directly attributed to Brian James from The Damned. Not only did James "discover" the band, but he quickly offered them the opening spot on The Damned's next tour, as well as being instrumental in their signing with Stiff Records. Easily one of the most interesting aspects of Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts is the presence of John Leckie as a producer. Leckie is most notable for his work on such seminal works as George Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, yet he also worked with groups like Public Image Ltd. and later, Radiohead. Few people within the music industry have such a diverse catalog, and yet Leckie was able to make each style of music sound absolutely perfect. The sound found on The Adverts' debut record follows this pattern of excellence, and the songs are crisp and well produced, which is just one way in which the band sets themselves apart from their peers. Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts is filled with single after single, as year song is truly amazing and undeniably catchy. From the amusingly and purposefully ironic, "One Chord Wonders" to the anthem, "No Time To Be 21," there is not a sub-par moment anywhere on the album and the band plays brilliantly on every song.

While The Adverts certainly stuck to the basic sounds of the punk aesthetic, they absolutely made the sound their own, and their music is easily distinguishable from the rest of the punk movement. In what is largely ironic, their music comes off as far more musical than most other punk bands, yet The Adverts are notorious for their lack of musical aptitude throughout a majority of their early years. As previously mentioned, much of the bands' fantastic sound is due to the magnificent bass playing of Gaye Advert. Spotlighted on songs like "Safety In Numbers," Advert proves that the bass is easily capable of being the lead instrument in a band, and this idea would be followed by countless bands from Primus to Sonic Youth. The other half of the rhythm section, drummer Laurie Driver, plays just as brilliantly, and unlike a majority his peers, he was able to be just as prolific playing at half or slower tempos as he was at a full-on punk pace. Though their early tour posters with The Damned reportedly read: "The Adverts know one chord, the Damned know three. See all four at…" guitarist Howard Pickup certainly attempts to prove the opposite. Taking short solos on songs like "On Wheels," as well as playing brilliantly around Adverts' basslines, the band almost seems set on proving that they do, in fact, know more than a single chord. Truth be told, there has never been another band who played the punk style quite like The Adverts, and the music found on Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts serves as proof to their greatness as a band.

Rounding out the band and handling nearly all of the vocals on every album is another icon of the punk movement, TV Smith. Owning one of the most perfect punk voices, Smith was able to simultaneously sing and snarl, which set him far apart from a majority of his peers. Furthermore, TV Smith's vocals are far more clear and comprehensible, so the brilliant lyrics he is singing have far more impact. The lyrical content of the songs found on Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts runs from traditional punk anthems like "Bored Teenagers" to their controversial single "Gary Gilmore's Eyes." The latter of the two was released as a single in 1977, yet left off the album due to time restrictions. It can, in fact, be found on the numerous re-releases of the album that have occurred over the years. The band perfectly captures the entire essence of not only the punk scene, but that of any band trying to "make it" with "One Chord Wonders." With lines like, "...I wonder what we'll do when things go wrong, when we're halfway through our favorite song...we'll look up and the audience has gone..." Truth be told, anyone who has ever played in a band can easily relate to this reality, and the way in which The Adverts present the song perfectly captures the feeling. It is the way in which The Adverts convey these universal feelings that make their songs so fantastic, and the voice of TV Smith is absolutely one of the finest of the entire punk genre.

Blending together the sounds and styles of punk pioneers like The Ramones, The Damned, and The Buzzcocks, The Adverts stand as equally as influential, as their sound is truly like no other band in history. Though they were notorious for their early inability to play their instruments, their debut record, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts stands as one of the more musical punk albums, and it still stands far above a majority of the albums released over the history of the genre. Combining the phenomenal bass playing of Gaye Advert with the sensational vocal delivery of TV Smith, The Adverts have influenced countless bands over the decades, from The Pixies to Devo, and even more recent bands like Green Day have cited The Adverts as playing a major part in their musical direction. To put it simply, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts is an absolutely devastating musical assault, and the sheer energy that comes across in the album is often nothing short of unsettling. The songs themselves perfectly capture the essence of the youth of the time, from angst-ridden songs like "Bored Teenagers" to more socially aware anthems like "Bombsite Boys." Truth be told, few bands can be compared to the amazing sound and style of The Adverts, and though many have tried, no band has been able to deliever the original, high energy sound and style with the precision and raw honesty as can be found on The Adverts extraordinary 1978 debut, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts.

Standout tracks: "One Chord Wonders," "Bored Teenagers," and "Great British Mistake."

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