TV Smith

In the Arms of My Enemy

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The opening lyric says it all. "It's gonna be a huge production!" TV Smith's seventh solo album is his most vibrant-sounding yet, but also his most familiar, as he reconvenes the lineup (keyboard whiz Tim Cross and guitar legend Tim Renwick) who cut his 1983 solo debut, Channel Five, to restate the sonic values that still hold that LP up as a classic. But add Die Toten Hosen drummer Vom Ritchie to the brew, plus a handful of guests to handle everything from mandolin and oud to mouth organ and whistling (whistling?), and In the Arms of My Enemy emerges so implausibly widescreen and adventurous that your ears could turn the clock back even further, to the mad ambitions that fired the Adverts' Cast of Thousands. This is not an album to simply listen to. It's one to leap inside and clamber around in, a jungle gym for the ears...but be careful. There are melodies to trip you and lyrics that will certainly make you lose your grip if you don't pay attention, ten songs that maintain Smith's traditional snarl, but do so with an acidity that is all the more caustic for the lushness of its surroundings, and an eleventh, the buoyant reggae of "Open Up Your Heart," that has no business cracking through such vistas, and sounds all the more glorious because of it. Elsewhere, the bruising "Clone Town," with its shopping list of dissatisfaction, echoes the Adverts' "Great British Mistake," updated for today's consumer society; while "My Trojan Horse" closes the album with a glimpse inside a guerrilla encampment protesting on the edge of modern culture's glorification of stupidity, while guitar lines spiral and Smith's vocals ooze conspiracy and disaffection. Plus, there's a fade-out that rivals and maybe even eclipses Channel Five's "Beautiful Bomb," however hard that might be to believe. But every song here is a gem in its own way, even the secret finale of honking clarinets and clatter that awaits anyone who waits too long to turn the CD off. And, when it's over, give Channel Five a spin and ask yourself, has any other artist come so far, yet remained so consistent, over that same 25 year span?

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