While there's been no shortage of new TV Smith albums over the past decade or so, the '80s saw him struggling against a wave of record company apathy that, at times, made it feel as though he'd never release another record again. Just two albums, in 1981 and 1983, broke the silence that followed the dissolution of the Adverts; and, while he kept on gigging, both solo and with Cheap, it would be the early '90s before he returned to studio action. Hence this collection, the first of two CDs rounding up his entire unreleased '80s oeuvre, from a brace of songs destined for a second TV Smith's Explorers album, through a mass recorded for any number of subsequent projects -- Sparkle in the Mud takes the story up to 1984, and leads us through what are belatedly revealed as some of the strongest songs he's ever released. "One Of Our Missiles Is Missing" and "New Discoverers," follow in the apocalyptic footsteps of 1983's Channel Five album; "Impulse Buy" and "Wheels Out of Gear" were sketches for a solo set around 1982; "Open Up Your Heart" and "Trojan Horse" offer up the original demos for songs that are now familiar from his 2000s output. And so on, through a 20-strong set that is all the more magnificent for having been so delayed -- listening through it, it seems incredible that not one record label in the land could see the sheer quality that shines through every minute of this album and, while the occasional track does suffer from the age of the original tape (a lot of these were mastered from Smith's original cassettes), that's about the only thing that is wrong with it.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson