The Adverts

The Punk Singles Collection

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Seven singles and 14 tracks, and one of the most lopsided reputations in British punk is finally placed on an even keel. Popular wisdom, after all, insists that the Adverts started life at the top of the pile -- U.K. music press single of the week awards for the first three singles, Top 40 placings for their second and fourth -- and then slid to the pits from there. In fact, the only downside of the Adverts' singles is that there weren't any more of them. Nine months separated the fourth, "No Time to Be 21," from the fifth, "Television's Over," and another six months yawned between that and "My Place." At a time when other bands were pumping out 45s like they were going out of fashion, the Adverts -- well, that's a story for the liner notes to tell. Suffice to say, having raced hell-for-leather for the first year of their existence, the band's absence thereafter was more than perturbing. The inspired pairing of "One Chord Wonders" and "Quickstep," the triumphal chiming of intent and irony that debuted the band on the Stiff label in spring 1977, opens the collection. The A-side was, of course, to prove horrifically self-fulfilling, as the Adverts' critics pounced upon its apparent declaration of musical incompetence and beat the band with it for the rest of their careers. Fools -- had they only peered deeper, they would have realized that not only was frontman T.V. Smith unquestionably one of the greatest songwriters that the new wave (or any other wave, for that matter) ever threw up, he was already focusing the Adverts' vision on the daisy-strewn path of self-deluding self-destruction that would eventually spell the end of the entire punk movement. "Safety in Numbers," the band's third single, made that point in brittle neon; in between times, however, "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" gave the Adverts a massive hit single, and its B-side, "Bored Teenagers," gave the unwashed masses their most enduring anthem. The Adverts' future was assured -- what could possibly go wrong? Everything. By the time "Television's Over" debuted the band on new record label RCA in fall 1978, all the momentum of their earliest singles had long since disappeared. So, according to legend, had the A&R man who recruited them to the major in the first place and, thus abandoned, this most turbulently majestic of efforts simply faded from view, dragging with it the masterful "Back From the Dead," co-written by Smith and Doctors of Madness frontman Richard Strange. Two final singles followed it into the dumpster. The semi-acoustic "My Place" was soundly denounced as one ambitious reinvention too far, and that despite being backed by an assertive live rendition of the first album's "New Church," taken from the band's first movie, the German television epic Burning Boredom, while it's uncertain whether the farewell edit of "Cast of Thousands" even made it into the shops -- and immaterial either way. The week before the single was released, the Adverts broke up. These seven singles, long deleted in their original form, come together again to remind listeners just what a loss that was.

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