Sounds 14th March 1981

Down The Tubes

". . . And Don't The Kids Just Love It" (Rough Trade 24)
Rating: 3 stars
It's logical to assume that a bunch of quiet young men calling themselves TV Personalities are likely to have a healthy obsession with the media. They do, but they're also pretty interested in a childlike approach to their other fave subjects: what society expects, the characters it produces, and 60s memorabilia. Note the neat cover pic of Twiggy and Steed!

The TVPs have a reputation for being tongue-in-cheek pastichers in true punk pathetique style, but there's little of real whimsical value here, nothing in the tradition of 'Where's Bill Grundy', except maybe the recent 45 'I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives', a touchingly pastoral acoustic ballad which reveals that SB lives 'in a hut with a pet mouse', plus 'Geoffrey Ingrams', a story reminiscent of 'My Brother', about the guy who always gets home before it rains, gets you on the guestlists at gigs; one of life's winners. But this just hints at the insecurity/inferiority complex revealed elsewhere.

How about 'Angry Silence' - the story of a family at breaking point - 'my brother's anorexic but no-one seems to notice', or 'The Glittering Prizes' (that gogglebox influence), a quietly reflective witty-ditty about never quite achieving the best. 'Jackanory Stories' says it all for Nicholas and co: 'Just like life, there's a good beginning but no middle so you may as well skip to the end.' A touch morbid.

This may all sound admirably socially-aware, poignantly inward-looking etc, but the way in which the TVs set it to music actually negates any real feeling. That naive, off-key voice, amateur-hour strumming and drumming, corny Cockney pseudo-Wellerisms, spoil the quiet thoughtfulness of the lyrics. The attempts at jangling Byrdsy guitar and swathes of echo are well-meaning in a nostalgic way, but they display a distinct lack of ability to play or write good solid melodies.

You have to listen pretty closely to gain any benefit from the TVPs, because it's all in the words. On first hearing it all sounds simplistic and superficial. Shame, cause they do have something to say. Please chaps, spend less time watching TV and more time learning a few chunky chords and sparkly singing.

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