Personnel: TV Smith (vocals, acoustic guitar); Simon Edwards (guitar, fretless bass); Tim Cross (accordion, keyboards, vibraphone); Ginny Clee (background vocals).
Recording information: Triple X Studios, London, England.
Photographer: Cactus .
Rock & roll is like photography. What distinguishes good from bad is the importance of the pictures being taken. This one's of JFK biting the big one, and it'll stick in your mind forever. This one's Aunt Ethel on vacation in France, and you've forgotten it already. A lot of people enjoy taking pictures of Aunt Ethel. Either that, or they leave on the lens cap. Thankfully, TV Smith isn't one of them. Do we still need introductions? You remember the Adverts, you should remember the Explorers and, if you were paying attention, you might remember Cheap. Remember, remember...a worthwhile back catalog is unforgiving at best, and Smith's is utterly ruthless, a vaultful of snapshots with "essential" on the cover. It would be the easiest thing in the world to pop down to the photo lab and run off some reprints. Instead, he's constantly searching, looking for new pictures to take, and his first solo album in almost a decade, since the blink and you'll miss it Channel Five in 1983, captures him refining and defining his harsh, ragged vision once again, teasing out new images with tricks of the light and fancy exposures, until at last he reveals the bare soul inside, and what you've got is March of the Giants. Sometimes -- the title track, the wry "Atlantic Tunnel," the bitter "Free World" -- the effect is almost comforting. As a writer, Smith has few peers: the mind behind some of 1977's most memorable slogans is still electrifyingly lucid, and the rampaging "Can't Pay Won't Pay" -- manic preacher meets crusading orator -- skates by on such finely wrought blades that you're two songs further along before you suddenly do a double-take. What was that he just said? And more importantly, what does he mean? Predominantly acoustic but full-blooded regardless, March of the Giants not only retains the raw shock of Smith's past, it enlarges and colorizes it. Before, the graphic violence of his music numbed the shock of Smith's lyrics. This time he's operating without anesthetic. You can only thank God that his knife isn't blunt. Rock & roll with the lens cap off. ~ Dave Thompson