NME 7th March 1981|
". . . And Don't The Kids Just Love It" (Rough Trade)
These we have loved. . .|
The TV Personalities had all the hallmarks of a band whose fifteen minutes was up as soon as 'Where's Bill Grundy Now?' faded from the popular consciousness. Which just goes to show how wrong you can be, as 'And Don't The Kids' is the best overtly amateur album I've heard in a long time, a welcome reminder that the literal meaning of "amateur" is "lover", in this case of a certain innocent pop sensibility long since lost by such as the Buzzcocks.
This time around, the TVPs appear to have discovered literature, or rather Culture with a capital "C", a good many of the song-titles originating in books - (Look Back In Anger, A Picture of Dorian Gray, The Glittering Prizes) or films (La Grande Illusion). The formula's pretty much the same as before - bluff, gruff social realism with wry comedic overtones - except that they've got that bit better at playing their instruments and writing their words and tunes. Some things are only natural, I suppose, and their songwriting has at times a natural, unforced beauty impossible to fake.
Certainly, the chorus to something like 'The Glittering Prizes' is melodically priceless, just as its timely tale of a young no-hoper determined to "make it" in his office is a priceless fragment of everyday life. Technically, too, something like 'A Family Affair', with its subdued, menacing guitar backdrop, is way beyond the capabilities of the old TVPs in terms of atmosphere and effect. They don't lack ideas, and underneath the coy veneer of humour, there's a touching (and occasionally painful) emotional awareness, another thing that can't be faked.
It's not a perfect pop album, of course (whatever that is), some of the tracks being fairly ordinary in both content, construction and execution, but there's more than a fair share of songs like 'Geoffrey Ingram', where the matching of dour, resigned vocals with a delightful, twinkling guitar figure sets just the right tone for an excellent piece of pop fodder about a street-level 'Perfect Cousin', the kind of lad "who gets away with that sort of thing".
Musically, the TVPs are still sparse and basic, though slightly "fuller" than before: if their early 45s were little more than bare blueprints, the songs here are like semi-formed mock-ups of possible pop songs, still rough and only partially fleshed-out ideas.
Herein lies a large part of their appeal: we've Rough Trade to thank (again!) for nurturing the TVPs and preventing their being emasculated with professionalism, "good" productions, and the like, for their particular magic lies in their half-formed nature, their humble hesitancy.
These we still love. Or should.