The second volume of arch-punk TV Smith’s tour diaries picks up where the first left off, with Smith entering another foreign town, unable to speak the language, uncertain what’s going on and with the reader still wondering why he keeps putting himself through this torment?
We’ve become so accustomed to the standard rock bio, writing tours off in a few pages of incredible highs and “you’ll laugh later” anecdotes, that it’s easy to forget that there’s a lot of other stuff going on — like trying to buy a vegetarian meal in a country that doesn’t consider greens edible; trying to find a venue in a city with no street signs; even negotiating American immigration with a passport that expires September 2011. Which, on an English document, is designated 9-11. Which sends the inspecting official apoplectic with rage, convinced she has discovered the secret code that could blow open the next international terrorism ring.
Of course, that isn’t as bad as the time one of her colleagues spotted Smith sporting a bag emblazoned logo of German punk band Die Toten Hosen, and the initials DTH. “That stands for Death To America!” the immigration guy snarls, and Smith can only stare in disbelief. “Yes it does,” he replies (although presumably to himself). “I always spell America with an ‘H’.”
“How To Feel Human” is littered with such incidents, as we learn how to deal with the news that your home has been burgled while you’re stuck in a club on the other side of Europe and more. But through it all, Smith never loses sight of why he subjects himself to such hell. Because every night there’s an audience that hangs on his every lyric — because they know that in TV Smith, even the most downtrodden soul has a voice raised loud.
Eight albums into the solo career that he ignited in the early 1990s, Smith may not have the largest following in the world, but he certainly has one of the most devoted, and “How To Feel Human” speaks personally to every person in it.