Tuk Smith's debut solo album: an exhilarating love letter to the intoxicating power of music

Former Biters frontman Tuk Smith returns with sparkling sort-of-solo album Ballad Of A Misspent Youth

Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts: Ballad Of A Misspent Youth
(Image: © Music Recording Group LLC)

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It's a small miracle that Ballad Of A Misspent Youth has come into the world. After Tuk Smith’s previous band, Atlanta punk'n'roll heroes Biters, fizzled out in 2019, worn down by the apathy of a public oblivious to their brilliance, Smith recorded an album for US label Better Noise, home of Motley Crue and The Hu, only to have it shelved mid-pandemic due to behind-the-scenes shenanigans. No one would have blamed him he'd walked away from the whole shit-show. But he didn't, and thank the gods of rock'n'roll for that.

Short, sweet and crammed with maximum tuneage, Ballad Of A Misspent Youth is a love letter to the intoxicating power of music. The lack of success Smith achieved with Biters is in inverse proportion to the undiluted greatness of his songwriting. The gleaming melodies of the title track and Shadows On The Steet feel like they’ve been unearthed from some great lost album released some time between Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ first album and Cheap Trick’s In Color.

Smith is in love with the myths and heroes of rock'n'roll, and this album bears traces of Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Big Star and Thin Lizzy in its DNA. The spiralling Girls On The East Side Of Town is a glorious Thin Lizzy homage, relocating their freewheeling Celtic spirit to smalltown America and making the connection between Phil Lynott and Springsteen as kindred spirits separated by an ocean. 

Tellingly, the punk influences that were evident in Biters’ music have been dialled back. Ain't For The Faint, with its glam-powered riff and stacked backing vocals, is a solid-gold radio rock hit – or it would be if there were any radio stations left that would play it.

The album title itself is misleading. Ballad Of A Misspent Youth may seem to celebrate the romance of rebellion, but Smith has seen the dark side of the business, and a cautionary undercurrent swims beneath these uplifting songs. Say Goodbye's stirring melody can't quite mask its fatalism: ‘Say goodbye to the world tonight’ he sings, aware that the lifestyle can be as sad and damaging it is celebratory. Everyone Loves You When You'e Dead is even more explicit: this is Smith’s ode to fallen friends and idols. 

Yet even in its most reflective moments, Ballad Of A Mispent Youth is never less than exhilarating. Just the way rock'n'roll should be. 

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.