"Tell Us the Truth sounds passionate, belligerent, and kinda dumb, but that's an improvement over Sham 69's later work, where the band sounds overblown, strident, and really, really dumb."
I don't mean to single allmusic out here, because I've seen this treatment of Sham repeatedly over the years and I can't understand it. Sure they were a simple band who wrote basic songs with straightforward lyrics, but when did that become a crime in rock n roll? When was it deemed wrong to be honest and real? A band like AC/DC, a glorified bar band at best whose lyrics make Sham's look like Shakespeare, get reviews that include phrases like "high voltage rock," "perrenial rock album" and "not a single weak track." Maybe the Sham critics had never heard AC/DC (even though many of these reviews were written well after both bands were well-established) and just didn't have a good standard for dumbness. Maybe they're afraid of a band whose truth is so simple that no one needs a brilliant rock critic to explain it. Sham 69 meant something to English working-class kids of the late 70s with real issues. They meant something to me ten years after Tell Us the Truth and That's Life came out. They transcended their own place and time and continue to mean something to disaffected kids today. The raw honesty of "Angels With Dirty Faces" and "If the Kids are United" and so many other Sham songs have become timeless for generation after generation of punk rockers. While the critics praise the AC/DCs out there, they really only mean something to people looking to drink and screw (or worse yet to people remembering when they were young enough to drink and screw). Sham's songs, on the other hand, continue to do what rock (and music in general) does at its very best, it helps us deal with life and find some truth however simple it might be.