Side one of Tell Us the Truth was recorded live, and it's inarguably fascinating as an anthropological document, capturing the Cockney yob in his native environment, complete with football chants and a spontaneous chorus of "Knees Up, Mother Brown." Jimmy Pursey's communication with his audience is inarguably impressive, and some of the songs have a good head of straight-ahead energy (especially "Borstal Breakout"), but the sound is thin and the band seems to have a hard time getting into fifth gear. The studio side actually sounds more impressive; the performances are tighter, Dave Parsons' guitar benefits from a bit of double-tracking, and Pursey sings more than he hectors. But Pursey was already starting to sound a bit pompous, and time has not been the least bit kind to songs like "I'm a Man I'm a Boy" and "Hey Little Rich Boy," which for all their sincerity don't say anything dozens of other bands haven't said better.
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. The 2000 CD reissue features two bonus cuts, including a studio version of "Borstal Breakout."
trACks: WE GOT A FIGHT / RIP OFF / ULSTER / GEORGIA DAVIS IS INNOCENT / THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND / BORSTAL BREAKOUT / FAMILY LIFE / HEY LITTLE RICH BOY / I'M A MAN I'M A BOY / WHAT ABOUT THE LONELY / TELL US THE TRUTH / IT'S NEVER TOO LATE / WHO'S GENERATION / WHAT HAVE WE GOT.