Television is good. No, I am not referring to the "idiot box" which the average American youth devotes some 25 hours a week to. I am talking about the proto-punk band that emerged from the almighty mid-seventies/early-eighties New York City scene. Television, along with many other bands of that scene, had a profound impact on the history of punk rock, and the history of music itself. In fact to say Television & friends merely impacted the punk movement is a huge understatement, for it was proto-punk bands like these that, by definition of the term, spawned punk rock.
Television was originally known as the Neon Boys in 1974 with Tom Verlaine on guitar, Richard Hell on bass, and Billy Ficca on drums. Months later second guitarist Richard Llyod joined the crew (Terry Ork told the band they could practice at his place if they let Lloyd, his friend, join) and renamed themselves Television. By 1975, Verlaine and Hell, who where high school friends, could no longer work together and Hell was replaced with Fred Smith. Hell later went on to play with ex-New York Doll guitarist Johnny Thunders in Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers, and then in his own band Richard Hell & The Voidoids). The album I am reviewing, their 1977 debut LP Marquee Moon, is by far their best work. Their 1978 follow up album Adventure, live album Blow Up, and 1992 self-titled reunion album were good albums, don't get me wrong, but they certainly didn't match the greantess of Marquee Moon.
This album starts out right with "See No Evil", one of the faster songs on the album. A great song. Here you first here Verlaine's whiney, sometimes unintelligible voice.
Next we have "Venus", a sappy little ditty (I've been saying "little ditty" a lot lately, please shoot me). "Venus" is one of Television's all-time "sweetest" songs. Even if you don't like such songs, you'll like this one. Trust me.
"Friction" is my favorite Television song. The lead riff is fucking cool as hell, the bass is great, and the singing and lyrics rock.
"Marquee Moon" is ten minutes and forty-two seconds of pure sonic bliss. The intertwined guitars throughout most the song, not to mention the many solos, remain some of my favorite guitar work ever. As with most Television's music (and lyrics for that matter), this song is eccentric and quite unpredictable. "I spoke to the man down at the tracks. And I asked him how he don't go mad. He said, 'Look here junior, don't you be so happy and for heaven's sake, don't you be so sad.'"
Next we have more intricate musicianship in the song "Elevation". "Elevation, don't go to my head." Yet another Television classic.
"Guiding Light" is a nice, mellow song. "I woke up and it's yesterday. Do I again face this night? Guiding light, guiding through these nights."
"Prove It" was a minor hit in the U.K. for Television, as was Marquee Moon. It is definitely one of their better songs, but I don't see why it was singled out over songs like "Friction" (though I read that "Friction" was a minor hit in the U.S.).
"Torn Curtain" rounds out this classic album. At nearly seven minutes, it is the second longest song on the album. Another softer song, but like all their "soft" songs, there is a unmistakable edge to it.
Well, that's it. If I seem less thorough with this album than I have with some of my other favorites of the past, it is because it is all rather indescribable. With the double-lead guitar work of Verlaine and Lloyd, combined with Verlaine's impressionistic poetry, Television was a truly original and influencial band.
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