Adventure By Mark Keresman
Though Television emerged from the same NYC punk rock milieu as Blondie and the Ramones, those bands often disregarded (or clearly fought against) technical proficiency. But Television was (gasp!) a Musically Accomplished Band, one that played with a lean and mean edge but featured (gasp!) Actual Guitar Solos, then anathemas to the punk aesthetic. Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd drew inspiration from avant-garde jazz, 1960s psychedelia (13th Floor Elevators, the Doors), and the Velvet Underground, while drummer Billy Ficca informed his rockin' thump with sophisticated syncopation. And while something of a commercial bomb (in the States, anyway), Television became a huge influence on U2, Yo La Tengo, and REM; during the latter's recent Shoreline Amphitheater show, Michael Stipe declared Marquee Moon "the best rock album since Horses."
Now, in its infinite swellness, Rhino has given the first two Television albums, originally on Elektra, the proverbial new (and refurbished) lease on life. Moon, the band's 1977 debut, is loaded with smolderingly passionate guitar solos, not to mention Verlaine's pinched, sardonic, Patti Smith-like, take-this-world-and-shove-it vocals and quirky lyrics. The title track was the Blank Generation's counterpart to the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star": Over stark, crisp drumming, Verlaine and Lloyd build a thirteen-minute symphony based on magnetic, insistent riffs, their lines weaving and building to a lush, sustained climax.
1978's Adventure has its share of sinister rockers and its own mini-epic -- the rhapsodic, Byrds-flavored "The Dream's Dream" -- yet features a deceptively gentler, more layered ambiance, courtesy of jangling guitars, Verlaine's cushioning keyboards, and some very captivating, poignant melodies. And true to the Reissue Ethos, both albums are filled out with several bonus tracks ("Little Johnny Jewel," their indie debut single, and alternate versions of "Marquee Moon" and "See No Evil") and crystalline remastered sound that gives the guitars greater resonance. Perhaps, by now, we have evolved enough as a society to finally give Television's wiry legacy its due.
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