Elektra Records 1979
In The Night
Should've Known Better
Blue and Grey
Richard Lloyd: Lead guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals
Matthew Mackenzie: Guitar, piano, background vocals
Jim Mastro: Guitar
Fred Smith: Bass, Heineken bass, background vocals
Vinny Denunzio: Drums, background vocals
Michael Young: Guitar, synthesiser
Now here's an interesting thing - the most radical band around explodes into its component parts; Tom Verlaine takes "Adventure" as his starting point and Richard Lloyd now shows that his musical vision is focused in a completely different direction. So here is "Alchemy", in which Lloyd reveals a strong pop sensibility backed up with tuneful songs and an ear for the hook. He's not afraid to borrow and let the sources show - there are echoes, for example, of the same English 60s bands that Tom Petty picked up on - and you can hear the blues in here, too. But there's always Lloyd's idiosyncratic slant on things to remind you what he brought to Television. If too much of it reminds me of other things then that's OK because I'm never quite sure what they are, and part of the satisfaction, and fun, here is in listening to this synthesis of pop styles.
He shows a cunning sense of dynamics and his guitar playing is melodic, assured and varied. He seems to be able to switch from pretty picking to overdriven fuzz as the occasion demands. He's not afraid of getting sweat on the strings and occasionally he plays something startling.
Lloyd's romanticism is less cryptic than Verlaine's and, if these songs lack the sense of mystery that ran through the two Television albums, they have the virtue of directness and a nicely judged sense of tone.
Lloyd, like his old partner, has a voice that you either love or hate. He always seems to sing slightly off-key, as if someone else has written the words and he's not quite sure what they mean, or how they should sound. But it's his voice, with its slightly-out-of-it quality, that lifts these songs above the merely-enjoyable and makes you listen more closely, keeps the listener off balance.
It's all very accomplished and pleasing and there's hardly a low point on it (with the exception of "Pretend" which seems to strain to get somewhere but never quite makes it, losing the point before the end). At first, that's all it seems to be. But listen to it again and you start to find things - the most obvious of which is that the title track is excellent. A great moody groove with lovely guitar lines and fills and a vocal that gels perfectly with the music. It sounds like The Cars with soul (and yes, that is meant as a compliment).
"Number Nine" is terrific - an amphetamine rush of a song with a great guitar break, that doesn't have much to say and says it perfectly. Lloyd has the knack of sometimes switching the melodic/rhythmic focus of a song part way through that works to great effect in "Blue and Grey" with its muscular guitar and synth fills and check out the backing vocals and single note guitar lines on "Summer Rain".
This is pop/rock music with an edge and most of it sounds very radio-friendly.