RICHARD LLOYD: NEW WAVE'S MELODIC CRAFTSMAN
Boston Globe, 16th January 1980
by Jim Sullivan
In concert at the Rat, Friday night.|
Even at its onset in 1975, the New York new wave scene was spearheaded by two groups - the Ramones and Television - who could not have been more dissimilar in terms of their musical approach and artistic intent. The Ramones went for the jugular with the simplistic, mindlessly infectious jackhammer strategy: tackle a topic and come out explosively for or against it within two minutes and three chords. On the other side, Television - initially co-lead by guitarist Tom Verlaine and bassist Richard Hell - opted for oblique and sometimes quite jarring imagery that owed more to the Doors and the Velvet Underground than to any mid-'60s pop bass. Verlaine and guitarist Richard Lloyd fused textural gems, as they intertwined their leads, solos and rhythm parts, mixing subtle dissonance with haunting, melodic guitar lines. Hell left the band within a year (after, according to insiders, being forced out by Verlaine) and Verlaine started to assume total control of the band's direction. According to Lloyd, it was this growing domination that finally forced the group's breakup in August 1978. "As soon as Tom had managed to get Hell out of the band, it became solidified," said Lloyd before his gig at the Rat last weekend. "It became really Tom's band." While remaining proud of Television's music, Lloyd said he was happy to be free of Verlaine's control and on his own, leading his own group (which includes former Television bassist Fred Smith and ex-Nervous Eaters and Reddy Teddy guitarist Mathew MacKenzie.) "I was relieved in no small part by the breakup," Lloyd said. "I was ecstatic."
At the Rat (as well as on his solo debut album "Alchemy") Lloyd showed his style to be less jarring and abrasive than Verlaine's and more obviously melodic - rooted, and this may be a surprise to Television devotees, in the gentler side of mid-'60s English pop. Which is not to say he has come up with a Nick Lowe-like pure pop revue; Lloyd's music is imbued with an understated textural power and although he is likely to cut loose with a fuzzy chordal burst now and then his rock is as spare and layered as Tom Petty's, the Cars' or Dire Straits'.
Lloyd is a craftsman. "Misty Eyes" and "Should Have Known Better" (a neat inversion of the original optimistic sentiment of the Beattles' song of the same title set to a snappy beat - which, yes, in the beginning sounds more than a little like the Knack's "My Sharona") work nicely; still they're the kind of tunes that inspires polite applause. But the real breakthrough moments come on songs like "Pretend" when Lloyd uses steady rhythm guitar playing to take off - to soar above and expound beyond the song's sad disillusioning lyricism. Similarly, on "Blue and Gray" Lloyd tops the lazy-river rhythm with an eloquent solo, letting a cascade of well-chosen notes color the song's slaying tempo.
The problem with Lloyd's set - and each of his shows Friday was only 35 minutes long and the second mostly a reprise of the first - was that these moments didn't come frequently enough; too often - as in "Alchemy" and "She Said No" he'd stick to the structure and the songs were merely pleasant instead of gripping. When he went out on a limb with a solo, the result was consistently satisfying. Incidentally, in this band, Lloyd does nearly all the solo and lead parts - he is as much the center of this show as Verlaine wished to be with Television. Lloyd might want to consider developing his solos more and taking more freedom with the material; he is already working with a solid base. What he needs is the confidence to go further with it.