FAMILIAR - More of the same from Tom Verlaine.

Source: Q Review (1987)

by Adam Sweeting

Flash Light

In one sense, Tom Verlaine has the most consistent output of any of rock's guiding lights. Since Television's spellbindingly wonderful Marquee Moon a decade ago, Verlaine's recordings have been unfailingly B-plus.

Although the press release accompanying Flash Light, Verlaine's fifth solo LP, argues that Tom "alters and extends the shapes and relationships inside rock itself" (if only), the album adds nothing new to the Verlaine canon. As usual, there's plenty of guitar expertise, a couple of punchy songs and a bunch of variations on familiar themes.

Previous solo efforts have seen Verlaine trying to add a few new colours to his tonal palette with sequencers and drum machines, but he was clearly uneasy with the results. Flash Light has been assembled by a trusty two guitars, boss and drums unit, and frankly, Verlaine sounds happiest with the chunky four-square rockers like Annie's Tellin' Me and the single A Town Called Walker. Were you to suggest that Walker's clashing riff and Stones-ish lurch remind you of Foxhole or Glory, you wouldn't catch me arguing.

Verlaine pops regularly into the frame in his author-of-slim- volumes-of-poetry hat. One Time At Sundown is like a short story boiled down into blank verse. In The Scientist Writes A Letter, Verlaine costs himself as a boffin cutting himself off from the world and matters of the flesh (in this case, someone called Julia) to pursue pure research. The song's chill abstraction probably comes close to freeze-framing Verlaine's state of mind.

It's a little depressing to note that Verlaine occasionally reaches that point familiar to many a rock deity, where his imitators sound more like him than he does. In the anaemic bounce of The Funniest Thing or the clumsy film noir reportage of At 4am, Verlaine reminds us of none other than Lloyd Cole. Verlaine needs someone to give him a new perspective and a slap in the face [Prince? Rick Rubin?) because he's going nowhere, gradually.