Death by mis/Adventure?
Source: Sounds (April 8 1978)
by Pete Silverton
NEW YORK, New York. New albums falling down like rain. LaBelle Smith's rock 'n' roll army third wave invasion. Uncle Lou's first street (ha, bitter ha) operetta. Now the brightest, shiningest star(or so the charts would have us believe) of the whole Goddam firmament — the second stab at immortality by the Apple's most famous prodigal sons of doom, gloom, destruction and general slash your wrists downness, Television.
Look, there's one thing I've got to get straight now before one of those other creeps hanging round the office who voted Television's debut the album of last year comes looking at what I'm thumping out on this ageing Adier. Just one little thing. This album is boring. Boring as in flat, uninvolving, stilted and, belying the very title of the bloody thing, unadventurous. No more than just another Television album. Obviously, if that's what you want...
What you do get is an 'integrated package'. Tasteful, carefully chosen shade of red colour cover with an artistic pic of the boys (at least, that is what I remember it looking like — some klepto nicked it five minutes after I got it — they did leave the record though — is there a cover art fetishist haunting Long Acre?). Then, what really first aroused my suspicions, the red vinyl of the album — another piece of blatant and uninspired marketing. Just that little boost they need to get a high initial chart placing then forward to the cut-price seventh heaven of the chain store rack. In some cases, that'd be the record company calling the shots. Here, I suspect it's the band's decision. And, honestly, these promo devices are getting out of hand. Let's hear it for the plain sleeve and black vinyl. Anyway, if they wanted to match the tone of the record with the shade of vinyl, they should have pressed it in congealed blood.
And, when you play it, the title comes across like a joke, their tongues stuck so deep into their cheeks they could lick out the dog in the next street. When oh when, will some band have the guts or humour or honesty to call their second album 'One Step Back'? From the first bar, you know it's a Television album. (But that's what I want writes Irate from Skegness.) The debut album was 1977's answer to the guitar solo demonstration record — that's no complaint, they serve the useful purpose of giving budding superstars something to mime to with their cricket bat — and the vocals were pretty much dispensable. So have no fear about purchasing this one blind, Television fans. It's got lots of neat solos and Verlaine's still got the most irritating voice this side of Wolverhampton. He tries hard, I'll give him that. You can almost feel him trembling with the strain of trying to emote. Poor bloke can't help it if he still ends up with less feeling than Lou Reed's uncaring inadequacies on his new version of 'We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together'.
But enough of that, what about the guitar solos, that's what you're all here for, isn't it? Of course, they're almost as good as ever. Precisely phased, breathing the tensions of straining to keep themselves under control. 'The Fire' has a subtly developing break that has a structure that'd be more at home in the V&A. Those same St. Elmo's fire, darting runs that worry hell out of themselves and you. Listening to it is rather like waiting to have your teeth fixed and if that's your idea of a wonderful evening, who am I to criticise? And Verlaine can't help it if 'The Fire' sounds like any one of a dozen Neil Young solos. Ask Nick Lowe, if robbery's worthwhile, you might as well make it a daylight one. And that's not talking about the real neat Stones mid-Sixties period rumble run on'Foxhole'.
So what that it's dominated by guitar (and keyboard) solos? Well six-string pyrotechnica are alright in their place (between verses) but man can not live by them alone. And it's not as if Verlaine is of the same standard of iconoclastic genius as say Ornette Coleman. Basically, if you're going to accept the format of songs with solos — as opposed to solos with lyrics — you've still got to have good material. And, nearly everything here is slight enough to make toilet tissue seem substantial. The snappiest tune, 'Careful', could be mistaken for a Talking Heads demo — a good one, but a demo nonetheless.
The strangest thing about the record, however, is the pervasive concern with religion in the lyrics. 'Glory' has the same kind of ambience as the Velvets' 'Jesus' without unfortunately the latter's depth. And, of the words I can make head or tail out of on 'Foxhole', the most striking line is the question 'Where's my guardian angel?' Hey Tom, ain't nobody told you your guardian angel's too busy looking out for himself these days? All he can do for you is ensure that your records will sell like holy water at Lourdes.
Hell, if you want a sack of guitar solos built around a kind of Creedence Clearwater on methadone, this is the one for you. It's quite the best thing of that kind I've heard since the first Television album. If' it's something else you want, you just got yourself stuck with the same problems as me.
Adventures like this make sitting at home watching the football on the box with a couple of pints of Ramrod seem positively dangerous.