Upsetter Music Inc., 2001
Ain't it Time
She Loves to Fly
Raising the Serpent
Richard Lloyd: All guitars and vocals
Chris Butler: Drums extraordinaire
Peter Stuart: Bass supreme
Lou Reed has talked a lot recently about the purity and power of two guitars, bass and drums. Back to basics, out with the fussy stuff that's sometimes there to cover up the cracks and, usually, gets in the way. Well, here it is - guitars bass and drums; three voices, one noise. And what a noise! I'm going to mention Television only this once - just to say that, with this album, Richard Lloyd stands clear of Television's shadow and gives us a rock guitar record which has few echoes of his first band other than in the wonderful guitar playing. If Tom Verlaine made an album this good in the year 2001 then all would seem right with my (musical) world.
This is a collection of songs that speaks of the past, lives in the present and looks to the future. It's the best Richard Lloyd album since Marquee Moon (ah, mentioned them again!) - the most complete, the least patchy, the most exciting and, I have to say, by far the most enjoyable. Lloyd has always been a melodic writer but here there's a new melodic strength which runs through the work, helped by his strong(er) voice and more confident singing. He has never been a "see how good I am?" player and none of the wonderful guitar playing here outstays its welcome or misses the point. It reminds you of Hendrix; not because it ever sounds like him but in the way it all fits; in the way that things happen that strike you as incongruous then you realise that they're exactly right. I'm thinking, for example, of Raising the Serpent, where the bass and drums build a slow, steady rhythm and the guitar almost rages against them.
The songs are constructed around sharp, eloquent guitar structures, punctuated and enhanced by Lloyd's mercurial leads and some scorching solos. In the liner notes, Lloyd says, "I wanted a record with inventive drumming that didn't just keep time and I wanted the bass to be its own star", and that's what he's got. Peter Stuart's bass playing sits exactly right in this exciting music and Chris Butler's playing reminds me exactly why I've always hated drum machines. This must be some band, live - the whole album sounds like a live band that's been magically captured on tape.
As soon as you put the album on and go straight into The Knockdown, right away you hear the fullness and clarity of the production. The bass is rich and thick, the drums sound simultaneously light and solid and the guitars are, well, everywhere. Eloquent, smart, liquid and rocking. The bass speaks with its own voice and the guitars speak with many.
It's not easy to pick out individual bits because it's one of those rare albums that just sounds great as a whole. (Remember them?). I Thought might have appeared on Alchemy and is the one slightly jarring note in the collection, but for the rest it's a collection of terrific highlights: Ain't It Time has a lovely fluid guitar break and She Loves to Fly a great Lloyd solo. Submarine has fabulous guitars all over it and a heavenly end section. My favourite - and, I think, the best - track here is Torn Shirt (hmmm... who does that remind you of?). The drums are locked down tight, the bass drives the track and Lloyd's guitar is everywhere at once; sharp, urgent rhythm slashes, trebly fills and, after a joyful shout of "Get with it!", two fabulous solo breaks encompassing everything from growling runs to screaming sustained notes. As soon as it's over you want to put it straight back on again, it's that good. Really.
This is an album recorded privately and available over the internet. You have to ask yourself, "Why?" Why aren't they playing it on the radio? (OK, I know why they aren't, but why aren't they?!) Why is Richard Lloyd a hidden treasure, instead of an acknowledged, bona-fide guitar hero. I have no idea, but there's something wrong somewhere... Get hold of a copy of this and you'll see exactly what I mean.