Television: "Marquee Moon"
Source: Zig Zag (April 1977)
It's been about two years since highly favourable reports reached these shores about Television, and almost a year since their unusual but "unrepresentative" debut single 'Little Johnny Jewel" appeared.
Combines with the fact that only a handful of people in England have seen Television live, this meant that the band was shrouded in mystery and pregnant anticipation before this album was released.
I'm happy to report that Television more than live up to their reputation. It's a great album. From the thrashing dual guitar riff at the start of 'See No Evil' you know that you're on to a winner.
Tom Verlaine's '60s influenced guitar is well complimented by Richard Lloyd's more traditional style, and motors the song along until the first of the album's many titanic heights is reached with Verlaine crooning the chorus over a cascading guitar break.
Tom Verlaine is certainly the kingpin in Television (they both have the same initials). Each song is indelibly marked with his strange, compelling persona. His lyrics are highly personal and very emotional....perhaps his involvement with Patti Smith is an influence. Same goes for his singing...or maybe it's the other way round! Whatever, his strangled and agitated whine fits perfectly with the stark atmosphere.
'Friction' and 'Elevation' have those trebly twin guitars hammering over a sparse rhythm constructed by Fred Smith fluid bass and Billy Ficca's jazzy drumming.
The title track, which is the last cut on side 1, is a smasher of monstrous proportions! Ten minutes of sinister pleasure, with a guitar solo which builds to a crashing, orgasmic climax. The unnerving lyrics are straight out of Hammer horror.
This song captures what Television are all about: a kind of poetry in motion with a scorching musical backdrop which brings to mind (though it may be unfashionable to say it) the early Velvets.
By contrast 'Guiding Light' is bright and melodic, as is 'Prove It', which has an almost Latin-American feel, although both songs still retain the urgency of the rest of the album. These two have a calm-before-the-storm effect but the melancholic, claustrophobic opus 'Torn Curtain', which brings the album to a logical close with Verlaine in reflective mood: "Tears....tears rolling back the years/years flowing by like tears/tears holding back the years/the years I've seen before".
This album is a complete classic, though it might not be a favourite with the record buying public and anyone less hip than me. This is not an albums for solicitors' clerks to leave lying on their smoked glass coffee tables to impress friends. It's an album of great artistic significance and honesty. It could and should be enjoyed by everyone...not just those riding the crest of the new wave. Don't delay...buy it today.