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LPs from the Attic: Television — Marquee Moon

November 24, 2009

Television — Marquee Moon (Elektra, 1977)

New York’s Television came up with the Talking Heads, Blondie, and other familiars from the burgeoning CBGB’s (may it rest in peace) punk and new wave scene of the late Seventies. This band proves just as great an influence on the recent garage rock revivalists (remember the Hives? The Strokes? Radio 4?) as the Velvet Underground, and bears the marks of having honed their chops in the midst of such mainstream legends as the above (as well as bands like The Feelies), while avoiding most of their peers’ excesses and fates. What does surprise and disappoint is that the group unfortunately didn’t get very much of those huge acts’ sales numbers.

On the one hand, you have Tom Verlain’s urgent, quirky vocal delivery, reminiscent of David Byrne, taking the image of the rock frontman head-on. On the other: a sinewy, multi-layered, and often counter-rhythmic guitar attack courtesy of Richard Lloyd and Verlain; the quick-change, driving drums of Billy Ficca paired with the (bong-rattling?) nimble bass of once-and-future Blondie Fred Smith.

For a guitar-based outfit, they were also especially careful to avoid any of the histrionic sloppiness of the punks or distortion-heavy bombast of “dinosaur acts” like Led Zeppelin, while keen to keep the visceral impact provided by a properly-wielded electric guitar. In fact, they even strong-armed producer Andy Johns to prevent him from using any of his trademark Zeppelin recording techniques on their debut album!

These refreshing approaches and modern production techniques make this album a fantastic listen; it’s enduring popularity and yearly appearance on best-album lists make it no wonder that Rhino gussied up and rereleased it in 2004. This is truly at the nexus of jazz-inflected punk and new wave, balanced with a thorough understanding if the perks and pitfalls of cerebral hard rock.

I understand all destructive urges; they seem so perfect. I see no evil. I see Television trivia:

  • Guitarist Richard Lloyd guested on (and toured in support of) Matthew Sweet’s excellent Girlfriend album in 1991.
  • These are some of the coolest, most idiosyncratic nerds-with-guitars this side of The Feelies.
One Comment
  1. Tony Mendocino permalink
    November 26, 2009 12:54 am

    You know that Richard Hell was born in Lexington? Imagine his parties on Waller Ave? Perhaps the Whiskeytown lyric should be amended to “I stumble down the same damn streets Richard Hell done stumbled before…”

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