Five Miles Of You
Virgin Records, V2314, 1984
Let Go The Mansion
O' Foolish Heart
Tom Verlaine: Guitars, solos, vocals etc.
Jimmy Ripp: Guitars, bass
Fred Smith: Bass
Bill Laswell: Bass
Jay Dee Daugherty: Drums
Allan Schwartzberg: Drums
I've always felt that there was something English about "Cover". On the front sleeve(cover), Verlaine stands at an intersection on a London street staring up at the camera. On the roof of the passing car is a wind-surfing board. London, in 1984, was not the windsurfing capital of the world (still isn't probably). There's something odd about it. Something English. (Or, at least, European).
"Cover" has a sense of unity that was lacking in "Words From The Front". A collection of songs that seems to fit together. In an interview with Musician Magazine in 1987 (full text here) Verlaine mentions how this album was recorded in an ad-hoc, relaxed way ("a really fun way to work") and this comes through in the sound and the feel of the record.
Once again, TV is looking into new directions and new paths to explore. And, once again, it reflects very little of what was going on around it (which admittedly, in 1984, wasn't all that much). Listen to "Cover" right through and it's almost like a sequence of sound collages, sound poems even. The inner sleeve has a section from Verlaine's "41 Monologues" which (aside from providing the opening spoken lyric to "Swim") sets the tone for the whole album. Guitars are used more for texture and shading than in the usual 'rock' way; as washes rather than broad brush strokes. It's fascinating and thrilling to listen to Verlaine the perfectionist building up and filling out these pieces with a whole range of tones and colours. As if he's stretching out and exploring all the possible sounds that he can coax or pull from an electric guitar in the context of these smart, bright songs. The vocals throughout are confident, relaxed and teasing, as if he were no longer so confined by the sound of his own voice. So, in "Swim", he can sing: "I can swim in your love" and make it sound, without embarrassment or a self-mocking tone, as if he means it.
The album opens with "Five Miles of You", a kind of oblique love song but sung as if he's distanced, in some way, from the subject. Like a love song to a statue, or an idea. The guitar break is beautiful, liquid and mellow. He gets as close to sentimental as he ever has done with "O Foolish Heart". Not, of course, that sentimentality is a crime but, in any case, Verlaine saves himself from the accusation by the quirky musical setting and taking what he's doing seriously but not taking himself too seriously.
"Dissolve/Reveal" is typical of Verlaine's approach on "Cover". The title could serve as an overview of the processes going on here. Over a rhythm that sounds like an early drum machine, he constructs layers of bright, intricate, playful guitar lines - at one point there's a guitar run that sounds like Duane Eddy in a time warp. The vocals float in and out and around and against the music.
But most of the songs here aren't linear - they don't define anything, they suggest things. They set off in directions then they're over and you're never quite sure where they were going - or whether they got there. The guitar playing throughout is just what we expect i.e. you never know quite what to expect. Long before "Cover" is was obvious that Tom Verlaine has few peers in technique, feel and invention, and none exploring these territories. You don't have to be a guitar player to love the little Strat-like flourishes in "Rotation", the bright pop tones of "Swim", the frantic, angular attack in "Miss Emily", the swirl of "Travelling" or the gliding echo of the break in "Five Miles of You". And this record is full of these moments.