CD only, Ohoo Music (USA), 2003
1880 or So
No Glamour for Willi
Call Mr Lee
Tom Verlaine: Guitar, vocals
Richard Lloyd: Guitar, backing vocals
Fred Smith: Bass, backing vocals
Billy Ficca: Drums
"Ladies and Gentlemen, and others as well..."
The first release from Television since 1992, this is a CD released through the band and sold at gigs in the USA in March 2003. Recorded on the first reunion tour to support the release of Television, 8 of the 11 songs come from that album and the other three from Marquee Moon.
The final part of the Intro eases into "1880 or So" and before you know it Richard Lloyd pulls off a startling guitar break; later in the song Verlaine throws out fractured, sharp lines. Before the first song is over you hear what Television live has become. A rare and a wonderful thing. Either of these guitarists would be enough to front any band; together the combination of their differing styles and sounds creates a seemingly-limitless range of great moments. Currents and crosscurrents, oppositions and interlocking attacks. Verlaine's stark, off-centre inventions locked in with Lloyd's fiery, inventive excitement. All of this going on over Fred Smith's rock-solid bass and Billy Ficca's tight-but-loose foundation. And, of course, the hi-hat.
That old 70's insult that Television were "the Grateful Dead of punk"? Nonsense, of course. There's no stoned noodling here, no self-indulgent thirty-minute showcase excess. And this band has two guys who can play rhythm guitar.
No other band I can think of plays together like this. Check out:
The way in which, in "Beauty Trip", over staccato drumming and walking bass-line, the guitars share a dialogue - Verlaine's rhythm spilling off into Lloyd's liquid runs, as if Richard was finishing a sentence which Tom started. Verlaine creating the space for Lloyd to stretch out into a great break (which never overpowers the rest of the band sound. When Verlaine's guitar break does erupt, it makes sense in its timing and structure and lasts exactly long enough.
The series of little 'stroked' lines that Verlaine plays just before the last verse of "Prove It". I'm struck by how mathematically beautiful Television's music can be - a kind of random precision.
In "The Rocket", how out-of-control it can all sound even when I know it's not - the guitars in opposition to each other, Verlaine's almost taunting and Lloyd's screaming in reply.
You want dynamic tension? Listen to how the tumbling fierce end of "The Rocket" careers to a halt then mutates into the hesitant, minimal sketches that structure "Rhyme". The way the bass and snare drum create and hold a constant feeling of uncertainty/holding back that supports Verlaine's stream-of-consciousness vocal until there's almost nothing going on, everything clipped and tense along with the almost-inarticulate vocal.
The way the guitars build and layer "Marquee Moon" over the muscular rhythm. Verlaine seems to leave the song for a time, keeping on ear on it, pulling the most urgent noise from his guitar before slotting right back in to help push it to the climax (and yeah, this is sexy music).