The picture is still bright for Television

Philadelphia Inquirer (21 March 2003)

by Tom Moon

For the last decade or so, the enormously influential '70s band Television has mounted small, irregular little tours seemingly according to whim. The band, revered for the twin lead guitar attack of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, hasn't had new records (or even major reissues) to hawk since the eponymous Television came out in 1992, and its principals have been busy producing records and doing other music projects. "We are," Lloyd says proudly, "completely out of the capitalist marketing thing. Lots of bands say they don't care, but Television is the only one I know that truly doesn't care."

Still, the faithful continue to turn out to see Television, the band with a tiny output by today's standards - just three full-length studio efforts - that has been credited with shaping the sensibilities of several generations of rockers, from U2 to the Strokes to current New York faves the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Lloyd, reached as the band was gearing up for a tour that will bring Television to the TLA Sunday, has a hunch about the enduring appeal.

"When we play together, nobody knows who's going to do what," he said last week from his home in New York City. "It's like seeing a Maserati on city streets. Everybody turns and looks, you can't take your eyes off the car. You know it's capable of doing 220 [m.p.h.], and it's not. But you're looking at it because it could. With us, you've got two guitars, and don't know which side is going to go off, what might happen. That's worth looking at."

That two-guitar attack, which Lloyd describes as "seamless, like passing sand from one hand to the other," has grown more intricate over the years, as the four musicians (including Billy Ficca on drums and Fred Smith on bass) have matured. But it was the driving force behind the band's transcendent 1977 debut Marquee Moon, one of the few unassailable classics of New York punk. Lloyd says that though the musicians weren't thinking in terms of creating a classic when they recorded it, they did have a clear idea about the sound.

"One of the things we talked about then," he recalls, "was resisting production. Almost de-producing. We didn't want anyone to muck up. It was a time when people were adding everything. Without knowing it at the time, we were insisting on capturing the band as it actually was. You listen to the very first Doors record, it was done in a couple of days and it's very simple. It has its own integrity. I think Marquee Moon has that thing, too. We were clinging to honesty."

Asked what's changed about the live show over the decades, Lloyd says the band does more new material "to please ourselves" than it used to. And, he adds, the current Television is much steadier than it was in the early days, when its shows were plagued by the usual rock vices (drink, drugs, etc.), and as a result tended to be erratic. "The roller coaster is not so evident anymore. We're relaxed. The intuitive sense of musical interplay is better. We're not one of those bands they trot out now and again and nobody's been playing - all four of us are deeply into music and really busy..... That makes it nice to fall back into the band. There's less train wrecks, more competency."