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Television Marquee Moon/Adventure Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

Let's be unequivocable here. These two albums represent the most important re-releases...

Chris Jones 2003

Let's be unequivocal here. These two albums represent the most important re-releases of the year. Maybe even the decade. Strong words; but necessary in this world of pointless comparison. Yes, the Strokes sure do look like these paragons of New York, new wave cool, but soundwise; its time to listen up. NO ONE ever will or can come close to these recordings. Let's prove it...

Guitars: it's impossible to review any Television release without discussing the boy's toys; and TV have two world-class exponents of the craft. Tom Verlaine could (and should) have a book written about his stinging sci-fi tone and dazzling Fender Jaguar explorations. He lies somewhere between Richard Thompson and John Coltrane. Less is said of Richard Lloyd, but anyone who's seen them live will attest to his skill. The first solo on Marquee Moon belongs to him (''See No Evil'') and it's a testament to melodic economy. Verlaine only exceeds him in terms of out-thereness. What, of course, is really important is how the two work together. Underpinned by Fred Smith's redoubtable bass and Billy Ficca's clattering toms, it's part psychedelia, part existentialist verse, part gritty rock 'n' roll voodoo, part sentimental bluster and wholly, radically new.

Lumped in with the punk explosion of 77, Television were no three-chord heroes. What set them and their New York contemporaries apart was diversity and stronger links to the past. By the release of Marquee Moon Verlaine and Co. had been together for at least three years and owed as much to their love of Love, Moby Grape and Fairport Convention as to a desire to break the mould. What's more, they really could play. The rapture at finally being able to hear their 1975 debut single ''Little Johnny Jewel'' on CD is only matched by amazement at how weedy and technically faltering it sounds. By 1977 they could play this material in their sleep and were totally unafraid of being captured virtually live in the studio by Zeppelin's engineer, Andy Johns.

Marquee Moon thus burst, seemingly, out of nowhere:a fully-formed masterpiece of electric poetry. No other band at the time could have got away with a ten-minute title track (live, it stretched to nigh on half an hour!) had they not matched thedextrous instrumentation with Verlaine's sneeringly obtuse wordplay. His voice, always verging on the bleatingly awkward, is perfect in this setting. Listen to him spit out the line: 'I start to spin the tale. You complain of my DICtion...' ("Friction").

By Adventure, luxury proved their downfall. Often dismissed as a pale companion to Marquee Moon, it only really suffers from over-attention. New songs seemed to merit a more meticulous production - it took 9 times longer to record - and the edginess was lost. However, material like ''Ain't That Nothin''', ''The Dream's Dream'' and ''Glory'' easily match earlier efforts: the first featuring some of their greatest guitar moments and the second actually benefitting from the extra care involved -all subtle shading and delicate filigree; stately as a saraband.

Unfortunately indifference dealt the final blow and the band weren't seen again until 1991: the Orson Welleses of rock. Yet they still gig, and age, indeed, has not withered them one jot. One only wishes for new material. However, if you'd recorded an album as flawless as Marquee Moon wouldn't you be a mite daunted?

Rhino are to be applauded. Their re-mastering actually does make these diamonds shine a little harder while extras like the alternative ''Friction'' (more 50's b-movie in its feel) and the actual title track of Adventure make them must-haves for fans. But let's face it: they're just plain simple must-haves. This case is closed...

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