Friday, December 16, 2011

Tom Verlaine 1: Tom Verlaine

Given that he was Television’s main songwriter and lead singer, it should be no surprise that Tom Verlaine bounced back from the demise of that band with a solo album. For the most part, the songs on Tom Verlaine follow right along where they left off on Adventure—tuneful, more along the lines of constructed pop songs than intricate guitar duels, mostly because he’s the only guitar player. (Fred Smith is the main bassist, however, and Jay Dee Daugherty from the Patti Smith Group drums on most tracks.)
“The Grip Of Love” sounds like recent Television, with its strangulated riff and stop-start rhythm, and it turns out to be a tune going back to the early days. “Souvenir From A Dream” has a little new wave mystery, but the additional piano after the choruses makes the track stand out. “Kingdom Come” would get wider exposure a year later when David Bowie covered it in a near carbon copy, so familiarity with that will fuel its enjoyment here. Outside a reason to stretch on the guitar, “Mr. Bingo” is on the goofy side, but it’s got nothing on “Yonki Time”, which sounds like it was made up on the spot and overdubbed immediately afterwards.
The poppy “Flash Lightning” gets things mostly back to normal, while “Red Leaves” gets an odd boost via breathy vocals credited to “Deerfrance”, who turns out to be a woman connected with Zelig-like frequency to Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s, John Cale, and other movers and shakers of the time. (Those in the know will likely scoff at this brief summation, but there you are.) “Last Night” is nice and moody with a prominent piano by Bruce Brody and Mark Abel on chiming 12-string. Finally, the chugging “Breakin’ In My Heart” is another old TV song finally committed to vinyl, with extra rhythm guitar from Ricky Wilson of the B-52’s in that tuning of his.
Just like Television, Tom Verlaine grows on the listener, especially if one is already a fan. His voice is still an acquired taste, and the heavy reverb in the mix is relic of the era, but it all holds together well.

Tom Verlaine Tom Verlaine (1979)—3

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