Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Tom Verlaine 2: Dreamtime

Two years went by before Tom Verlaine finished a second solo album. Dreamtime picked up where the last one left off, offering ten more tunes like what we’d come to expect. Half of the album features the Fred Smith-Jay Dee Daugherty rhythm section; the other sports the drummer for the Dictators and a guy who’d go on to work with John Waite. Guitarist Ritchie Fliegler is his foil throughout.
“There’s A Reason” delivers what we’ve come to expect—insistent riffing, jagged accents, strangulated vocals—and the program follows through. “Penetration”, which is just Tom with Jay Dee, except for a piano at the end, kinda stumbles into place, but is precisely constructed. The pattern falls right into place on “Always”, a straightforward chugger but for a lovely angelic chorus, whereas “The Blue Room” is a rumbling instrumental except for the word “hi-fi”. With its arpeggiated guitars and straight pop structure, the brooding “Without A Word” could be a hit for someone with a better voice.
Except for the 12-string, “Mr Blur” could be another lost Television track, just as the power chords on the chorus of “Fragile” are downright mainstream. “A Future In Noise” is about as blunt a putdown song as he’d yet to write up to this point. “Down On The Farm” is the resident wacky track, with a guitar part predicting car alarms, strangely romantic overtures in the words, and a big swirly finish. “Mary Marie” is a more toned-down portrait of a mystery woman.
Even with the sameness, Dreamtime is another satisfying Verlaine album for anyone willing to decipher the meaning of the lyrics. Not a lot of people did, and the album was pretty much forgotten until well into the digital era, when it was reissued on the Infinite Zero label, an archival imprint curated by Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin. Along with gushing liner notes, this edition very nicely added two extra tracks from a rare single: “The Blue Room” with more, seemingly extemporaneous vocals, and a longer, hotter mix of “Always”. (These were not included on the later Collector’s Choice CD.)

Tom Verlaine Dreamtime (1981)—3
1994 Infinite Zero Archive CD: same as 1981, plus 2 extra tracks

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