Television emerged from the same NYC punk-rock milieu as Blondie and the Ramones. But those bands often disregarded (or clearly fought against) technical proficiency. Television was (gasp!) a musically accomplished band that played with a lean and mean edge but featured (gasp!) actual guitar solos, then anathema to the punk aesthetic. Guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd drew inspiration from avant-garde jazz, 1960s psychedelia, and the Velvet Underground, while drummer Billy Ficca informed his rockin' thump with sophisticated syncopation. And while something of a commercial bomb (in the States, anyway), Television became a huge influence on U2, Yo La Tengo, and R.E.M.; in fact, Michael Stipe recently declared Marquee Moon "the best rock album since [Patti Smith's] Horses."
Now, in its infinite swellness, Rhino has given the first two Television albums, originally on Elektra, the proverbial new (and refurbished) lease on life. Moon, the band's 1977 debut, is loaded with smolderingly passionate guitar solos, not to mention Verlaine's pinched, sardonic, Patti Smith-like, take-this-world-and-shove-it vocals and quirky lyrics. The title track was the Blank Generation's counterpart to the Grateful Dead's "Dark Star": Over stark crisp drumming, Verlaine and Lloyd build a 13-minute symphony based on magnetic insistent riffs, their lines weaving and building to a lush sustained climax. 1978's Adventure has its share of sinister rockers yet features a deceptively gentler, more layered ambiance, courtesy of jangling guitars, Verlaine's cushioning keyboards, and some captivating poignant melodies. And true to the reissue ethos, both albums are filled out with several bonus tracks and crystalline remastered sound that gives the guitars greater resonance. Perhaps by now we have evolved enough as a society to finally give Television's wiry legacy its due.
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