This is not a Big Star, Nick Drake, Franz Kafka or Emily Dickinson story: Television were fairly successful and (of course) critically revered in their early years, when Marquee Moon did something with guitar-rock that is still kind of hard to describe. That said, main man Tom Verlaine’s yippy and curt vocals may be one reason why the great New York City band did not gain quite the commercial traction of such scenemates as Blondie, Patti Smith and – most to the point – the Talking Heads, with whom Television shared some ensemble and aesthetic values (while playing circles around them, to be honest).
Amidst Marquee Moon’s hypermelodic latticework of chamber-punk counterpoint, Verlaine’s lead vocals are typically the least tuneful thing happening; even Billy Ficca’s unorthodox and orchestrally patterned drumming seemed to have more melodic contour. This inversion of typical pop musical values may correspond to an inversion of pop fortunes as well, but…
…that comparative obscurity (they weren’t that obscure; 15-year-old me – who lived in the sticks and revered Kansas and Little Feat – was well aware of Marquee Moon) has set the stage nicely for an ascendant and evergreen influence in the indie-rock culture. Marquee Moon and its underrated follow-up Adventure strike a rare balance of fresh punk naïveté, willing experimentalism and some visionary musical sophistication and instrumental skill.
In Television’s two-guitar interplay – the more experimental Verlaine and the more rock-grounded ace Richard Lloyd – guitar-rock’s past and future twist and dance in a moment both of its time and absolutely beyond it. You count on the sturdy rocker Lloyd for bottomless soloing in the Wagner/Hunter tradition, and on Verlaine for the moves that make you go WTF. People are still chasing this sound, and missing it.
Television reunion shows, sans Lloyd, seem to be happening with greater frequency lately, and by all accounts the band revels brilliantly in that novel way of playing rock music that they discovered together 40 years ago. They visit the cavernous back room at BSP on Sunday, September 4. The recently announced opener is a stunner as well: indie art-rock royalty of sorts Deradoorian, the handle of the freakishly gifted and otherworldly vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Angel Deradoorian, formerly of Dirty Projectors and the Animal Collective offshoot Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $40 in advance and $48 at the door, and are available locally at Outdated and Rocket Number Nine in Kingston, Darkside Records in Poughkeepsie, Jack’s Rhythms in New Paltz and the Woodstock Music Shop, including its Hudson Valley Mall location. For more information, visit wwwbspkingston.com. BSP is located at 323 Wall Street in Kingston.