WHAT: Television's Adventure (1978)
WHY: My first experience with Television came via Elektra's Rubiat compilation, where the Kronos Quartet covered the band's "Marquee Moon." A couple weeks later my friend Mike (who basically was back in the late 80s and early 90s what Indie Maven Sean is for me today) gave me a copy of the album Marquee Moon, and my mind was properly blown. A New York mix of new wave via Talking Heads, punk via Patti Smith, but all with a musical proficiency that was a notch above what everyone else was doing, Television sounded like nothing else at the time. Marquee Moon is one of those "perfect" album - every track strong and part of an integrated whole that never overstays its welcome.
I picked up Adventure, their second album, released in 1978, a few months ago and then promptly forgot about it in the hustle and bustle of holidays and kids. After a thorough virtual dusting, it's ready to play:
1. Glory - Lots of instrument separation. Tom Verlaine's vocals always give me a moment's pause - I always think I'm listening to another band, then it all kicks in. I love the chord being hit on the down beats in the background. A bit of slide infects the solo, giving things a soft, easy vibe. Nice, casual opener...very relaxing.
2. Days - Television just might be the softest "punk" band to come out of the 70s New York scene. They're more punk in the sense that a poet is punk - it goes against a lot of what was considered the tenets of the genre at the time. Everything's so tasteful, almost a little too tasteful. "Days" is another contemplative song - vaguely sorrowful in its chorus. Verlaine's got such a clean, ringing guitar tone. I read that Adventure was more subdued than Marquee Moon; that's true, but the prettiness that permeates Moon's tracks is nicely emphasized here.
3. Foxhole - The gain gets turned up, the distortion crackles a bit, and there's a nice lead before the vocals kick in. I love how the songs feel very much assembled: you can hear each piece and how it fits into the larger song. "Foxhole" is more along the lines of the previous record. Great guitar playing all throughout the track.
4. Careful - Is the whole album comprised of one-word songs? "Careful" is bouncy and more playful than the other tracks, and for some reason I'm getting a weird Who vibe here, although it's a Who vibe from more of their obscure early stuff, not the bombastic (and awesome) period of Who's Next. There's a bit of a shuffling, country feel to "Careful" that, while nice, isn't my favorite track on the album. The solo is a lot of fun, though, and has that melody that can stick in your head if you're not careful. Which was completely unintentional, by the way (though leaving it in was, definitely, intentional).
5. Carried Away - I guess adding the extra word took too much out of the band; "Carried Away" is a slow, ringing tremolo laden track. It's okay, full of jangling chords, a sad organ solo, and wistful lyrics. I have to admit...my mind starting drifting about halfway through this song. Almost as if it was...(wait for it)...CARRIED AWAY!
Ha. I kill me.
6. The Fire - A somber intro that's calling out, "This is the epic of the album." A quick check of the run times confirms that "The Fire" is only the second-longest track on the album...you'll have to earn your "epic" status, boys. This is more of a hesitant, poetic ode to loss, the instruments all echoing a plaintive cry. Verlaine's lyrics work with or without accompaniment: You ran with it/I wish I could/Sleep is not sleep/My eyes repeat/You take the voltage that watches you weep. Right now this is my favorite track on the album.
7. Ain't That Nothin' - Ooh! Apostrophes and distortion! This must be a rocker! Well, it's more upbeat, but something about it feels lackluster. The chorus is kinda meh, although a nice solo pops up in the middle of the track. There's the sense of space the marks a good Television track, but "Ain't That Nothin'" besides a few nice guitar interludes and the aforementioned solo doesn't work for me.
8. The Dream's Dream - Here we go, final track and longest track. The beginning, full of harmonics and overlapping parts feels very much like the Television that I love. 1:30 in before we get any vocals, and what we do get is a wonderfully obscure little rhyme that carries the logic of a dream as dreamed by a dream, if that makes any sense. "The Dream's Dream" is Television's excuse to play with sounds and forms, and is probably the most "adventurous" song on Adventure. At this point my bad punning is starting to affect even my demeanor, so I'll check clock out and listen to the stellar guitar playing and reflect on Verlaine's snippet of lyric:
The elevator called me up.
She said you better start making sense.
The stone was bleeding, whirling in the waltz.
I went to see her majesty. The court had no suspense.
She said, "Dream dreams the dreamer."
I said it's not my fault.
BOTTOM LINE: B- It's certainly not the achievment that Marquee Moon is, but there a couple of songs that make Adventure a nice notch in any music collection. The promise on tracks like "The Fire" and "The Dream's Dream" would be sadly unfulfilled due to the band's breaking up a few months later. I have no idea what 90s era Television sounds like, and I probably don't want to.