If you’ve never heard of the Television Personalities, it really wouldn’t be all that surprising. You may be saying to yourself, “Sure, I’ve heard of those guys; Marquee Moon was that album the Strokes pulled their inspiration from.” But that would be Television, another influential ’70s punk band. The Television Personalities were a little lower key than Television and far more obscure. Forming in the late ’70s during London’s punk revolution, it was one of the few punk bands that truly embraced the punk aesthetic: make it as fucked-up as possible. The members’ style followed no other path than the one they blazed, and it can be argued that they are partially responsible for the birth of indie rock. More than twenty-five years later and after a small stint on a prison boat for frontman Dan Treacy, My Dark Places proves not much has really changed with the band’s approach to music.
Treacy, the band’s only consistent member, created a style that was poppy in nature and more abstract than raw. Similar to the Fall and Wire, Treacy was one of DIY music’s pioneers. His albums have inspired everyone from the Jesus and Mary Chain to Pavement, but much like any pioneer, Treacy was far ahead of his time and misunderstood.
A lot has changed in pop music since Treacy’s last attempt at making an album, 1998’s Don’t Cry, Baby, It’s Only a Movie. My Dark Places has little to do with current music, and although it can be assumed that Treacy could be capitalizing on the ’80s new-wave punk revival, the album clears him of any money-making aspirations. My Dark Places is a bit difficult to swallow at first. The songs seem to be either so lo-fi and simple (“My Dark Places”) or so mechanical that it sounds like it were recorded in a karaoke machine (“Velvet Underground”). But stick with it: The charming parts of My Dark Places, such as the melancholy piano-driven track “I’m Not Your Typical Boy” or the old-school drum-machine-laced “All the Young Children on Crack,” will shine through.
Without any previous knowledge of Treacy’s work, My Dark Places could be shoved aside as an album from some bloke being different just to be different, but this is nothing new for Treacy and the Television Personalities. Like Jad Fair, Daniel Johnston and other lo-fi oddballs, this is what Treacy does, and even though it may initially seem strange, there’s definitely something worthwhile here. My Dark Places is a good distraction for fans of music that doesn’t follow the rules.