Tom Verlaine

    Songs and Other Things

    5

    For
    such an unassuming fella, it’s curious that Tom Verlaine and the boys
    in Television chose to credit the guitar solos on each track from their
    hugely influential debut, 1977’s Marquee Moon.
    Especially among the thousands of bands that sprang up in Television’s
    wake, this is an entirely unprecedented move. Sure, any discerning ear
    could’ve told the difference between Verlaine’s spidery, spastic guitar
    lines and Richard Lloyd’s bold, fluid melodies, but the liner notes
    nonetheless made sure you knew that “Richard [soloed] after the second
    chorus” on the title track and “Tom after the third.” As Verlaine’s
    eighth effort alone since Television’s Adventure (1978), Songs and Other Things
    doesn’t need to draw such fine lines — all the solos are Tom’s.
    Unfortunately, not all the tunes are his best, a short-fall that might,
    in fact, have been best addressed with a little more attention to
    musical detail.

    [more:]

     

    Released simultaneously with the entirely instrumental Around, Songs and Other Things is Verlaine’s first vocal turn since 1990’s The Wonder.
    While his performances with Television had a kind of meek charm — such
    as witnessing the skinny kid at the back of class suddenly burst into
    “I Want to Hold Your Hand” — as a solo artist, Verlaine’s voice has
    become a tremulous, bitterly nasal thing. Listening to it can be
    alternately unnerving, as when Verlaine’s tone goes from beat-poet cool
    to jubilant whine in the same verse on “Heavenly Charm” and endearing,
    as on the love-struck “The Earth is the Sky.” Most of the time, though,
    Verlaine’s pipes just seem like regrettable restrictions on songs that
    could have otherwise explored more interesting musical territory.

     

    But
    Verlaine is an artist who thrives on quirks, and his guitar playing is
    a prime example. Tunes such as “Nice Actress” and the epic “The Day on
    You” make it clear that little has been lost since his legendary
    onstage battles with
    Lloyd.
    The jazz influence is still front and center, the notes still stutter
    and stop — running to catch up with the beat or staggering behind —
    and the solos are still wholly original. The only problem is that there
    isn’t enough of them, and there’s too much of Verlaine’s meandering,
    inconsequential vocals.

     

    There
    are certainly moments that veer away from the middle of the road, but
    for a former lover of Patti Smith’s and an influence on countless
    pencil-thin indie rockers, Verlaine could certainly do better. Songs and Other Things’ mid-tempo pop feels
    tossed-off, like Verlaine couldn’t have been bothered to do more
    between walking the dog and a few dart games. Let’s just hope he has
    enough left in him for that Television reunion.

     

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