LICK MY DECALS OFF, BABY! #10 Television, the best band you've never heard of. Part two Adventure and post-Adventure

“Television – the best band you’ve never heard of”

Part 2 – Adventure and post-Adventure
1978. The punk rock revolution had swept the world. The bold, stripped down sound of the music was a new breath of life to the people who were bored of the overblown progressive rock and jazz-fusion of the era. Young people were drawn to the culture of anarchy, self-expression and angst. The appearance and attitudes of these punks gave young people a sense of belonging and identity, and the extent and influence of this was massive. In the midst of all this, Television quietly dropped their second album, Adventure. Completely at odds with punk’s in-your-face approach, it was not a commercial success, and the band broke up shortly afterwards. However, while it may not have been a success, or have reached the glorious artistic heights of Marquee Moon, Adventure remains a stellar album, and one worthy of attention.

The album continues with the same mood where Marquee Moon left off. The opening track, Glory, is classic Television, with Verlaine and Lloyd’s classic yin/yang guitar approach, tight drumming and Tom Verlaine’s unique vocal approach and bizarre lyrics: “She said, “there’s a halo on that truck, won’t you please get it for me?”/I said, “of course, my little swan, if ever and ever you adore me.”/She got mad, she said, “You’re too steep!”/She put on her boxing gloves and went to sleep”
The second track, Days, reveals a slightly newer side to Television. A quieter track, although not quite a ballad, the mellow guitars and soft backing vocals are quite hypnotic. Verlaine’s lyrics are more abstract and dream-like than ever before. “Up on the high, high hills with my floating friend/Watching all the silver no-one can ever spend/I feel the touch of her hand and all it will erase/These footprints I have followed though they followed my every pace.” Foxhole is an older song from Television’s days at CBGB, and this is quite evident. It’s an aggressive song in many ways, combining dissonant guitars, melodic bass and angry vocals about the savagery and futility of war. This is a unique song in Television’s canon, as it’s one of the few times they ever explored political themes and sought to comment on them.
Adventure progresses in a much different way to Marquee Moon. Whereas the latter was constantly guitar heavy, stark and raw, Adventure takes on a gentler, softer approach in some of the second half of the album. Carried Away begins with a few wonderful guitar chords drenched in reverb before the introduction of a plinky-plonky piano and soft keyboard textures. Again, this isn’t quite a ballad, but it certainly sounds nothing like anything from Marquee Moon or the contemporary punk scene. The song progresses slowly and tensely with Tom Verlaine’s typical contradictory lyrics: “It was noon at midnight, the day that never ends” Like the work of an impressionist painter, the lyrics only reveal fragments of a story or idea, never quite making anything clear. Carried Away’s long keyboard/piano outro shows a different side to the band, temporarily putting aside their guitars to draw us into this weaving, ghostly journey of a song. The Fire draws the guitars to prominence and confines the keyboard to the background, but once again manages to create an atmosphere of tension and unease. A fitting parallel I believe, given that Television were so uneasy and out of place with the current music scene. The tension, yet overlying beauty of this song, to me is wonderfully suggestive of the new wave of music that Television influenced: post-punk.  Ain’t That Nothin’ is a more standard fare, and The Dream’s Dream is just that: a dream like, curious and soft piece of music that ends the album almost anticlimactically. A quiet and minimalist fade out takes us to the end of this little Adventure. 

Whatever became of the band after this? Well, shortly after the release of this album they broke up. Both Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd pursued solo careers, which were long lasting and critically respected, but never commercially successful. An old bootleg of a Television live show called The Blow-Up was released in 1982, documenting the band’s improvisational style, feeding off the audience. Finally, in 1992, the band reunited for a third studio album, simply entitled Television, before breaking up again swiftly. Since then the band has regrouped to perform live every now and then, but no new album has surfaced. I can imagine none ever will, either.

I confess that I don’t have Television’s third studio album. It got reasonably good reviews, but something has always stopped me from acquiring it. I think that, quite honestly, I don’t need any more of Television’s music. Two studio albums and a live album document some of the finest guitar-based music ever to grace the planet, and for me, that’s enough. Marquee Moon is probably in my top ten favourite albums, and while Adventure doesn’t quite compare, it’s still an excellent piece of work. There wasn’t any need for a third, as Television’s status as musical geniuses were firmly sealed in the seventies. Their acclaim is huge, their influence far and wide yet their works remain curiously overshadowed. I doubt this little piece of rambling is going to change that. All I can suggest in conclusion is to propose a toast – To Television, the best band you’ve never heard of.
Words - Adam

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