Monday, October 11, 2010

Grooves: Television - Adventure (1978)

Television is one of the most enigmatic bands of the 70's. They emerged during the punk rock scene in New York and even though they are labeled as proto-punk or art punk, this seems to be a misnomer. My introduction to Television made them sound much less like punk rock and more like sprawling guitar prog. Where the difference lies is in the production and the songwriting. Marquee Moon is a masterpiece (and we'll get to that later on in this grand undertaking.) It's about as close to perfect as an album gets, so following it up was going to be an inevitable hurdle to jump for the band. Not including their self titled release in the 90's, the only other record of original tunes would come in the form of 1978's Adventure. The biggest difference between the two records lies in the production of the two. And much to any one's non-surprise, it makes the sound completely different, but doesn't ruin what Television does best. In fact, some songs benefit from this different grade of production. Adventure may not be on the same level as Marquee Moon, but it's hardly from a

I'm pretty sure I picked up Adventure at Album Hunter in Maple Shade, NJ. Before diving into the record itself, let me tell you a little bit about this place. Album Hunter lies on Main Street in Maple Shade and is one of the oddest, yet best places to get vinyl. Unlike most record stores, this place is unassuming and is not anywhere near the cool vibe of say Princeton Record Exchange or AKA Records in Philadelphia. In fact, it's far from cool. On the outside, it looks like it's a store that closed in 1986. On the inside, it's a treasure trove. The owner blares Conservative Talk Radio, yet he never really seems to agree with the statements. I was most frequently there during the Bush Administration and he constantly ripped on W. That aside, the man had an impeccable taste apparently as Kraftwerk posters and a large amount of really awesome rare records littered the walls. It's totally unorganized for the most part, but I have found so many great records there that it's worth the hour or two you'll spend going through the cardboard boxes to find something such as Television's Adventure for all of $3.00. To me, putting up with Rush Limbaugh for an hour in order to find something good, is totally worth it. i haven't been back in a long time. I think that needs to change. I highly suggest a trek out to the Shade for anyone in the Tri-State area to check out this strange, yet wonderful place.

Having found a non-reissued version of any Television album seems like a hard task, so when I saw Adventure, I had to get it. I haven't listened to it in a while and I must say that Adventure is a great album. It's not perfect, but it's great. The smoothed out edges on opener "Glory" sounds like Big Star by way of Tom Verlaine. It's a power pop tune of sorts that has some catchy hooks and very interestingly arranged guitars weaving in and out of each other. It's classic Television, but with the refined edges of production, it takes on a clearer vision. It's a typical Television song, but much more streamlined. "Days" follows similar suit. These two tracks benefit from the cleaner production. It's a shimmering beauty of a song. It has one of my favorite lyrics care of Verlaine: "No matter how much I cross, I always see the same stream/I'm standing up on these bridges, that are standing in a dream." Truly wonderful. The next two tracks seem to lose some edge with the polished production. "Foxhole," a truly wonderful guitar rocker and anti-war song gets hit the most by this. The choppy production of Marquee Moon, during which this song was written, would have had a much harder edge to it had it appeared there. Same goes for "Careful" which is a bouncy, pop track and easily my least favorite moment of the record. Both are great songs, but when you listen to them, you can see the untapped potential they would have had. The side ends with "Carried Away", yet another mid tempo track which again sounds better than the harder hitting rockers on the album. It's gospel choir organ gives a nice touch.

Side two is a bit more even then side one, but it's only three tracks long. "The Fire", with it's eerie, opening guitar riff kicks off the side with a spacey, sprawling guitar epic. It's the highlight of the second half. "Ain't That Nothin'" sounds like an older track, maybe written during the Marquee Moon sessions. With it's gang vocal chorus, it's an anthem to slackers everywhere. It's probably one of the only songs with the punk spirit at it's core. "The Dream's Dream" is the finale and unlike "Torn Curtain" from Marquee Moon, it lacks the fireworks and the urgency. But for some reason, it works on this album. It's a slow burn that slowly fades away.

This being the last album from Television in the 70's, it ends leaving us wanting more. I have yet to find or listen to the Television self titled record from the 90's, but I have a feeling that it's not really worth it from what I've read unless I delve into solo Tom Verlaine. Until then, I keep Adventure as a rainy day back-up to Marquee Moon. If anything, the next best record to get by Television is their live album Live at the Old Waldorf which actually shows the true power behind the tracks found on Adventure, especially "Foxhole." I am not saying I don't enjoy Adventure. It just has something missing from it. I definitely am glad to have it on vinyl. The crackle and sizzle of the analog sound definitely helps make the mix sound a little less polished. The CD Re-Issue is far less intriguing as it's so clean, it lacks any of the nostalgic sounds that the vinyl gives forth.

Up Next: The first of many Neil Young albums

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