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album review
Marquee Moon is perhaps the most influential record released in 1977. That's in a purely musical sense - most punk bands, including the Sex Pistols, may've been shocking in their stance, yet very traditional musically speaking.

This isn't the most perfect jewel of an album that some critics might have you believe though. First of all, Tom Verlaine can't sing very well, his scratchy punk yelp can take some getting used to. Also, the production and the band arrangements sound thin. "Prove It" and "Friction" are practically the same non-tune - boringly-composed numbers that remain passable only due to Verlaine and Richard Lloyd's guitars interweaving like snakes.

Composition isn't Television's strong point. The first two songs, "See No Evil" and "Venus", are the most fully-realized, with most of the rest sounding a bit sketchy. But fortunately, Verlaine and Lloyd sketch in some of the most amazing guitar interplay and soloing ever captured in Rock. So as a guitar solos album, this holds its own with Layla and Are You Experienced?

Verlaine and Lloyd's revolutionary stance was to shed rock guitar of its blues roots, to arrive instead at a mathematical modernistic sheen. These are guitar solos minus the macho bluster, reinvented to sound as gangly as Verlaine's physique - Talking Heads and many other New Wave bands have their tightly-sprung nerdy roots in Television's sound.

So it's impossible to imagine the moody soundscapes of a great deal of post-punk without Television. The band throbbed with the beauty and tension of NYC at night, a feat which could only have been achieved by immigrants to the Big Crapple. Jaded hometown boys like The Ramones would never have sung Broadway looks so medieval with such poetic fascination. There are some of the most transcendent moments in rock on this album, as the band soars on the lyricism of Verlaine plus Lloyd's steely-skyscraper guitar.

Perhaps the best record to emerge out of the NYC punk scene ever, this music isn't punk except in the historical sense. What it is in fact is the first genuinely great post-punk album, far evolved from the simplistic three-chord bashing of the Pistols and Clash.

So if you play guitar, then this is essential listening ... The Edge of U2 thought so, since he claims to have learned guitar by playing along to this album.

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Posted: Thursday 23rd Oct 2014 1:58 PM

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album review
The Flamin' Groovies were arguably the best band this side of CCR to emerge from the 1960's San Francisco scene.

The problem was that the Groovies didn't conform to the expected psychedelic sound, as explored by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Moby Grape. Instead, the Groovies were a back-to-basics rock'n'roll band with a greasy Stones / 50's-inspired kick. Too bad, since unlike the rest of the 60's Haight-Asbury bands, the Groovies don't sound boring and dated today - they rocked!

I guess San Francisco hippies were too stoned and lazy to know real rock'n'roll when they heard it. I mean, any scene that condemned CCR as boring sellouts while exalting unlistenable garbage like Jefferson Airplane was too drugged out to recognize decent music when it came round their neighborhood.

So the Groovies never fitted in with current musical trends, which led to the path of cult stardom. In the mid-70's, when basic rock'n'roll was coming back into style again, the Groovies made an about face and re-emerged as Beatlesque power-poppers, delivering some of the freshest American warps on British Invasion pop since the Byrds lost Gene Clark.

As usual, the Groovies were out of step with what the public wanted, and by the end of the 70's the band had finished their recording career (though they still play live gigs from time to time).

This collection indeed contains many of the Groovies' greatest grooves. Though it skimps some on their early blooze/rockabilly period to focus on their later power-pop style (only one song from Teenage Head?), this is a very solid and comprehensive selection.

At 24 tracks, there are too many unexceptional songs to make this the knockout it could be - some of the ballads drag, and some of rockers are generic - which shows that even on a compilation the Flamin' Groovies can be inconsistent. A handful of these songs however are Classic Rock in the best sense of the term, and essential for anyone who likes both The Beatles and the Stones (as the Groovies obviously did, since they try their hardest to combine the two).

"Shake Some Action" is a strong candidate for the greatest rock single of all time - imagine The Byrds played with the intensity of the Stones, the incredible guitar hook leading into verse and chorus defines snotty, angsty, adolescent frustration and rebellion. Just incredible - I could scour my record collection for weeks and still wouldn't find another song that is the definition of rock'n'roll in all its attitude and glory like "Shake Some Action".

The anti-heroin "Slow Death," is another justly legendary classic from their early period, with the most excitingly excessive slide guitars I've ever heard - they pour on those slides like some bands pour on strings! And "I'll Cry Alone", with its rain-soaked, driving melancholy majesty, sounds like a great lost Gene Clark Byrds song.

"You Tore Me Down" and "Yes It's True" are ringers for 1964 Beatles. And those two originals are almost as good as the Groovies' stunning cover of "There's a Place" - the impossible has just occurred - someone covered a Beatles song, and improved on the original.

There are a few other choice covers too, the best of which is the overlooked rockabilly gem "Tallahassee Lassie". Chuck Berry, Dylan, and "River Deep, Mountain High" are done in fine style too. "Don't Put Me On" is a great overpoweringly-snotty and angry number that sneers at false friends, while "I Can't Hide" captures the sugar-rush exuberance of a teenage crush.

As I said earlier, the band doesn't maintain a consistently high standard all the way through, but with such a generous helping of 24 songs, you can ignore the weaker moments, and hardly any of the weak songs are truly bad.

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Posted: Monday 14th Apr 2014 3:42 PM

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