TELEVISION PERSONALITIES

OVERVIEW:

This band is a true indie rock Godfather. In their prime, they spat out a ton of great little lo-fi melodic gems, sort of like a catchier version of Wire. There’s a direct line from this group to bands like Guided By Voices and Pavement, as well as the entire Elephant 6 collective. The band’s nutty leader Dan Treacy is one of those British eccentrics everybody loves to see go insane. He was clearly quite obsessed with 60s Brit-Pop and Mod sounds, and for all his amateurishness as a player and singer, he knew how to craft a damn good pop hook.  That is, of course, all that REALLY counts in the end. But Dan eventually starts losing his grip on things,  and the records grow darker, more savagely personal, and sometimes downright horrifying in their naked emotionality. The band’s debut is a total pop classic, and their early 90s epic “Closer To God” is just as good and also very different stylistically. Those are the two obvious tent-poles in a career littered with fun tracks. Dan essentially “disappeared” in the 90s, and all the post-“Closer To God” releases are compilations, live albums, or weird thrown together throwaways. He resurfaced in 06, but he’s only released three very bad album since then, so you might as well ignore ’em. I’m only going to focus on the key studio records by the band.

THE ALBUMS:

And Don’t The Kids Just Love It  *
Mummy Your Not Watching Me  *
They Could Have Been Bigger Than The Beatles (compilation)
Yes Darling, But Is It Art? (compilation)
The Painted Word
Privilege
Closer To God  *
I Was A Mod Before You Was A Mod
My Dark Places
Are We Nearly There Yet?
A Memory Is Better Than Nothing

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AND DON’T THE KIDS JUST LOVE IT    (1981)

A

A blissful pure pop album, and an incredible debut. Treacy would arguably never quite top this – and he’d change his style fairly soon afterwards. THIS album is all 60s spiky pop with a lo-fi post-punk edge. It’s like The Kinks and The Move and The Who and The Pretty Things if they were working in the punk era and recording to 4 track. Very British, very catchy and bright and exuberant, and very eccentric. There’s an off-kilter quality to the amateurish vocal delivery and sloppy playing that puts the record squarely in the Syd Barrett schizo-Brit pop category. But while Treacy WOULD eventually start to come apart at the seams, and his records would begin to reflect that state of mind, this album is surprisingly consistent and controlled. The loopiness feels like part of the act rather than the result of a genuinely troubled singer songwriter. It’s like Dan’s “Piper At The Gates of Dawn,” before he went on to make “Madcap Laughs” for most of the rest of his career. I mention Syd Barrett not only because I think the album conveys some major Syd-like properties – but there’s even a tribute song to the man called “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives!” LIke I said before, this is a crazily consistent record, especially coming from a nutter like Treacy (who would go on to a very inconsistent later career). There isn’t really one bad track or lesser moment, and the best moments represent some of the greatest pop music of the late 70s/early 80s. The album opens with a series of absolutely fantastic Britpop songs. The ferocious “This Angry Silence” kicks off the proceedings in a slightly more aggressive and punky fashion than the material to follow. “The Glittering Prizes” is the album’s ultimate highlight, a completely classic indie pop song with some great Roy Wood-esque bass parts. The “pretty soon I’m gonna change” chorus must have influenced countless 80s and 90s indie rock bands. This album sounds ahead of its time – it looks back to 60s Mod sounds and modes but renders them in sloppy home-recordings and so it’s not hard to hear it as a major harbinger of 80s/90s indie rock. There’s a spastic energy on here that Dan would basically drop for the remainder of his career, with a lot of fast tempos and tightly wound rhythm parts. “World of Pauline Lewis” may be a bit of an early Townshend rip, but it’s a fantastic tune nonetheless! Other gems include “Silly Girl,” the hook monster “Jackanory Stories,” and the hilariously catchy “Parties in Chelsea.” Treacy’s delivery could be a pretty big turn-off to listeners here – he’s not a traditionally good singer, and he does the harsh British accent thing, but there’s a vulnerability to his vocals that work perfectly for me on these songs. On later records, Treacy would emphasize the sadness and loneliness of his writing – so it’s easy to read some of these songs as more melancholy than they really are. But this is really just a pitch perfect lo-fi pop album full of great performances and melodies and tons of personality indeed. Get it!

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MUMMY YOUR NOT WATCHING ME   (1982)

A-

The 2nd TVP record is an unjustly overlooked gem that takes the sprightly mod-punk sound of the debut and injects it with an unsettling brand of druggy psychedelia. So things are darker, often dronier and less melodic (though not always), and Mr. Treacy sounds even more emotionally awry than before. BUT he’s thankfully still in perfectly functional pop-song-writing mode, and there are some wonderful hooks in these grooves. This is mostly just an edgier and meaner sounding continuation of the debut style, so don’t believe people if they tell you it’s a scattered drug-addled mess (as I was led to think). I suppose I could understand the disappointment of a fan expecting a refinement of the debut – but the rest of Treacy’s career would be an unraveling of that tight early sound, and you must either accept the new directions , or else turn away in frustration. There are two major extended freak-outs, both of which lack particularly poppy melodies and exist in a sort of post-punk lo-fi psychedelic haze. Early in the record comes the slow burning drug jam “A Day In Heaven,” with a scary Treacy vocal on top of a warped bass-driven dance groove. It’s mostly atmosphere, to be sure, but it’s fantastic psychedelic atmosphere and works great. Later on comes the nearly 7 minute version of “David Hockney’s Diaries,” which is even less musically distinct  (two repeated down-strummed guitar chords the entire time, I believe) but also even more menacing and fried sounding. I’m not a huge fan of the track, and it’s probably the low point of the record as far as pop music is concerned – but it’s sure fucking creepy!! The rest of the record is charming catchy lo-fi psych pop, and if you like the debut you’re sure to like these tracks too! “Adventure Playground” kicks things off with style and ferocity, a quirky garage rocker with a great verse hook. “Scream Quietly” is a killer psych rocker that sounds directly channeled in from 1968. The title track is a very bizarre and warped pop gem with a hilarious deliberately (I assume) wrong bass note in the verse arrangement. There ain’t a bad track on this fella, lots of excellent ones, and while it’s not a completely magical powerhouse like the debut, it’s certainly a worthy followup and easily one of the best TVP records.

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THEY COULD HAVE BEEN BIGGER THAN THE BEATLES  (COMPILATION)  (1982)

C+

A compilation of early non-album tracks and singles released after the initial breakup. This gets a LOT of praise from fans – some people seem to think it’s even a better overall album than “Mummy!” I don’t agree with that at all, as this falls into most of the standard messy singles compilation ruts. It’s way too long, has no flow or consistency, and it’s full of lesser material. The good tracks are very good, but there aren’t enough of them. To my ears, they are as follows: the anthemic psych pop opener “Three Wishes,” a fun alternate Britpop version of “David Hockney’s Diaries” that has nothing to do with the psych jam on “Mummy,” the utterly fantastic Kinksy pop song and album highlight “The Boy In The Paisley Shirt,” the ridiculous and almost proggy instrumental “Sooty’s Disco Party,” and the bizarre “Anxiety Block” with it’s Byrds-like 12-string guitar hook played against completely amateurish and mentally disturbed garage rock. These make the album worth seeking out, but you’ll have to dig through a fair amount of chaff to get to the pearls.  There are a couple weak Creation covers, some underwritten and forgettable 60s pop songs with Syd Barrett-isms all over ’em (“Games For Boys,” “In A Perfumed Garden” ‘When Emily Cries”) a boring instrumental called “Flowers for Abigail,” a weak and sloppy alternate version of the great single “14th Floor” which you can find in much better clothing on the “Yes Darling, But Is It Art?” compilation. I’m on the fence about the 6 minute  “King and Country” – it’s like a weird hybrid of The Byrds and The Stooges (it even directly quotes “Eight Miles High” at one point). I like the vibe, and it’s certainly intense and passionate. But there’s just not enough SONG for me. So as an album this is hardly essential. As a singles collection it’s hardly worthy. And as a messy compilation, it’s just about par for the course. For fans only then.

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THE PAINTED WORD   (1985)

B

A bit of a tuneless mess, if you ask me. From the point on the band would become essentially a Dan Treacy solo project, and I get the sense Dan wasn’t too interested in writing pop songs here. This is a long, dark, and fractured record, lacking a lot of interesting melodies or hooks. This time around Dan has taken for inspiration depressing early Velvet Underground tracks like “Heroin” as opposed to Britpop or 60s psych pop. It’s really not a particularly pleasant album to hear, and it’s also not hard to conclude after hearing it that Dan’s world-view was growing more bitter – his psyche more disturbed. It’s the most claustrophobic and upsetting album in the band’s catalog, and due to its commitment to such an unsettling atmosphere, it’s garnered a lot of (in my opinion) unearned praise. Dan would later write a much better and more entertaining horror-show album, and THAT’S certainly the go-to Treacy album after the early classics. There are, of course, some gems here, though I can’t say any particular track on this means all that much to me. I should say straight out that I’m not the world’s biggest Velvets fan, nor am I usually a believer in mopey depressing music played without proper adherence to pop-craft. And now for some positive thoughts! The record opens quite nicely with what are probably the two best tracks. “Stop And Smell The Roses” is the most successful overall track – and it’s also the most early Velvets-like! The tune creates a powerful sad psychedelic mood, it’s got a great build, and Dan’s voice sounds surprisingly commanding, rich, and resonant. I’m also quite fond of the combo organ figure that crops up from time to time. The title track sounds insanely 60s esque, a dark psych-pop song with a haunting guitar riff. The song has the album’s most unique production and most intoxicating melody. After those opening two things start to run together a bit for me – nothing sounds bad, everything has SOMETHING interesting going on (usually a nice  60s guitar part or some interesting lyrical portraits), but the tunes just don’t really speak to me. And the total sloppiness gets tiresome after 61 minutes. People seem to like “A Sense Of Belonging,” but it sounds underdeveloped to my ears. The last four songs on the record do absolutely nothing for me – particularly the super boring 7 minute closer “Back To Vietnam,” which is a go-nowhere attempt at a noisy punk story jam a la Siouxsie & The Banshees’s “The Lord’s Prayer.” And actually, Siouxsie is a REALLY good comparison for the tone here much of the time – some sort of goth/psych crossroads (though this album is way less put together sounding than the Banshess albums). There are couple other standouts – “You’ll Have To Scream Louder” sports a savage funky Magazine-like post-punk groove, and “Say You Won’t Cry” has a nice melodic turn that reminds me of Robert Pollard. I can imagine somebody getting more out of this record than me – I just don’t like this vibe all that much. But it’s still a statement, and quite idiosyncratic, and for all its messiness, it could be much worse. So just proceed with caution, and don’t expect the pop magic of the early days,
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PRIVILEGE   (1990)

C+

This is the most professional sounding TVP album of them all, and yet it’s easily one of my least favorite. Frankly, I prefer my Treacy warped and messy and psychedelic. I don’t want him to sound like The Smiths and 80 jangle pop. Maybe that’s just me – I’m not a Smiths fan in the least. But there’s no doubt that this is way less 60s Britpop and way more 80s college rock. Engaging melodies have taken a back-seat to girly production, fluffier vocal stylings, and corny dated 80s jangle pop cliches. Instead of the dark and claustrophobic atmosphere of “The Painted Word,” or the bouncy post-punk pop pastiches of the early work, this is just a mopey polished bore lacking playfulness or personality. Dan’s singing has even gone farther into the mix, and he’s trying his hardest to sound “pretty” on a lot of these tracks. This has that wannabe-dreamy vibe of so many of those lame 80s albums, but like most of those records, it doesn’t deliver nearly enough in the hooks department and ends up “all atmosphere and nowhere to go.” These songs mostly run together for me – nothing sticks out of the mire, and even after repeated listens, not one individual moment really stirs my soul. I’m still willing to admit that this is a consistent and accomplished work for Treacy, and in its craftsmanship it points the way to the incredible followup. It opens and closes strong – my two favorite tracks come at the end (the dark psych pop “The Room At The Top Of The Stairs” and album’s most rocking tune “This Time There Is No Happy Ending”). 2nd song “A Good and Faithful Servant” has a nice Byrds-y 12 String riff. Depressing tunes like “All My Dreams Are Dead” might appeal to the 80s romantic, but I simply cannot get into that overly mannered mopery. The single here was “Salvador Dali’s Garden,” and though the song sports a funny name-dropping lyric, it’s also totally forgettable. This album doesn’t sound lo-fi, but it’s nonetheless got a really ugly dated drum sound and often uses too much swampy reverb. So while it’s probably the best recorded TVP record by professional standards, it’s also my least favorite sound they ever created. I think Treacy was trying to fit in here  – it’s the only album where that seems to be the case – and that’s even more depressing considering the record was completed in the mid-80s but didn’t get a release until 1990! Anyway, this is pretty darned far from the poppy 60s joy of the debut – so if you love that record, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one.
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CLOSER TO GOD  (1992)

A

Oh yeah. From seemingly out of nowhere, Dan bounces back with what may very well be his best overall album! The debut is definitely the go-to pop classic – but this is a far more expansive, emotional, and epic experience. 80 minutes of music, 19 songs, and I wouldn’t lose ONE of them! How rare and wonderful is that? This album simply kicks ass. It’s messy and sprawling, catchy and consistently melodic, and it’s chock full of great ideas and performances. Based on what came immediately before, and the sad affairs that came later, it’s obvious to me that this was some sort of holy cathartic apotheosis of Treacy’s art. The fates were aligned. I don’t really know how it happened – but suddenly a guy that could barely manage a memorable single track on his two previous records put together 80 minutes of totally dynamic material in 1992. If the band ever made a masterpiece, this is quite obviously it. The old 80s jangle pop style of “Privilege” is completely gone here. Instead, we get a good amount of the 60s melodic vibe from the early records, mixed with some of the indie rock darkness of “The Painted Word.” But this is really a new direction for Dan, and though it’s completely underrated, I consider it one of the great indie rock records of the late 80s/early 90s. It easily holds its own next to “Daydream Nation” or “Slanted and Enchanted.” It may even be better both those excellent records. It’s definitely more audience-friendly, but not at the expense of emotionality and grit. Dan nails an idiosyncratic sad Britpop indie vibe here, and he perfectly applies it to a whole bunch of varied songs and styles. His vocals have never been better! It’s hard to pick out individual highlights when you’ve got 19 strong compositions to choose from, but I’ll do it anyway. The opening track, “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are” is a screaming catchy anthem of gloom, with a great lead vocal and a super memorable hook. “Goodnight Mr. Spaceman” takes us right back to the early TVP records, with an awesome chorus right out of an early Who record. “Hard Luck Story Number 39” was the single, and while I might have chosen differently, it’s a very engaging and charming Brit-pop tune. “Coming Home Soon” is absolutely gorgeous. But the heart of the album lies in a handful of totally depressing but amazing tracks. There’s the bouncy ironic and very scary suicide “comedy” song “Razorblades and Lemonade.” There’s the haunting and mesmerizing confessional “Very Dark Today.” And then there are the two epics – the title track closes things out with 11 minutes of dark noisy guitar and religious lyrics. In a way, it’s a similar closer to “Back to Vietnam” from “The Painted Word,” but it’s SO MUCH BETTER in nearly every conceivable manner. There’s a real melody, some totally killer dynamics, and really palpable atmosphere throughout. It’s never boring. The best song here, though, is the utter masterpiece “My Very First Nervous Breakdown.” It’s got another one of those excellent 60s Mod hooks, but it’s coupled to a totally fucked up lyric (and I’m sure you can guess the topic from the title). That may be Dan Treacy’s ultimate innovation in pop music – tormented depression lyrics coupled to celebratory teenage Mod hooks! Anyway, this is a classic record and one of the two key TVP records. So you should make it a priority it if you have even a remote interest in this band.
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I WAS A MOD BEFORE YOU WAS A MOD  (1995)

B-

After “Closer To God,” the Television Personalities’ catalog turns into a confusing mess, with countless EPs and live albums and toss-off releases. Dan’s life became plagued by a torrent of mysterious addictions, crimes, and disappearances – I don’t know the details of all of that, and it’s hard to learn anything substantial online. I DO know that the TVP’s sloppy and erratic post-“God” releases don’t offer much justification for the band’s continued existence. Starting here, the albums sound more like odds and ends collections, lo-fi collections of underwritten throwaways and leftovers from better days. As far as I understand, this whole album is just Dan and a drummer – so it’s more of a Treacy solo record than anything else, and it’s predictably fractured, amateurish, and often quite depressing. But it’s definitely still got a lot of the old energy and wit and melodic sense, and if taken as an odds and sods collection stemming from the “Closer To God” sessions (and that’s complete conjecture on my part), it’s actually super enjoyable. As a complete album statement, it barely registers – and it ain’t going to replace your copy of the debut anytime soon. It’s very obvious that this isn’t the same band that crafted this album’s epic predecessor – everything is totally off the cuff and fucked up sounding, and the figure at the center sounds like a total emotional/drug casualty. So this may have the most Syd Barrett-like qualities exhibited yet by a TVP record, but I don’t mean that in a GOOD way, understand. Some people do enjoy hearing their heros fall apart on record – and such events have of course led to dark classics like the third Big Star record or Skip Spence’s “Oar.” Treacy has always straddled the line dividing well-written emotional outpouring from simply undeveloped fucked-up-ness. In this record he still sounds like he understands pop craft, even if his performances of those songs here make him sound completely out of sorts. So this barely ends up on the right side of the dividing line, and I would way rather listen to this undeveloped mess of a record than the polished and boring “Privilege.” I only LOVE one of these tracks – the thumping Britpopping title track – and not surprisingly, it sounds the most like the early albums. There are a fair amount of depressed strumming tunes on here, but they’re mostly melodic and hooky – particularly “Something Just Flew Over My Head” and “Evan Doesn’t Ring Me Anymore.” The latter has a sad and lovely chorus that perfectly matches the loneliness of the lyric. Though the majority of this record is devoted to gloomy material, there’s still some time left over for the fun and goofy novelty song “Little Woody Allen.” LOOK – for an already fragile dude to release something as bad-ass as “Closer to God” to as little fanfare as that album received…you can pretty much understand his disintegration. This is the last time he’d ever sound like his old self – the next proper album wouldn’t come for another decade, and “proper” isn’t even the right word for it.

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YES DARLING, BUT IS IT ART?  (SINGLES COLLECTION)  (1995)

(no grade)

A long and uneven collection of early TVP singles and non-album tracks. Some of this stuff is indispensable – and this does a lot of collecting work for listeners not interested in tracking down all the 7 inches and EPs the band released during their formative years. As a record, it’s not really worth listening to straight through or anything like that. But it’s got a lot of winners, and includes the entire fantastic Where’s Bill Grundy Now 7” which came before the debut and might be considered the first major TVP release.  From that record, we get the cute early single “Part-Time Punks,” which sounds like a Brit-Pop nerd commenting upon the punk movement from his flower riddled cage. The title track (“Where’s Bill Grundy Now”) is also a melodic punky lo-fi winner. Moving on from the 7″…catchy single “14th Floor” is an awesome garage rocker and one of the best early TVP tracks. This whole thing (and particularly the early 7” described above) sounds like a mid-60s mod band mixed with The Raincoats, The Ramones, and/or The Shaggs. Take your pick. Primitivism with soul and wit. Elsewhere, “And Don’t The Kids Just Love It” was actually a song – left off the album proper – and it’s a punchy riff driven mod Jam-like pop tune. “How I Learned To Love The Bomb” is a a hilarious catchy and perfectly executed garage pop wonder – whenever Treacy seems to pull together an actual production like this one, it’s almost awkward to me! I grow so used to his first take messiness, I assume he doesn’t actually know how to put thing together proper-like. There are also some incredibly psych-era derived pastiches on here, such as “She’s Only The Grover’s Daughter” and particularly the trippy garage space rock of “Now You’re Just Being Ridiculous.” “My Favorite Films” is a twee and cute Britpoppy description of Dan’s favorite movies and actors (he name checks Malcom McDowell and Albert Finney – and McDowell is apparently his idol!). “Me and My Desire” is a 6 and half minute post-punk dirge, and doesn’t really work. So this is a grab bag of varying quality tracks, but I’d still take this over “They Could Have Been Bigger Than The Beatles” pretty much any day of the week.
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MY DARK PLACES   (2006)

D+

This album sucks. Sorry, but it does. The year was 2006, and no one had heard from Mr. Treacy in quite some time. Rumors abounded – none of them positive. Apparently at some point he reached that most societally unacceptable rock bottom: begging for drug money on the street. Again, I don’t really know what to make of the stories I’ve heard about the man’s private life – for all I know they’re completely untrue. But listening to this crappy record, which presents us with a mere shell of the original powerhouse songwriter that was Treacy, it’s pretty impossible to get those stories and images out of my head. I count exactly one good track on this 16 song platter – the upbeat and moderately catchy title track. Not going to make my list of great TVP tracks, but at least respectable. The rest of this couldn’t more boring or drab – the tunes range from barely there depressing sketches (“Sick Again”) to overly simple and dull piano dirges (“Tell Me About Your Day” “I’m Not Your Typical Boy”) to not funny and not very entertaining novelty songs (“Velvet Underground” “All The Young Children on Crack”). Occasionally there’s a listenable track with some fire in its blood – “She Can Stop Traffic” “Special Chair,” and “Dream The Sweetest Dreams” would sound weak as hell next to the early classics, but in this dire company they stick out as highlights. The vocals are also a giant problem on this album. Dan used to sound like a strangled little British boy, and there was always an element of endearing amateurishness to his delivery – but now he just sounds like an old drunken British fop who can’t sing. I don’t think he hits one proper note on this entire record. When Mark E. Smith speak-sings, he’s not really trying to sing. But Dan goes for melodies most of the time here, and it ain’t pretty. Something is terribly wrong with this man, his voice, and his art, and the only thing this album really has going for it is personality – even through all the below average work on display here, Dan’s strange persona still manages to seep in. And that helps make the record a bit more palpable than it might have been had the singer sounded completely dead. But that’s grasping at straws. There isn’t much to recommend about this album, and it in no way delivers on the legacy of this once great band. This goes on the shelf next to the Buzzcocks reunion records as an example of why it’s usually best to leave a good thing alone and preserve a golden memory rather than open up an old healed over wound and squeeze more pus out of it.
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ARE WE NEARLY THERE YET?   (2007)

(no grade)

I don’t know if this is a real TVP album, a collection of demos and outtakes, or a practical joke. Or a bit of all three. If it’s a real TVP album, it deserves a grade in the vicinity of an F. If it’s a collection of demos and outtakes, it’s not worth hearing unless you’re a big fan. If it’s a practical joke, then it’s sorta funny in a nasty drunken British way, not unlike the sort of thing you’d expect Mark E. Smith to release if he REALLY wanted to piss off his fans. Basically, it sounds like a less funny Wesley Willis album, with instrumentation mostly consisting of cheap keyboard demo sounds. There are no proper melodies, mostly just a bunch of sad warbling and spoken word rants and titles repeated over and over again. Treacy sounds positively terrible on this – his lyrics are miserable and pathetic (“All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Daniel back together again”) and his voice is grizzled and ugly. This is a fairly unpleasant album with very little song-writing to speak of, and not much interest on any other levels either. It’s a bunch of silly uncompleted scraps, bottom of the barrel stuff that should never have been released. The closest thing to an actual song here is the pretty piano ballad “You Are Loved.”  Now, the supposed story behind this is that when Dan got out of jail, his fans scrapped together some money and told him to make a new record. He must have bought some cheap gear and shat this piece of crap out in a day. It was recorded BEFORE “My Dark Places,” which makes sense as “Places” is at least competent, if similarly slight. Some of these lyrics are admittedly quite funny – like the angry bitter rant of “The Eminem Song” and the cynical lampooning of Peter Gabriel on “The Peter Gabriel Song.” There’s also a terrible instrumental called “I See Dead People.” The titles of those three songs should clue you into the kind of album you’re getting here. Anyway…the title track is a forgettable novelty track sung from the perspective of a little kid in the back of a car who has to take a piss. There are awful covers of The Killers and Bruce Springsteen and even an early TVP song (“If I Could Write Poetry”). I refuse to listen to this more than once, and so I won’t get too much more detailed in this review. An apologist might pick out some tragic vulnerable qualities to this record – ironies in the presentation versus the horrifying emotions behind them. But I say we’ve heard the same sentiment from Dan already, and they were coupled to actual songs – with endearingly sloppy instrumentation as opposed to total amateur-hour keyboard work. So I would avoid this one entirely unless you’re a completist.
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A MEMORY IS BETTER THAN NOTHING   (2010)

C-

This is the best of the late period Treacy records masquerading as real TVP albums, but it’s certainly not anywhere close to a great album. And except for a couple fleeting moments (they are indeed present on this one), this isn’t going to remind anybody of the glory days. Most of this album annoys and/or bore the living daylights out of me. Dan can’t sing at all anymore, his writing is lifeless and obvious, and the depressing self-loathing lyrical content is now pretty old hat for this dude. Things start out with a relative bang though, as the title track is easily the best TVP song in over a decade. It’s got a memorable hook, a driving rock beat, and the 2 part structure actually makes a lot of conceptual sense (a fun pop songs gives way to an atmospheric “ghost” of the first half of the song). It’s the only song from the last three records that I could almost put on the same playlist as the early stuff. Nothing else on here comes even close to that track, and some of this material is absolutely dreadful. There’s the nearly 8 minute “My New Tattoo” which opens as an almost OK mod rock song – it could have blossomed into a “My Very First Nervous Breakdown”-like epic, but instead the song ends before the 2 minute and the track turns into a completely monotonous ragged 5 minute guitar jam with no focus. It sounds like Neil Young taking a shit. There are a bunch of piano sketch-like dirges on here a la the worst of the previous two albums, though things seem a BIT more inspired this time around. Or maybe Dan is just trying a little harder here – that certainly seems to be the case on the near-pop song “She’s My Yoko,” where the man almost pulls together a normal chorus. But while I’m happy to hear him trying so hard, I can’t deny the total awfulness and obviousness of that song’s main hook. “The Girl in The Hand Me Down Clothes” is Dan’s twee little ode to the misbegotten folk of the universe, but it’s so corny I can barely make it through the thing. The underwritten “All The Things You Are” comes the closest to quality (after the title track) with it’s “possible, anything’s possible” hook, sung by a Swedish lady named Johanna Lundstrom who now seems to be a permanent member of the “band.” It’s a pretty track, nothing more – hardly a great song. So there you have it folks – a miserable return to recording from a very far past his prime Treacy. I’d like to say “at least we still have a once great songwriter recording albums instead of doing jail time.” But I just can’t. These albums suck way too much. Instead, I’ll just say: here’s hoping the guy has one more decent record in him!!!

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