March 7, 2010

NT's greatest hits, no. 25 (of 34)

And here we go…

"Venus" by Television

This album, this band—way too cool for me. The summer of 1996 was my first extended exposure to NYC, when I slept on a cracked-leather couch in a vermin-infested apartment on St. Marks Place, fending off crack dealers on my block, interning in the fabulous world of music journalism, hitting live-music hovels four, five nights a week. It was a time, I tell ya. But I wasn't remotely as cool as that makes me sound—I wasn't doing drugs, I wasn't having sex. Once a geek, always a geek.

I had heard about Television—one of the seminal bands of NYC's classic punk scene, centered at the now-defunct (and by 1996, already irrelevant) CBGB. How they were dark and arty, how you had to consider their debut album, Marquee Moon, among the greatest works of art known to mankind if you wanted to be a real New York rock & roll sophisticate. So one evening that summer, I popped into Sounds records on St. Marks between Second and Third and bought the CD (yes…) for $9.99.

I usually hate music that I'm "supposed" to like. I spent much of the late '90s fending off constant refrains about the unparalleled genius of Radiohead, which is aural NyQuil as far as I'm concerned. So I was a bit surprised how much I loved Marquee Moon, how satisfying it was in its darkness and artiness, how—yes, dammit—Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were indeed mesmerizing guitar players. Cool. I was especially taken with track No. 2, "Venus." Verlaine's cracked and quavering voice, threaded through a double helix of slinky guitar. The melody was almost jaunty, but still in the shadows; cryptic imagery setting a weird NYC nighttime scene. Was I feeling low? Huh? (The answer, at the time, was yes.) This song is too cool for me.

Incidentally, I was in Paris about five years ago, and naturally visited the Louvre. At least at the time, they have the Venus de Milo situated at the end of a long corridor, so that you can see it well before you reach it, walking slowly toward it, the image of the imposing statue gradually growing larger as you draw closer. I walked this path slowly, purposefully, Television's tight musical fantasia running through my brain. Music, sculpture and architecture in perfect harmony—this is why people like art.

More of NT's greatest hits: "Dead Man's Curve," "Message in a Bottle," "Emily Kane," "Born to Run," "Shake Some Action," "Chips Ahoy!," "Radio, Radio," "Could You Be the One?," "Summer in the City," "Teenage Kicks," "Strawberry Fields Forever, " "Tunnel of Love," "I Get Around," "Local Girls," "Don't Let's Start," "Suffragette City," "See-Saw," "My Name Is Jonas," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Reelin' in the Years," "Objects of My Affection" and "Crimson and Clover," "OK Apartment" and "Just What I Needed"