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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Television

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Updated: May 1, 2014 11:39AM



It’s time to get off the couch and go watch Television somewhere else.

Rising from the New York punk scene that made new-wave stars of Talking Heads and Blondie and punk heroes of the Ramones and Patti Smith, Television achieved status as an underground legend on the strength of its first two albums.

“Marquee Moon” (1977) ranks justifiably high on any best-albums list from the last four decades. Although Television’s sophomore release, “Adventure,” in 1978 didn’t scale equal heights, bracing songs including “Ain’t That Nothing” foreshadowed sonic delights to emerge from guitarist Tom Verlaine’s solo career. Verlaine’s solo highlights ranged from 1981’s exceptional “Dreamtime” to 2006’s captivating instrumental album “Around.”

Verlaine is a singular soloist who twists his guitar’s raw sound into unusual shapes. Television songs like “Foxhole” bristle with scrapes, yelps and squeaks. Flurries of notes in “Friction” jump outside the song’s musical scale, but land on agile feet. Verlaine also has a quirky but captivating singing voice in the style of David Byrne.

Nonetheless, it was the collective magic of musicians that defined Television’s sound and made “Marquee Moon” timeless. Founding member Richard Lloyd was an ideal musical sparring partner, a gifted lead guitarist with his own off-kilter sensibilities. When Verlaine played taut and tense, Lloyd scaled dizzy heights with intricate arpeggios.

Former Blondie bassist Fred Smith applied adept rhythm and blues grooves to his bandmates’ wiry, interlocking guitar lines. Drummer Billy Ficca maintained Television’s punk-rock snap while also enabling instrumental excursions veering into improvisational jazz.

The band’s influence has reached across generations and borderlines. Australian psych-rock band The Church recorded a cover of “Friction” and once hosted Verlaine as an opening act. R.E.M. often covered “See No Evil” during dates supporting their “Document” album. Even Chicago indie-rockers The Zincs paid homage to “Marquee Moon’s” epic title track with “The Mogul’s Wives” from their exceptional 2007 album “Black Pompadour.”

Television reunited in 1992, with songs like “1880 or So” proving the chemistry remained potent. Lloyd made a friendly departure in 2007, and was replaced by Verlaine’s frequent solo-album collaborator Jimmy Rip. The band’s Metro concert may feature material from its new studio album, which is still in production.

♦ Television, 8:30 p.m. May 8, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, (773) 549-4140. Tickets $25 (ages 18+over); metrochicago.com. SPOTIFY playlist: http://spoti.fi/1i5mR8G



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