Agony Shorthand

Monday, September 27, 2004

Customarily, you'll find this thing perched on just about anyone's Top Whatever Records of all time, or at least on those of the punk- and proto-punk eras. It's certainly held a spot on mine for a long, long time, but until last year's "expanded reissue" I'd grown a little cold to the "Marquee Moon" scent. It was either general overplay, my disdain for Tom Verlaine's personality, or just a re-evaluation in light of the rapturous & building critical acclaim it got over the 1990s. Like "Forever Changes" or "Village Green Preservation Society", you begin to wonder if it's just the geeks that dig it, or if it truly holds up outside of its intellectualization. Duh. Of course it does. Particularly now, because not only do the original 1977 mixes sound concert-quality, but the add-ons are as good, if not as revelatory, as anything available you'd want outside of the whole of the "Double Exposure" and "Poor Circulation" bootlegs. (You can't create footnotes in Blogger, but if you could, this is where I'd have one saying that these two 1974-75 era TELEVISION bootlegs are mandatory Hell/Verlaine/Lloyd/Ficca recordings, one of the few batches of demos that burnishes a band's legend in a big way. Very few bootlegs of anyone can touch these).

The former Side One, of course, is where the band's genius and never-equaled chops are most apparent: "See No Evil", "Venus", "Friction" and "Marquee Moon". I have almost played the grooves off this side over time -- it's totally inventive, wildly original and way outside of its CBGB punk contemporaries. The heaven-pointed 10+ minute ascension of "Marquee Moon", perhaps the most technically & sonically creative rock epic ever, still rules. As do the other three -- you can't touch 'em, so far ahead of any NYC scene peers of the day it ain't funny. On the former Side 2, it's more of a mixed bag -- there are tracks that just don't hold up now or ever: "Guiding Light" and "Torn Curtain". Man, hearing them clunk again on this CD , I swear it was like they were brand new songs, so poorly have they been burned into my synapses. But then there's "Prove It" and "Elevation", both of which are studly guitar clangers sung in Verlaine's disaffected, cooler-than-you persona. The reissue adds both sides of the terrific Ork Records debut 45 "Little Johnny Jewel", three decent but fairly similar alternate versions of "Marquee Moon" tracks ("See No Evil", "Friction" and "Marquee Moon"), and then one unheard track. This, the "Untitled Instrumental" that closes the CD off, sounds like road music for a cooking show or something, one where some saucy chef with a mustache travels the globe on a dirt bike to go native and whip up a few wacky dishes. A little out of character, but hey, I'll take it. OK, this is the part where I'm supposed to pull out words like MASTERPIECE and NIRVANA and CLASSIC and GENIUS. I reckon if you're just getting interested in "Marquee Moon" now, then this reissue will give you more to be excited about than anyone's ever had. So that's something!