Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Current Buns No.13 (Verlaine x2)

Tom Verlaine, the bus-like Orson Welles of avant rock is back. You wait for any new Tom of significance for over 13 years (96's fabulous live album as the second disc on the Miller's Tale comp doesn't count) and then two turn up at once. With Verlaine offering somewhat lame excuses for releasing not one, but two separate albums in recent interviews, listening a few times makes Tom's philosophy seem flimsy: These really DO make a great double album. I seriously contend that had he bothered to sequence this stuff carefully, he could have quite possibly created post punk's White Album, thirty years too late.
Yes, I'm on the ring road approaching Hyperbole City, but the stuff on Around and Songs And Other Things is playful, involving, rocking and full to the brim with the shimmering licks that gilded CBGB's lilies. Trouble is; the dour separation of the instrumental mood pieces and the frankly peppy (and moody) songs leaves both halves lacking.
Around is very much a companion piece to 92's Warm And Cool but, unlike Warm...this album lacks the quirky 50s twangfests that leavened the moody brew. Despite the recurrent celtic lilt to some pieces, the 'historical' vibe that he strives for (especially in his use of vintage equipment as discussed in last month's Wire interview) is strangely redolent of some American industrial ghosts. The ancient reverb turning a ballroom into a warehouse. You sure can't take the environment out of Tom.
It's actually fabulous stuff, but hard to take in one lump. It can get lonely in Tom's world. It needs the stuff on Songs And Other Things to make it less edgy. And besides, Songs...' 'other things' is some MORE instrumentals that could easily have sat on Around. So there you go...
But it's a fantastic collection of oblique wordplay and crunchy, twangy, birdlike GUITAR. Yum.
So two bits of raw stuff that would flow so much better when melted together. If lovingly woven into a tapestry of wildly divergent styles it really would have held together in the same joyful way that the Fab Four's double did BECAUSE of it's contrasts. But one of the joys of Tom Verlaine is his sheer bloody obliqueness. Who else would play for a couple of weeks every year with his old band with whom he hasn't made an album with for, again, about 13 years? In the Wire he claimed that a mooted new album was 'barely half finished'. In yer own time lads. Meanwhile these two beauties will do just fine...

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