This Television article was written by Adam Skirving, a GIGsoup contributor.
‘Marquee Moon’ by Television was released in 1977, through Elektra Records, in the wake of the Punk movement in New York City. Though Television’s music is much more nuanced in the finished product than that of other 70s Punk bands, the music is borne from a very Punk sensibility, and was a reaction to direction of much of the guitar music of the first half of the 1970s. Television sought to create a technically proficient guitar album, that did not fall into the trappings of an arrogant guitar solo-based Blues Rock music that had dominated the first half of the decade, and descended, in some sense, into pastiche of itself.
Television’s music was integral in developing the Punk scene in New York in the 1970s. Reactive to the Blues Rock of the early 70s, Television and their temporises decided to adopt a type of music more steeped in a personal realism than the music at the tail end of the Psychedelic-era, which had become over-indulgent and sometimes farcical. They retained elements of the guitar music of the 1960s, but put more weight on the Garage Rock aspect, disregarding the Blues, and approached the guitar from a new perspective. Though considered pioneers of the music scene that emerged around CBGB’s, Television were dissimilar to much of the Punk music in New York, employing a certain level of technical proficiency often lacking in the music of their contemporaries, and drawing from more varied influences such as Jazz.
The songs on ‘Marquee Moon’ are characterised by interweaving, intellectual, yet immediately melodic sequences, and though somewhat raw in its recording style, is extremely clean overall. It is an album is packed with myriads of infectious guitar riffs, that move away from the trappings of the pentatonic blues scale, in an attempt to drive guitar music in new directions, and away from the predominately blues-oriented styles. The music is meticulous yet energetic. Sophisticated yet anarchic.
Every song on the album is a bonafide classic. It starts as it means to go on: the bashing of the opening chords of ‘See No Evil’ come dry out the speaker before Verlaine’s trademark howl introduces the listener to the sound of Television.
The title track is the grandest affair, though every track unveils new secrets with each listen, and the depth of the songwriting, the sheer amount of melodies packaged into each song, is what has given ‘Marquee Moon’ such influence and longevity.
Television released their second album ‘Adventure’ in 1978 before splitting up that same year, and so as no new music came again until the 1990s, the legacy of debut ‘Marquee Moon’ has remained cult in nature, though references in the 21st century from bands such as The Strokes have caused many to dig deeper into the guitar music of the 1970s and revel in the wonder of ‘Marquee Moon’. Critically, it is considered a classic of the Punk rock movement, and sold commercially well in the UK. It’s influence is most obvious in much of the Alternative guitar music that followed in the next three decades, music that was still oriented around guitar riffs, but made a conscious move away from the Blues foundations of the 1960s and early 1970s.