Even though it’s been fourteen years since his last release, Television frontman Tom Verlaine feels little has changed. Well, except for his famous pipes — just a little.
“I have to tune the guitar lower just to make the notes,” he jokes of the effect of aging on his sound. After all, the landmark Marquee Moon, which had a marked influence on more recent New York bands such as the Strokes and Interpol, was released in 1977. “I guess my voice has gotten deeper. The older you get, the more your voice changes.”
Verlaine, who says he’s always writing new songs, has amassed heaps of material since 1992’s instrumental Warm and Cool. So it comes as no surprise that this week he’s issuing two new albums: the rocker Songs and Other Things and the instrumental collection Around.
Songs, is a traditional rock album, with Verlaine’s still-commanding croon swerving through his serpentine guitar licks, while Around is a natural follow-up to Warm and Cool, with its spare and improvisatory compositions. “It was just a collection of ideas I kept and decided to finally record,” Verlaine says of the album, recorded in just two nights.
He allowed more time for Songs and Other Things, bringing on board Television bassist Fred Smith and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, who plays with Verlaine peer (and good friend) Patti Smith. At times, the sessions became more exploratory and improvisational.
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“There are a couple tracks that were jams with the drummer where I wanted to try some really different beats, so we would just play for eight minutes,” he explains. “Another time, I’d edit it, erase the mistakes and overdub it. But now it has the kind of beat I was looking for.” The drum-led track “Shingaling” finds Verlaine almost purring, juxtaposing his voice with mechanical-sounding drums, while “The Day on You” features swirling, hazy guitar work.
Designed as separate sonic experiences, Around and Songs will attract very distinct audiences, Verlaine is convinced. “I have done instrumental shows,” he says, “and there’s not a huge overlap of audience.”
Verlaine plans to hit the road in mid-May to perform the new material. This club tour will be his first solo outing in a decade, with dates just announced in D.C. on the 15th, Philadelphia on the 16th and New York on the 18th. And he’s also be playing a show with Television in Toronto on June 9th — their first Canadian gig since 1992.
While Verlaine isn’t all that interested in talking about the Seventies New York legends, he admits they still have fun playing together since reuniting for festivals and European shows.
“Television goes to Europe every other year for a month or something,” says Verlaine. “We go to places we’ve never played before — just because it’s fun to go to new places.”