1977 was an interesting year for music. Punk was young and naïve back then, and just starting to become a cultural phenomenon. Bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones were exploding worldwide. Everyone was taken by the simple, seemingly lowbrow eloquence of their songs. The Ramones barely knew how to play guitar; all they needed was three chords and they'd written a whole album. And no one questioned them. They were the beginning of the public's understand of punk's importance and power. Television is not a punk band. Television is post-punk. What is the difference, exactly, between punk and post-punk? Post-punk like Television takes from the initial wave of punk and adds an art-rock element to it. Marquee Moon
is not filled with two minute pop songs that sound like they could have been written in five minutes, with simple, almost nursery-rhyme-like lyrics. The musicians are not people who picked up a guitar and learned a couple chords. In fact, Television and Marquee Moon are almost the antithesis of the Ramones. They are technically proficient musicians (as seen on the not one, but two guitar solos on the title track); many songs run more than four minutes, like Marquee Moon at ten minutes long; their lyrics are enigmatic and mysterious. So, no, Television is not a punk band.
is, at its core, just one great song after another. The album starts off at one if its most punk moments with the fast-paced "See No Evil," laced with excellent guitar work and a catchy melody. Venus brings things back a little bit with a more subdued song, bringing some alternative rock elements to the table. Television was alt-rock before alt-rock existed. Perhaps the best song, and most likely the most interesting, is the ten-plus-minute title track. It shows Television at their best, playing like a progressive-rock song with an alternative rock sound. The solos are top-notch and longwinded, like the song itself. The lyrics are interesting enough, adding to the song's someone eerie aesthetic. Perhaps the best moment of the album is around eight minutes in, when the song keeps building tension as guitars go up the scale, with thunderous drums as all the tension breaks.
Another brilliant moment is the minimalist Guiding Light, which makes me wonder why Television is labelled as punk at all. Throughout the whole song, a quite, mesmerizing riff is imprinted into the listener's skull, never losing steam for 5:30 minutes, even though it's repetitive and straightforward. This is the track without any fluff, without any insane moments to show off the band's technical proficiency; it just shows us the excellent songwriting of Tom Verlaine. Television's 1977 debut album is very consistent, packed with very solid rock songs and no filler in its eight-track run. They do wear their punk influences on their sleeve, but also incorporate more experimental influences into their music. Marquee Moon
is a very original album that shows a band who really does know how to play their instruments. It truly deserves the classic status it has obtained over the years.