England - Full Moon 117 - 04/13/06
My Dark Places
The Television Personalities (TVP) is one of the influential DIY-indie pop bands. In fact they sort of invented indie pop as a genre. Their psychedelic, twisted, jangly pop got boosted by the force and spirit of the punk explosion, when TVP put out their debut single, "14th Floor" b/w "Oxford St., W1", in 1977.
The following year they issued the Where's Bill Grundy Now? EP, featuring the street-hit, "Part-Time Punks." Dan Treacy was the man behind TVP, as he started what was to become the group at the age of 18, in 1977. John Peel was a fan from the start, of course. Organist/vocalist Ed Ball was one of Treacy's sidekicks, and in early 1981 TVP put out their brilliant debut album, And Don't the Kids Just Love It (including "I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives").
A year later Mummy Your Not Watching Me was released. Later that year they put out They Could Have Been Bigger Than the Beatles, a collection of re-recordings, covers, etc. At the same time Ed Ball left the band to focus on his own projects. Treacy, kept the TVP going with various line-ups, and next album was The Painted Word (1985). They were sort of sidelined during the C-86/anorak pop thing happening in the mid/ebb-80s, watching it from the stands. In 1989 they got a new contract, and the next year another album, Privilege, saw the light of day [touring for this album brought the band even to Norway, and I remember I met Treacy after their gig in Trondheim. A lot of grinning, as I recall]. Next album was Closer to God (1992), a double LP which got a good reception in the press, but not so among the audience. Which wasn't a good thing for depressive and drug related problems. TVP put out a few more records (I Was a Mod Before You Was a Mod in 1995, and Don't Cry Baby...It's Only a Movie, 1998), but around 1998 Dan Treacy had gone missing. Six years later there was sign of life: Dan Treacy was onboard a prison boat in Dorset, England, he was about to be released, very keen on recording a new TVP record. And, to make a long story short, 2 years later here it is. Stories from Dan's dark places.
My Dark Places is dark stories taking you dark places for sure. Treacy's been living a tough life, and isn't afraid to tell. I find most of the 16 songs to be way to depressive. Of course there a glimpses of humour, some beams of sun as well. But most of the time the themes and the presentation are black and/or bleak. You can tell by checking the song titles this can be low stuff: "All The Young Children on Crack", "Sick Again", "Ex-girlfriend Club", "You Kept Me Waiting Too Long", "I Hope You're Happy Now", "No More I Hate Yous", "There's No Beautiful Way To Say Goodbye". A lot of smashed hearts. And a lot of other ways to pain, as well. Musically My Dark Places is more minimalist and simplistic as ever when it comes to TVP. Treacy is reunited with Ed Ball (bass), and a lot of the stuff on the album is spun around vocals and piano/keyboards. Victoria Yeulet (vocals) and Mathew Sawyer (drums) make TVP a quartet, adding whimsical psyche pop of a very blurred kind indeed.
I'm not really sure what I think of the record, or if this is a happy re-appearance all, but there are a few songs near the bull's eye. The homage/tribute/pastiche/joke "Velvet Underground" is quite entertaining, and so is "They'll Have to Catch Us First". "I'm Not Your Typical Boy" is a very touching ballad, and could've been a massive hit if it's been done by David Bowie. My Dark Places is mainly saddening. Maybe it's supposed to be so?
PS! Here's Dan's letter from the boat read:
"It's a long story, not a long sentence, i'm out of here on the 23rd or 30th of June. I'm on a prison boat, it's like a cruise that goes nowhere! ...Sitting here recently.. like i've sat many a time over the past few years, i've realised how much I miss the music, not the business - I don't even own a guitar or amp (haven't for years!) But i've written my best and most meaningful music in the last couple of years. I want to do a new TVP's LP, thing is: i've had no contact with anyone from the past. I'd love to get Jowe back on board (whoops, no pun intended!) I feel like i'm 17 again and not having a clue how the music biz works except i'm not, i'm 4_ on the 19th of June and i'm spending it in here of all places! I am completely skint at the moment, but for the last 6 months i've been free of health/drug problems... could any publicist invent a story like mine? You couldn't make it up. Tell Andy he can put every thing i've told you on his website and if he wants he can set up AN OFFICIAL WEBSITE FOR TVP'S with the truth coming from me. I'll even list the songs i've got waiting to record, and if he wants to put my current address on the site, he can - some birthday cards might be nice! However I do this, I want it done BIGGER this time: Christ, Pete Doherty does 3 weeks in Wandsworth and he's the new Johnny Cash! Guess I must be the new James Brown/Albert [sic] Lee/Brian Wilson put together! Love, Jailbird Dan".
Copyright © 2006 Håvard Oppøyen