Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Television: The Blow Up [ROIR, 1982]
John Piccarella and I annotated this eighty-five-minute tape because guitar heroes like Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd deserve a heroic live album. While the more word-heavy songs worked better in the studio, on the likes of "Foxhole," "Prove It," and "Marquee Moon," ahem, "Verlaine takes off in directions that even he probably didn't anticipate, indulging a lyrical wanderlust he never permitted himself when he had time to think about it. And Lloyd, always constrained by the necessity of getting his solos and rhythm riffs just right in the studio, goes nuts here--what he wanted to express on `Satisfaction' was so beyond his chops that he would regularly unwind his bottom E string, twist it behind the neck, and tense the guitar like an archer's bow, producing the unearthly noises preserved for posterity on this cassette." You also get two other key covers and a definitive "Little Johnny Jewel." But the sound could have been brighter--cf. Arrow, the bootleg disc where I first encountered the finest of these performances. And so, as with so many ROIR cassettes (and commercial tapes in general), audio makes the difference between a laudable document and living history. B+