Tom Verlaine

Around

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A mere 14 years after Warm and Cool (the same period of time that separated the last two Television albums), Tom Verlaine has come up with a follow-up called Around. Once again, it's a collection of late-night instrumentals that are generally more about conjuring a mood or feeling than telling a wordless story. The songs themselves fall into three basic groups: tunes where the rhythm section finds a nice groove for Verlaine to play over ("Rain, Sidewalk," "Balcony"), solo pieces where Verlaine plays with the focus of an Indian classical musician performing an alap ("Flame," "The O of Adore"), and pieces that just meander, like an idea searching for a song ("Brief Description," "A Burned Letter"). The songs where the rhythm section locks in are all great, from the simple, pretty "Eighty Eights" to the bouncy "Wheel Broke." The wonderful "Meteor Beach" almost has an African highlife groove with Hawaiian-sounding slide and wah-wah guitar. "The O of Adore" is quite beautiful, relaxing, and sublime, while "Brief Description" is somewhat clattering. The problem is that these three different types of pieces don't necessarily sit well together, so it's a somewhat disjointed listening experience as you move from light, fun tracks to introspective beauty to Sturm und Drang. There can be no denying that Tom Verlaine is one of rock's great and indiosyncratic guitar players and there's certainly some of that to be found in Around, but the drastic mood shifts from track to track can be disorienting. However, in the digital age, deft CD programming can turn this into a more coherent listen. Around is a bit spotty but when it works, it really works well. And when a guy who's hit the creative highs that Verlaine has in his career drops his first new material in more than a decade, it's definitely worth paying attention.

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