Tom Verlaine

Words from the Front

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Tom Verlaine's second solo album, Dreamtime, was easily the finest music he'd created since Television's Marquee Moon. It was so perfectly realized that one wondered what he could do to top it, and when 1982's Words from the Front was released, the obvious answer was that he hadn't; while it's hardly a bad album, the songs don't rank with Verlaine's best work, and though his guitar work is superb as always, he doesn't appear to be breaking much new ground, content for the most part to recycle ideas he'd worked through in the past. Of course, given the sterling quality of Verlaine's work, an album could be quite good and fall below his average, and that's certainly the case here; the butterfly solos on "True Story," the ominous but lyrical wartime tale of the title cut, and the loopy romanticism of "Postcard from Waterloo" are certainly a pleasure to hear. But most of the other tracks suggest Verlaine was treading water, and, overall, the album lacks the cool but steely passion that made Dreamtime a high-water mark in his solo career. If you've never heard Tom Verlaine's work, Words from the Front may well dazzle you with its fluid, atmospheric solos and brittle lyricism, but if you're a fan, you'll probably come to the conclusion that he can do better than this.

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