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An Icon of Rock Returns: Tom Verlaine

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An Icon of Rock Returns: Tom Verlaine

Music

An Icon of Rock Returns: Tom Verlaine

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MICHELE NORRIS, host: Now we're going to hear about a performer whose music critic Will Hermes has loved for a long time. His name is Tom Verlaine and he's best known as the singer and lead guitarist for the beloved but short-lived rock band Television. Since then Tom Verlaine has been an elusive presence on the music scene. But he's got a new pair of CDs, his first in 14 years. Will Hermes has a review.

(Soundbite of Tom Verlaine's music)

WILL HERMES reporting:

I've been a fanatic for the music of Tom Verlaine every since I snuck in to CBGB's as a 16-year-old and saw him performing with Television. His lyrics were sexy and cryptic and unspiraling epics like Marquee Moon and Little Johnny Jewel, I thought Verlaine's guitar, which sparred with the band's other fine guitarist, Richard Lloyd, was as lyrical and spine tingling as any in rock.

(Soundbite of Tom Verlaine's music)

HERMES: Television broke up after their first two records. And while Verlaine's solo albums always had some great songs and guitar playing, they avoided long-form songs with extended solos. The impression you got was simply that Verlaine had been there and done that. But now, with his two new simultaneously released CDs, one a song collection, the other a set of guitar instrumentals, he's found an elegant way to show off both sides of his music without looking backwards.

(Soundbite of Tom Verlaine's music)

HERMES: The title of Tom Verlaine's new vocal set is Songs and Other Things. And the push and pull of some of the shape-shifting songs actually seem to mirror the form of Verlaine's guitar solos. Even more unusual is the instrumental CD, titled Around, which conjures everything from Indian Ragas to Miles Davis's In A Silent Way to West African guitar pop.

(Soundbite of Tom Verlaine's music)

HERMES: Plenty of fans wonder why Verlaine just doesn't reform Television, tour the world and cash in on the current punk and post punk revival. He did it once for a pretty descent reunion LP in the early 90s and the band has played a few scattered gigs in recent years.

But for the Delaware kid who was born Thomas Miller and renamed himself after a French symbolist poet, maybe that's just too easy. And between his two new records, a solo tour in June and his recent stint as second guitarist in his old pal Patty Smith's band, Tom Verlaine clearly has got other creative fish to fry.

(Soundbite of Tom Verlaine's music)

NORRIS: Critic Will Hermes reviewing two new CDs from Tom Verlaine. You can hear an interview with Verlaine as he picks the tunes for this week's ALL SONGS CONSIDERED at NPR.org.

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