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Tom Verlaine 

Songs & Other Things/Around (Thrill Jockey)

With fellow Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, Tom Verlaine virtually invented the texture-over-technique guitar style, making it okay for punk kids to play something besides bar chords. Verlaine's solo work has been spotty, but these two simultaneous releases highlight the best of his post-Television career.

Songs & Other Things is 12 cuts of mostly trio work, bookended by two instrumentals. A few songs here suffer from a skeletal, half-finished feel that Verlaine's mannered vocals can't hold upright. But when the songs take on more traditional structures, they soar. "The Earth Is in the Sky" features layers of warm-toned lines. "Blue Light" starts off in an atmospheric soundscape before Verlaine's arpeggios envelop it. And on the upbeat "From Her Fingers," Verlaine's overdubbed lines trump anything the Feelies and Luna ever recorded.

Created in part with ex-Television drummer Billy Ficca and bassist Pat Derivaz, the instrumental release Around gives free reign to Verlaine's endlessly imaginative playing. It runs from spacescapes ("Burned Letter") and Marc Ribot-style jazz-funk ("Rain Sidewalk") to calypso rhythms ("Meteor Beach"), with plenty of stops elsewhere on the guitar map. Playful, pastoral, epic, and elegant, Around is an ambient masterpiece, while Songs suggests that Verlaine remains a vital songwriter.

More by John Schacht

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