Following the career of cult band Television Personalities you’ll see that the band never seemed to eclipse the work on their debut And Don’t the Kids Just Love It. All that aside, the band has continuously put out clever off-kilter pop albums since their inception, and their newest, A Memory is Better Than Nothing, is just par for the course. The thing is, par for the course for this group never creates run of the mill pop album; they’ve always seemed one step above, despite failing to receive critical acclaim.
Choosing to open with the title track “A Memory is Better Than Nothing” is a great choice. Slowly beginning with mainstay Dan Treacy offering up his thin British voice just before bouncing into a warm jangling pop song, all this before the song waivers off into realms of quiet. Reminiscing about memories does seem to prove that Television Personalities will always have something glorious to hold onto, no matter how far in the past. Then you skip ahead to “She’s My Yoko,” where once again Dan waxes about his past, mostly choosing to hold on to a relationship of the past/present. Offering this up as the lead single was probably a smart choice, as the mixture of varying layers of keys, minimal percussion and Treacy’s voice make it appealing to almost anyone.
Nostalgia seems to dominate this album, as the subject matter never seems to stray from lessons learned, precisely as it does in “Walk Towards the Night.” Treacy is still talking about his relationship with an unnamed partner, and the gentle strumming provides an excess depth to his emotions. But, just as you begin to feel comfortable with the feel of the record, “Funny He Nver Married” comes on through your stereo. Treacy sings differently here, almost entirely in a way you’ve never heard from him before, his voice floating very lightly over cuts of guitar moving in and out of the song itself. It’s simply a nice little break from the band’s bread and butter.
One of the greatest attributes of the group pops up on “People Think That We’re Strange.” They use the most simplistic lyrics and coat them in feedback and steady drumming, but you find yourself drawn into the depth of the song, whether or not that depth actually exists at all. Their ability to absorb you into the music has always been one of their gifts, and the same formulaic approach can be seen in their past works, as well as on A Memory is Better Than Nothing. “You Don’t Want Me” uses this formula perfectly, with soft strumming accompanying Treacy as a more pronounced guitar line is layered over the entire song. It’s nothing special, but listening to it definitely creates an overwhelming level of emotion.
Closing moments offer some interesting moments to boot, such as “The Good Anarchist,” which uses a lady for the lead. Featuring a female vocal is not something entirely new from the song, but it stands out on this collection of songs, as its the first time you find such a prominent female appearance. It’s all bookended by slower moments than the rest of the album, and it does provide a moment to pause and reflect over what you’ve just listened to through these past thirteen tracks. I’d say listening to Television Personalities is an acquired taste, but it’s one that I feel should be acquired by all. If you’re looking for a band to adore, then take a listen to A Memory is Better Than Nothing, then go revisit all the stupendous work in the band’s catalog.[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/05-television_personalities-funny_he_never_married.mp3]
Download: Television Personalities – Funny He Never Married [MP3]