Influential nobodies at their confusing best
If one were to ask a random person on the street if they’d heard of Television Personalities, the response would probably be a blank stare. Finding fans of alternative rock bands such as Pavement, MGMT and Jesus & Mary Chain would be slightly easier. But many people will be shocked to learn that all of these groups list TVP as a massive influence on their music.
TVP, which mainly consists of singer/songwriter and indie cult hero Dan Treacy, has had a long and crazy career spanning multiple music genres, acclaimed by critics but never quite cracking into the mainstream. In the ‘70s they started making their name as an off-kilter punk band, but Treacy’s unpredictable and inventive mind led them through psychedelic, indie-pop and post-punk territory. Sadly, Treacy’s personal life was just as unstable as his songwriting, as from the early 1990s onward he struggled with mental health issues, drug addiction, and homelessness, all of which culminated in a six-year prison sentence from 1998 to 2004. Undeterred, he reformed TVP when he got out, but then was sadly hospitalized from a blood clot in his brain in 2011. Now in 2019, while he still recovers, his label has released Some Kind Of Happening, a collection of singles from the band’s golden age of 1978-1989.
Throughout the album’s 38 tracks, one can find every possible inch of Treacy’s brilliant writing, snarky lyrics and distinctive vocals. The first few songs are punk-y, like their punchy debut single “14th Floor” and their only real hit, “Part Time Punks.” Around track 10, the album starts dipping into a weirder territory, whether it be the wind chimes and kazoos on “Apples and Oranges,” or the surprisingly tender acoustic ballad, “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives.” Finally, near the end, the 1980s new wave synth sounds take over, whether it be on “Salvador Dali’s Garden Party” or the delightfully confusing “Part One: Fulfilling Contractual Obligations.” A common thread throughout is that no matter what the style he chooses, Treacy has always had a gifted ear for hooks.
The problem listeners will probably have is that TVP as a whole is just too weird to listen to. But the small but mighty number of devoted supporters will continue to stay in love as they await their hero’s return to music. We can only hope that his health isn’t ready to quite give up on him yet.