Tom Verlaine Songs and Other Things / Around

Judged on its own merits alone, Tom Verlaine’s first solo release in a decade-and-a-half is an overly-long collection of mediocre, mostly unmemorable tunes chock full of disjointed imagery and seemingly constructed around their creator’s distinct nasal warble. Held up to the venerable work of Verlaine’s legendary NYC art punk combo Television, or even some of his ’80s solo efforts, the disc suffers that much more. Despite its title, Songs and Other Things does not feature any things other than songs, unless you count the sparing, barebones artwork and credits. Verlaine’s always compelling guitar work is in evidence throughout, but sometimes comes across as an after-the fact addition, or suffers sub-billing to front-and-centre rhythm motifs. Curiously, the disc starts off with an instrumental composition ("A Parade in Littleton”), which seems an unfortunate and potentially confusing programming move given the simultaneous release via Thrill Jockey of a collection of new Verlaine instrumentals called Around. That disc, incidentally, picks up where his wordless ’92 full-length effort Warm & Cool left off, leading to a cottage industry’s worth of soundtrack scoring for the artist. Now, as then, Verlaine’s instrumentals make for great background fare and generally conform to Brian Eno’s ambient criteria of being just as enjoyable as they are easy to ignore. Sadly, with the exception of two or three relative standouts (chief among them is "The Earth Is in the Sky”), the same thing goes for Verlaine’s new non-instrumentals, as well. (Thrill Jockey)