Television Personalities The Painted Word

Television Personalities had been widely dismissed as the jokers in the post-punk deck when the most volatile of its ever-changing line-ups recorded its third and, at 61 minutes, longest long-player in 1983. But this was in virtually no way the group whose initial reputation was built upon ramshackle parodies of popular culture ("Part-Time Punks") and whimsical tributes to vanished icons ("I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives"). The Painted Word is a fascinating and kaleidoscopic tour de force of melancholic longing, too obtuse to be pop but too emotionally rich to be avant-garde. TVPs co-founder Joe Foster, who produced the album and left the group for the final time after its completion, devised its atmosphere of hallucinatory minimalism - inspired by composer Terry Riley, Nico's The Marble Index and the sort of accidental atmospheric drones that weaved throughout various early Kinks and Who tracks - in response to the British press's pigeonholing of band singer-songwriter Dan Treacy as a slight prankster. "[Treacy was] somebody who I thought was a great observational songwriter, in the vein of Ray Davies," he says. "The music writers in Britain maliciously didn't seem to get it. I felt that his observations should be couched in a slightly different way." Treacy, already hurting from a recent romantic disappointment and his band's increasing marginalisation, responded to Foster's sketches by producing the greatest lyrics and melodic ideas of his career - gorgeously fragile love songs ("Stop and Smell the Roses"), bleak kitchen sink character sketches ("Paradise Estate," "A Life of Her Own") and anti-war declamations both touching ("A Sense of Belonging") and disturbing ("Back to Vietnam"). Nineteen years later, there's still no album quite like it, and its re-release, alongside the rest of TVPs' catalogue, is cause for celebration. (Fire)