Tom Verlaine falls in that endless category of “seminal punk artists.” His short-lived band Television played the thinking man’s punk, and like Jim Morrison and Patti Smith, Verlaine was principally a poet who happened to play a few instruments. His skill is unquestioned, his style squarely on the “competent musician” end of the punk spectrum, and his social roster reads like the guest list at CBGB’s Christmas party. Today he’s mostly a high point trivia question — he never had a proper hit nor did he flame out in a crater of blood and drugs. His accomplishment was modest on the surface yet deeply affected the next two decades of punk music. He’s part of the archetypal sound of the NY punk scene and you have to ask “Why isn’t Tom Verlaine in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?”
Dreamtime is his second album, released in 1981. It covers all the basic punk and post-punk styles from the rocking opener “There’s a Reason” to the thoughtful ballad “Mary Marie.” What Verlaine doesn’t do is beat his guitar senseless with the noise machine cranked to 11. His music accents his poetry, and like all punks he’s out to change the world. He asks politely, and doesn’t just spray paint on every immovable object that gets in his way. This is a great album for the purist; Verlaine was important as a calming influence on the genre, the counter point to The Ramones and Iggy Pop. He never charged the barricades and is mostly forgotten today. But that’s what I like about the Collectors Choice label — they always pick the best of the obscure bands, and bring them a well-deserved second look.
Collector’s Choice Music: www.collectorschoicemusic.com