Thursday, June 2, 2011

Alternative TV: The Image Has Cracked

Review# 4
Artist: Alternative TV
Title: The Image Has Cracked
Format: LP
Label: Get Back
Year: 1978
Songs: 12

Alternative TV's The Image Has Cracked" rounds out our de facto trilogy of Get Back releases by artists starting with the letter "A," and it also follows nicely on the heels of the Advert's review, as this was another band born out of the first wave of British punk that sought to expand the boundaries of what punk could be. This record includes their first full-length, as well as their first two singles tacked on at the end.

Fronted by Sniffin' Glue" fanzine editor Mark P., Alternative TV begins this record, which followed a more traditional (if also scene-critical) punk single, with a bold statement. After a brief synthesizer-heavy opening, the record goes straight to a live track entitled "Alternatives." This was taken from a live show in which band, riffing quietly in the background, offered members of the audience the opportunity to come up on stage and talk about something important to them.  For a couple of minutes, no one has anything to say.  The band riffs on as Mark P. scolds the audience for its apathy.  Eventually someone comes up and tries to recruit a singer for their new band, and then a fight breaks out.  "I love you people," Mark tells the crowd, "but I hate it when you act like this because that's when they can grind you down." The track concludes with a rant about how punk music on television doesn't represent a victory, but rather a co-opting of the movement that allows it to be sold back to its members. Musically, there's not much going on on this track. As a song, it's kind of rubbish. But as an opening to a record by a band that was thought by some to be the next big thing, it's a powerful statement.

The rest of the record is eclectic and interesting, ranging from tongue-in-cheek pop ("Why Don't You Do Me Right"), traditional punk ("Good Times"), a chaotic, piano-driven statement on Paris ("Viva La Rock'n'Roll), the heavy drone of "Nasty Little Lonely" and the the catchy yet angular "hit" of the album, "Action Time Vision." The record doesn't do the same thing twice at any point, and very little of it sounds like the early punk singles. Many of the tracks have more in common with the minimalism of, say, Can than they do with the Clash.

Honestly, I don't listen to this record that often, because only about half of the tracks actually do anything for me from a musical standpoint. Such are the pitfalls, at least sometimes, of so much eclecticism and experimentation. But I appreciate this record's boundary pushing and efforts at making punk more than just what was, by that time, starting to appear on Top of the Pops.  While I love the more straight-forward punk of the early British punk scene (including Alternative TV's early "How Much Longer/You Bastard" single), history largely proved Mark P. right when says, near the close of "Alternatives:" "What you're getting is diluted shit. No way have you won brother.... No way have you won sister."

The next record I'll review demonstrates this in a particularly amusing way....
Total songs listened: 52

Here's "Viva La Rock'n'Roll" on youtube.

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