Marquee Moon is one of the most influential albums of all time, to the extent that people look at it as the birth of Post-Punk, Indie Rock, Alternative Rock, New Wave, and to a lesser extent Grunge, Punk, Pop, etc. Nearly everything about this album became the blueprint for those genres, even down to the inflection of singer Tom Verlaine’s voice. More than that is tone and style of guitar playing from both Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd. Their guitar sound has to be the defining thing about this album, and they were innovators to use Jazz guitars with Surf-guitar tones in a Rock setting. I think anything I could say about this album would be an understatement on it’s importance in Rock music, so I’ll just stick to my history and impressions of it. I hadn’t heard this till long after I was steeped into the Post-Punk and Indie Rock genres before I listened to this. It was an epiphany, listening to the musical ideas that I had heard for so long, but recorded 20/30/40 years ago. I instantly fell in love with it, and saw how artists took so much inspiration from it.
See No Evil starts off the album with their most Punk sounding song but you can also see them taking the genre into a new direction. Heavy power chords are replaced with light melodic riffs, straightforward and aggressive singing is replaced with abstract lyrics and anxious vocals. It’s most evident in the beautiful chorus where there’s a call and response, as well as a moment of clarity when they all sing “I see / I see no / evil”. On my first listen Venus blew my mind because the guitar sounded exactly like something The Strokes would play, and I also just love the irony of falling into Venus de Milo’s non-existent arms.
The eponymous Marquee Moon is pure genius, an 11 minute epic jam with melodies that will be forever ingrained in your brain. It’s a rambling and repetitive song with stark contrasts and themes of loneliness, self-discovery, paranoia, and desperation. What’s all the more amazing that it was done and recorded in one take. The second solo at the end is simply amazing, after an intense crescendo comes a break in the skies and a heavenly guitar chirps… a moment of silence, and then back to the looped riff. That repetition and looping reinforces that disorienting feel, and it’s just so damn memorable.
After that stroke of genius it’s hard to talk about the rest of the album, but that doesn’t mean the quality nosedives. I love the push and pull of the guitars on the chorus of Elevation, especially with the anxious tone the rest of the song has. Guiding Light is a lovely, dreamy ballad but with some opaque lyrics. Torn Curtain is Television at their most dramatic, an emotional closer for this brilliant album. Marquee Moon is important as it is endlessly replayable, truly amazing from start to finish. Every fan of Indie Rock, Post-Punk, New Wave, Alternative, etc. needs to listen to this album now.