Unexpectedly, 2018 brings us the wide release of a new Television Personalities album. Something I never expected to happen. TVP’s leader Dan Treacy suffered severe health issues a few years ago that left him debilitated, possibly sidelining any new music permanently. It was a tragic turn of events – the music Mr. Treacy had released since his comeback in the mid 00’s was some of the strongest material in the TVP’s oeuvre. Beautiful Despair features tracks recorded with Jowe Head in the late 80’s. Most of these songs would turn up on other releases, while a few are just seeing the light of day on this album. Not quite a demo tape, but not quite an official album feel to this release. What it does is bring the listener into the creative process, giving you and idea of what works and what doesn’t work. And to be clear – this isn’t a masterpiece. What it is, is an unexpected glimpse into the working relationship Jowe Head and Dan Treacy had. Results will vary for the listener depending on how much of a Television Personalities fan you are, but for me the album is a welcome release.
The album kicks off with low-key versions of two songs that would later feature on the Closer to God album – Hard Luck Story Number 39 and Razor Blades & Lemonade both benefit from a slightly less guitar centric production in comparison to finished versions. Dan’s vocals are front and center, full of aches & pain. Perfection. How Does It Feel To Be Loved is upbeat and anthemic – quite a contrast from the finished song which sounded desolate and suicidal. This version isn’t better, just different. The title track is truly a lost gem – it has never been released in any form prior to this release. Mournful, longing, this is Dan & Joe at their very best. “It hurts to see you standing there / In your beautiful despair”. Chills. If You Fly Too High is another gem that has not been heard until now. Absolutely stunning. This features Jowe’s lower register playing against Dan’s vocals. It works – splendidly so. I Don’t Want To Live This Life sounds really different in comparison to the officially released version from the mid 90’s. More hopeful, more synths – it is amazing to think how some of these songs were transformed in their released versions. I Like That In A Girl is another unreleased gem, though not quite on the level of the others. It’s a garage rock workout that feels inspired by the Velvet Underground, complete with girl group sounds at the outro. The album ends with This Heart’s Not Made Of Stone – and in an interesting juxtaposition, this version is much sadder than the version that ended up being released. It is a fitting album closer. Acoustic guitars, minimal accompaniment, it is simply beautiful.
The album is out now and serves as a welcome reminder of the talents Daniel Treacy brought to the table. Jowe Head – erstwhile Swell Maps and sometimes TVP’s member – proves to be the perfect foil for Treacy’s poetry in motion. You can pick up the album here. I highly recommend it.
Verdict: Three Cheers for Daniel & Jowe
For Fans of: Belle and Sebastian, Comet Gain, Clinic, First Aid Kit, The Smiths, Lush
- Hard Luck Story Number 39
- Razor Blades & Lemonade
- How Does It Feel To Be Loved
- Love Is A Four Letter Word
- Beautiful Despair
- If You Fly Too High
- Have A Nice Day
- I Get Frightened Too
- Goodnight Mr. Spaceman
- Honey For The Bears
- I Don’t Want To Live This Life
- I Like That In A Girl
- My Very First Nervous Breakdown
- I Suppose You Think It’s Funny
- This Heart’s Not Made Of Stone