The Michigan Daily -Weekend etc. -March 11, 1993- Page 5
'Killing' adds to 'Dogs'
by Michael Thompson
Picture this. A clever guy hires a
bunch of people to pull off a robbery.
Some of the guys know each other and
some don't. Due to lack of trust things
go really bad. But wait-the movie's in
black and white and it was made in
1954. That's right, before there was
"Reservoir Dogs," there was "The Kill-
ing." Butdon't fret, "The Killing" isjust
as good, and it actually adds to the
"Dogs" viewing experience.
The legendary band Television is getting back together for a special concert at the Michigan Theater.
Televion turns it on again
by Greg Baise
You best not be hesitating 'neath the
marquee of the Michigan Theater to-
night if you want to catch what is bound
to be one of the best rock shows of the
year. The legendary band Television
will be bringing their reunion tour into
that hallowed movie house.
While most of their contemporar-
ies' recent reunions have been a mix-
ture of turgid affairs (think Wire/WIR)
and static nostalgia trips (think
programming brims with energy. Their
;third record and first in 15 years was
one of the best of last year. Those who
knew that Television scortches live
waited for tour dates with anticipation.
But what seems like a godsend to
some isn't even noticed by most others
- good luck trying to find Television
on a commercial radio station, or trying
to see the video for "Call Mr. Lee" on
MTV. But while you're at it, be sure to
hear any lackluster "alternative" gui-
tarist worth less than his pick not
namedrop the seminal band. As TV
guitarist Richard Lloyd wryly noted,
"If everyone who says they saw us and
boughtourrecordactuallyhad, we'd all
be really rich. And we're not, so
something's really bizarre about it."
One of the most woefully ignored,
major label rock acts of all time, Televi-
sion was ground zero for the rock ex-
whatever counterculture. Originally
consisting of master guitarists Lloyd
and Tom Verlaine, nihilist punk tem-
plate and bassist Richard Hell, and
* drummer Billy Ficca, Television, along
with the Patti Smith Group and very
few others, continued down the road
that bands like the Velvet Underground
began to pave in the late '60s.
Often mistakenly referred to as a
punkband, Television (afterFred Smith
of Blondie replaced Hell in 1975) was
less than fashionably outr6 while more
thanmusicallysimplistic. Say the names
"Lloyd" or "Verlaine" to the average
Clapton or Garcia fan and you'll prob-
ably get stared at like you were from
Mars. But as Lloyd said in a different
context, "The proof is in the listening."
Television'sguitars were alternately
sober like a noir detective movie and
dangerously ecstatic like multi-orgas-
mic sex on a high-tension wire. The
swirling, violent duals Television had
between rhythm and lead was the musi-
cal realization of the rockrit term "inter-
play," used todescribe theband's sound.
Even after the 16 years since the release
of the era-defining "Marquee Moon,"
the band's fretwork sounds fresh as new
guitar strings, especially with the ben-
efit of zero years of repeated play on
classic rock stations. Along with the
guitar workouts, Verlaine's lyrics helped
to establish a mythology for the gaunt
fringe dwellers of the Lower East Side.
Speaking of which, Television was
the first band of its type to play the New
York punk palace CBGB. Before that
fateful Sunday in 1974, for an original
band like Television to find a venue to
play in New York was about as easy as
finding a cheap copy of their first single,
"Little Johnny Jewel" today. As Lloyd
recalled,"If you didn'thave arecord out
or play covers, you could forget about
it." One day in late 1974, Verlaine no-
ticed the legendary haunt's proprietor,
Hilly Kristal, opening shop. As Lloyd
told, "So we went to this guy and asked
if he was going to have live music. He
said, 'Yeah.' We asked what kind. He
said, 'Country, bluegrass, and blues.'
We said, 'Well, we play a little of that,
we play a little rock, a little country, a
little blues, a little bluegrass.' And we
had agig."And bands from the Ramones
to Patti Smith then had a place to play.
They were lauded by most critics
and had a small share of true believers.
Still, Television called it quits in 1979
aftertouring forAdventure, their second
album. "It's one of those things that
everyone remembers in a different way,"
Lloyd commented. "We were frustrated
in the States. The record company didn't
know what to do with us. The easiest
thing was to say, 'Well, let's break up.
Will anybody care?"'
Die-hard fans cared, and kept tabs on
the solo careers of the band members.
Verlaine was most consistent, peaking
at both the beginning and the end of the
'80s with "Dreamtime" (1981) and
"Flashlight" (1988). Lloyd released two
albums early on, but then receded, sur-
facing a few years ago playing with
John Doe of X. Ficca drummed for the
Waitresses of"I Know What Boys Like"
and "Christmas Wrapping" fame. Fred
Smith continued to play with both Lloyd
and Verlaine, although never together.
Until the recent reunion, that is...
"It's a lot more casual than anyone
would make it out to be," Lloyd ex-
plained. "We're not ajazz group, but in
a lot of ways we're like ajazz quartet-
four people who play together and then
go about their business. Then ten years
later they get back together and make
another record and nobody thinks twice
about it, except the fans of that particu-
lar jazz quartet. In the world of pop and
rock, though, people make such a big
deal out of groups."
Their third album, titled "Televi-
sion," is both more varied and less ex-
cessive than its predecessors. At times it
recalls anyone from the Ventures ("Call
Mr. Lee") to Suicide ("Rocket") to
Screamin' Jay Hawkins ("Mars"). And
of course there's the classic Television
sound of "1880 or So." The new album
is filled with Lloyd's and Verlaine's
instantly recognizable guitar work, yet
its 10 compositions ac quite stream-
lined compared to the 10 minutes of the
title track of "Marquee Moon."
Television was renown for their ex-
tended jamming when they played live,
and when I asked the stupid question of
which of the new songs get radically
expanded live, Lloyd told me, "Most of
them" with a knowing chuckle. He fur-
ther explained, "Some of them are three
minutes long on tl record but they're
more like 10, 12 minutes when we do
them live. And there's a lot of improvi-
sation, stretching, solo bits."
Lloyd concluded with that summa-
tion of Television's existence, both ar-
chetype and understatement: "There's a
big dynamic interplay."
Tune in TELEVISION at 7:30 tonight
at the Blind Pig. Tickets, ($15.50) are
available at the box office, and tickets
can be charged by phone at 668-
The film is about a robbery at a race
track. The main character (the great
Sterling Hayden of "Asphalt Jungle"
fame), an ex-con,organizes people who
work at the track, and people who don't,
to pull off a big heist. He also organizes
a couple of "distractions." He struggles
and leaves nothing to chance. Almost.
The story is tight and fast-paced; you're
into it before you know it.
"The Killing" is pure film noir. Black
and white, very bad people and no win-
ners. Jim Thompson, the man who gave
us "The Grifters," co-wrote this with
Kubrick and the result is acid on the
brain. This castof born losers is pathetic
from start to finish. The machine-gun
fast dialogue is like David Mamet with-
out the four-letter-words.
The actors all manage to create sym-
pathy for their thieving characters. These
are just a group of people who have
lived behind somebody else for too
long. They want to get ahead and get the
hell out. But they want it too much and
they pay for it. Their pathetic sense of.
self is almost heartbreaking because
some of them seem driven to this crime.
Kubrick's gallery of characters spans
from crook to troubled married man to
cop. They all have horrible lives. The
world Kubrick and Thompson create is
gritty and depressing. The robbery is
the only way out of this hell.
Kubrick made this picture long be-
fore revitalizing "Singing in the Rain"
ever, is still very apparent in this early
work. He constructs the narrative in
overlapping images so every part of the
robbery can be seen. By giving his
audience so many different perspec-
tives, Kubrick reemphasizes the intelli-
gence of the plan and how critical mis-
takes can be, and will be, to its execu-
tion. Even with the overlapping narra-
tive, the robbery blasts across the screen
'The Killing' is pure film
noir. Black and white,
very bad people and no
with the same intensity of a horse race.
Surprisingly enough, "The Killing"
also lets you appreciate "Reservoir
Dogs" director Quentin Tarantino's ge-
nius. The connection between "The
Killing" and "Dogs" is apparent.
Tarantino lets himself be influenced,
but never commanded by Kubrick's
work. In this way both of the films can
stand aloneor together. Each workhigh-
lights the clever ideas of young direc-
tors struggling.to show the other, darker
side of people. Both films are a testa-
ment to criminals and the complex
morality surrounding crime. The crimes
and the people in each film are very
different, but equally fascinating.
So with the re-release of "Reservoir
Dogs" coming up, go out a rent "The
Killing." Or just rent "The Killing"
anyway. Whichever, you're definitely
in for a treat.
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