"This isn't Earth music," marveled Ahmet Ertegun to Jerry Wexler, and I can certainly sympathize with the sentiment. After all, these two men were responsible for the release of a massive chunk of timeless jazz, soul, and R&B; now in 1975, these men were hearing a form of music bled of overt Black influences. The groove is here, but it's nervy, skittery. It's worth noting, though, that Tom Verlaine's first choice to record the band was Blue Note impresario Rudy Van Gelder. To call this music jazz-inspired might be stretching it; however, Verlaine's solos were largely spontaneous creations (Richard Lloyd always wanted him to double his lines, but he couldn't remember them right): modal, wandering, self-aware. In bop Television had an intellectual forbear.
But this record is also more New Wave and rock 'n' roll than punk in key places (the paranoid "Elevation" and "Torn Curtain," the Reed-esque shuffle of "Prove It"). These guys couldn't play straight punk if they wanted; thank God they never really bothered to try. Which CBGB alum could've given us the all-time ballad "Guiding Light"? And who else (with the exception of future heroes Beat Happening) could've forced fifteen simple hooks into ten mesmerizing minutes? A rare album that neither inspires hype nor sniping. A revolutionary side-concept from punk that took decades to spread seeds.