There have been a wealth of Television Personalities re-issues in the last few years, and a reader has only to click on that TVP tag at the bottom of this post to see my take on those. And for a band that's long been deserving of the proper treatment in terms of re-issued music, it's been Dan Treacy's lucky day as his genius seems more appreciated now than back in the Nineties. Now, seemingly out of nowhere, a lost Television Personalities album has been unearthed. A sort of demo version of Closer To God (1992) in some ways, the record works on its own as a document of Treacy in the era.
Beautiful Despair, out today on the fine Fire Records, is an album that was recorded in 1990 with just Jowe Head and Dan Treacy. The tracks are, in spots, a tiny bit lo-fi, but they are every bit as original and inventive as the best Treacy compositions. At times here, like on the funny "Love Is A Four-Letter Word" and the title cut, Treacy edges into the sort of territory later covered by Jarvis Cocker in Pulp. Elsewhere, "I Get Frightened Too" oozes a kind of bedsit drama, while the excellent and subtly soaring "Goodnight Mister Spaceman", from the band's Closer To God record, sees Treacy and Jowe Head attempt a Bowie-style number on a limited budget. That the song works so well says a lot about the seemingly-unflagging talents of Treacy in the era in which these cuts were recorded. "My Very First Nervous Breakdown", also from Closer To God, is suitably claustrophobic in this version, while "Honey For The Bears", also from that same record, is languid and sublime in the rendition presented here on Beautiful Despair.
A genuine curiosity for fans of Television Personalities, Beautiful Despair works as both a document of Dan Treacy's methods as a songwriter, and as a record on its own. Decidedly intimate, and wonderfully under-produced, this is one record that reveals a great deal about how the legendary Dan Treacy crafted such enduring material, in this setting with only Jowe Head (Swell Maps) helping him out.
Beautiful Despair is out today via Fire Records
[Photo: Alison Withers]