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Television Personalities - “Beautiful Despair” (2018) review


Television Personalities - Beautiful Despair (Fire Records, 2018)

With Beautiful Despair the world now has what is essentially a brand new Television Personalities album bestowed upon them; alas these are not brand new, current recordings, but rather they are a bunch of incredible, hitherto unheard cuts and come as something of a revelation (especially to long-time appreciators of the group) for these long lost recordings were created back in 1990 at the then London flat-dwelling of bassist / vocalist / multi-instrumentalist ideas man and producer Jowe Head. This album not only contains a batch of the demo ideas that would see the light of day on the group’s next official album, also released on Fire here in the UK, and on Seed in USA, the sprawling double album set Closer To God which saw the TVPs widen their scope and their audience demographic, whilst keeping their art, humour, pathos and intellect truly intact, right at the core of their musical business.

So we get to hear the embryonic slitherings of such as ‘I’m Having My Very First Nervous Breakdown’ and what, for us now, twenty seven years hence, are brand new, distinctly wonderful and sometimes warm and fuzzy delights such as ‘If You Fly Too High’, ‘I Like That In A Girl’, plus another in the long line of the TV Personalities’ compositional gems, the remarkably poignant ‘Love Is A Four Letter Word’. And that’s not all, for there’s also the incomparable brilliance and opulent melancholy of the title track ‘Beautiful Despair’ which attests to TVPs founder Daniel Treacy’s songwriting genius. In tandem with co-conspirator Jowe Head they conjure up one of the most fascinating songs which can compete with any of the group’s vast back catalogue greats. This song is monumental, oozing substance and poetic nuance. It’s deeply heartfelt sounding possessing a thoroughly disturbing, somewhat fatalistic romanticism throughout. Mournful and melancholic, yet hopeful and uplifting too, as is say ‘If I Could Write Poetry’, ‘This Is Where The Rainbow Ends’, ‘Scream Quietly’, ‘Glittering Prizes’, etc... 
There are a wealth of surprises too in the audio department which renders the proceedings wholly organic and very natural sounding – even if there are occasional electronic bleeps and bloops that seep and bleed and forth into the heart of the music. Also, it feels rather odd that TVPs drummer of the period, Jeffrey Bloom, is conspicuous by his absence here; although we know he was to happily re-materialise when Closer To God was ready to be worked out and taken into the studio to create. 
Most of Dan’s songs here have a magical, natural feel, taking on a vividness and, at times, a bold yet stark appearance (which the last two or three albums the group made perhaps didn’t have enough of) but which here adds hugely to the overall, unique atmosphere one experiences when listening to the songs over and over again.
Beautiful Despair is easily one of the Television Personalities’ finest long-players and as such will doubtlessly come to be judged so by those who are attracted to its many charms during the years and decades to come.

- Lenny Helsing
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