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Re: (TV) Words from the Front

"nick powell" <nick_bug@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Have to agree Russ. That album I think is not too popular with many on this 
> list. However that title track is a classic in my book and I would say 
> anyone who had any doubts about Tom's attitude from Foxhole should be 100% 
> convinced about his attitude to war after listening to WFTF.
> NIck
> >
> >Perhaps more compelling than "Foxhole", "Words from the Front" offers a
> >vision of warfare that is stark and horrific. This is Verlaine's playing
> >at it's most minor-modal majesty. Also gets my award for the best
> >channeling job of the Neil Young one-note vibrato in all of Verlaine's /
> >Television's recorded career. A total masterpiece and completely
> >contemporary.
> >- Russ

What follows is pretty negative, but I'm leading up to a future
post on Tom Verlaine's strengths and typical approach as a lyricist.

The lyrics from "Words from the Front" remind me of Dalton Trumbo's 
heavy-handed screenplay, Johnny_Got_His_Gun.  For anyone lucky enough
to have avoided reading the screenplay or seeing the God-awful movie
made from it, this is about a WW I quadriplegic who is blind, deaf, 
dumb, and has his credit cards cancelled.  I can't remember if he also 
has to give up his career as a concert pianist or if his dog wets on him, 
but you get the idea.   The screenwriter's approach was if a pinch will do, 
a pound is better.  

Just like the "Blind! Blind! Blind!" line in Words_From_the_Front.
If you could hear the audience rolling its eyes, it would sounds like
a bowling alley.  I say: Yawn! Yawn! Yawn!

The song also reminds me of Ronald Reagan's best movie: King's_Row.  
There's a famous scene where the character played by Reagan wakes up 
in the hospital minus his legs.  He screams "WHERE'S THE REST OF ME!!!"
This is as close as Ronald Reagan ever got to acting.  Unfortunately, 
there is nobody around to give him a literal-minded answer, which would
have been hilarious, in a macabre sort of way.

In other words, "Words from the Front", while it has some nice playing,
is converted by that one line into something weepy, melodramatic and 
ultimately ridiculous.  If you took the line out, it would be an OK lyric.
Unfortunately, that line happens to be the chorus and the one big guitar 
hook for the song.  What a shame.

Unless of course one believes it's another instance of Verlaine being 
"ironic", or maybe a comment on Dalton Trumbo?  Frankly, that doesn't 
seem very likely.  Sounds more like a desperate attempt to explain how 
somebody as good as Verlaine could write a lyric this bad.

Nope, Verlaine looses his songwriting legs whenever he tries to speak
directly to the issues.  His vision fails when he tries to dramatize 
little morality plays for our edification.  One suspects that issues 
like anti-war engage him only at an abstract way, but that's pure
speculation.  In any case, in Rock 'n Roll, the rocks are not supposed
to be in your head nor the are the rolls supposed to be of your eyes.  
Verlaine should leave embarrassing protest songs to the "girl with a 
guitar" type of earnest folkie.

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