"I don't believe anyone's born bad, I don't believe anyone's born sad, but some people are born...mad."
So sings England's Dan Treacey on the brand-new album "My Dark Places" by his band the Television Personalities, their first since the early '90s. Why the long wait? Well, in the '80s, Treacy sang about Pink Floyd founder/mental case Syd Barrett, and in the '90s he practically became him. Trapped in a downward spiral of homelessness, drugs, crimes to pay for drugs, institutionalization, rinse, repeat, Treacy "lost the plot," as he sings in "I Get Sick Again," one of his new songs. He didn't play music for years, until prison nuns got him some instruments. He sent out an e-mail after being released in 2004 announcing his desire to return to music, and fans staged a benefit to buy him studio time. Which I find genuinely heart-warming.
The new four-piece lineup features fellow original member Edward Ball and is playing around England. I wonder if the album is sequenced in the order it was recorded - it starts off a shambling mess. Imagine Wild Man Fischer fronting the Shaggs...an exaggeration, but only a slight one. But the performances quickly grow more confident, and miserable songs like "All The Young Children On Crack" give way to some happy-sounding tunes like "They'll Have To Catch Us First," a groovy bit of '60s a-go-go Mod pop that could get easily get a be-miniskirted Twiggy frugging, although, like the rest of the album, the playing is little ragged, and vocals are hardly pitch-perfect.
Elsewhere he salutes another '60s fave, The Velvet Underground, over a Casio beat, Wesley Willis-style; paraphrases the reggae classic "Uptown Ranking" by singing "Uptown top wanking," announces "Don't be fooled by the rocks - I'm still Danny from the block!" and delcares "The king's got his crown back, back on the throne" to applause sound effects.
The sadness always returns, though. In "I Hope You're Happy Now," Treacy moans, "I hope he's everything you wanted me to be...". Treacy was apparantly so overwhelmed to be playing music again, he would break down crying in the studio, and he certainly sounds like he's on the verge of doing just that throughout "My Dark Places."
Television Personalities: "I'm Not Your Typical Boy" - a lovely Daniel Johnston-esque piano ballad cloaked in sincerity, humility, and humanity.