Back in 2006, the self-titled TV Eyes came out, but only in Japan. Two years later, the trio issued an EP called Softcore, but again only in Japan. Ever since, it’s primarily been fans of Jellyfish who’ve been interested in the expensive imports of these releases due to the involvement of two vets of that band, Jason Falkner and Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. Online debates have revolved around whether or not Jellyfish devotees could accept work by these players that didn’t sound like the power pop group they loved.
Well, TV Eyes wasn’t a Jellyfish project. For one matter, along with singer/guitarist/bassist Falkner and singer/multi-instrumentalist Manning, drummer/songwriter Brian Reitzell (Redd Kross and Air) was an equal partner in the band. He’s perhaps best known for his highly-regarded TV and film composing, as with 2003’s Lost in Translation (co-writing with Manning) and Hannibal. For another matter, TV Eyes wasn’t a power pop outfit.
Instead, TV Eyes was another one of those music biz stories where a quality product was produced, but there was no U.S. label willing to market it. Once again, Omnivore Recordings—which has been excelling at rescuing lost nuggets—has now issued TV Eyes as a CD and two-LP expanded edition. For collectors, the double LP was pressed on translucent yellow vinyl with the now obligatory download card. Both formats include a booklet with photos and liner notes from Falkner. The package is essentially the complete TV Eyes. It includes the nine songs from the LP, the four songs from Softcore—three of them remixes—and “She’s a Study” from Lost in Translation.
That’s the background—now, what should new listeners expect? To my ears, the opening track, “Over The City,” signals a sound where U2-meets-Gary Numan-meets-Devo, where prog rock merges with electronica. But the prog rock elements are downplayed in the rest of the set where Manning squeezes every effect possible out of the synthesizers. Falkner’s solid, funky bass makes nearly every track suitable for the dance floor, notably the pulsating “What She Said.” There are flashes of rockin’ power pop, most notably with “The Party’s Over” and “Fade Away,” the latter based on the rhythmic structure of The Knack’s “My Sharona.” There are also gentle instrumentals like Reitzell’s “Time’s Up,” one of several melodies to appear in two versions. (The others are Falkner’s very radio-friendly “Fascinating” and Manning’s “She’s A Study.”)
TV Eyes isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But it’s ironic the material should very much appeal to contemporary listeners who are into the electronica genre, which wasn’t quite as popular when the album first appeared. True, those who liked ’80s pop should also find many numbers down their alley, as the set does evoke the sounds of that era, albeit with more intelligent lyrics. Once again, thanks goes to Omnivore Recordings for being the ideal, if belated, home for TV Eyes.
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