It’s not innovative by any stretch of the imagination, but Richard Lloyd’s latest album, The Countdown, is impressive enough to compel listeners to return to his past work, both under his own name and with the vaunted band Television. The inscrutable guitar heroism Lloyd enacted with Tom Verlaine forms the basis for this Plowboy Records release, but it’s not just riffs here: the man conjures up some bonafide atmosphere with his co-musicians.
On “Wind in the Rain,” for instance, the rhythm section of bassist Dave Roe and drummer Steve Ebe hold their ground like the eye of a sonic hurricane. Within that maelstrom, keyboardist Joe Bidewell never collides with Lloyd’s, but Richie Owens’ audio mix (not surprisingly heavy on guitar) keeps the sounds of piano close enough to shade both instruments and lyrics. It’s a tribute to the leader’s self-restraint—encouraged no doubt by co-producer Ben Ewing–that he refuses to crank out the bedrock fretboard figure ad infinitum.
On the contrary, The Countdown thrives because tracks like that opener and “Smoke” are arranged with an economy that heightens the potency of the material. Numbers like “So Sad” aren’t particularly uplifting in and of themselves, but Lloyd and company imbue the overall sequence of songs with a palpable sense of liberation: the band drives “Run” from the opening salvo of drums, reaffirming that “Something Remains,” even if, as the leader also intones in his inimitably dour style toward the end of the album, everything else has gone “Down The Drain.” Not surprisingly, that residual happens to most often take the form of idiosyncratic, skewed guitar work.
The easy rhymes and a somewhat forced chord progression on “I Can Tell” only stand out in marked contrast to Richard Lloyd’s otherwise understated proclivity for pure pop buried elsewhere within these ten tracks (‘…I’m gonna get this song on the radio, child, just so I can sing along…’). An extended improvisational workout would benefit this particular performance because it would distract from the shortfalls of the composition. But, apart from the largely instrumental title song, the general absence of such intervals is what renders The Countdown so tantalizing: even the intermittent mesh of acoustic and electric rhythm guitar textures whets the appetite for more.
Photo by Ed Rode
Something Remains is a Lloyd classic.