Television Personalities - My Dark Places

It's been well over a decade since the Television Personalities last put out an album. Following their widespread success in the late 70s and early 80s, (which earned them among other things the prestigious title of 'Kurt Cobain's favourite band'), the Television Personalities disappeared into a long period of relative obscurity.

And now they're back.

In much the same way that any avant garde artist is inevitably going to polarise opinion (Mike Skinner for example - "god-like genius" or "just some idiot taking the piss"?), middle ground will be in short supply with the Television Personalities' new album My Dark Places; in other words this is an album that you'll either love or hate. For what it's worth though, my own take is that the latest offering from Treacy and co is imbued with an unmistakable undercurrent of pure genius.

This is in no small part derived from the album's lyrical simplicity; pure, distilled poetry whose straightforward minimalism is undercut by the fact that you couldn't replicate it if you tried. Why so? Because unlike so much of the mid-magnolia, scarf-wearing dross we're forced to listen to these days, when Dan Treacy sings, you believe him.

This isn't some posturing art-school wanker trying to be something he isn't – far from it. No stranger to depression, addiction, homelessness and prison, whatever else he is, Dan Treacy's the real deal and he has the scars to show for it. To prove the point, My Dark Places is a grotesquely beautiful scrap-book of these scars, a weird trip through the dark imagination of a man who's been to Hell and back again, where references to drugs, bullying, violence and prison come together to create a fully-stocked pick'n'mix counter of the more nightmarish facets of modern existence.

From the heart-rending piano melody of "Not Your Typical Boy" to the straightforward lyricism of "Tell Me About It" ("Tell me about your day – was your boss shitty as usual?...Tell me anything, even your shopping list, just let me know I'm safe") this album encapsulates the melancholia of the mundane, the emptiness of a fragmented society haemorrhaging internally from frustration, isolation and social malaise.

Although a Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol-inspired vibe is always bubbling not far beneath the surface, My Dark Places incorporates so many influences that it's difficult to pin a label on exactly what bracket the album falls into. While the Television Personalities are often credited with being "the original Babyshambles", to call this masterpiece 'indie' (in the Babyshambles sense of the word) would be nothing less than an outright insult. Similarly while the influence of punk and new wave is evident - New Order spring to mind for some reason - it falls into neither of this categories.

Whatever musical dexterity is going on in the background, (an eclectic mélange of drum n' bass influences, synths, orchestra, piano, accordion and God knows what else), the beauty of this album is down to the vocals, Treacy's gravelly cockney accent cutting through the often ambient musical textures in a way that'll force you to sit up and listen.

Essentially this is stripped down, no-frills songwriting, exemplified by the closing moments of the album where Treacy even manages to turn the rules of the love-song on their head with gut-wrenching effect: "I'm not going to make up words just for the sake of it" he says quietly, "You're beautiful. And I love you".

My Dark Places in my view is an awesome album, a brilliant and incisive depiction of aspects of human existence that most of the floppy-haired indie brigade would be too terrified to even go near.

So tell me, who needs frills?