Having spent over thirty years making records as main songwriter with the Television Personalities, you'd think Dan Treacy wouldn't need much introduction by now. Sadly, despite his prolific output, his career has been dogged by personal problems, which hasn't always meant quality control has been as effective as one would hope - 2006's My Dark Places being one example of his band's more forgettable collections.
However, Treacy has undeniably been responsible for some of the finest lo-fi/garage punk pop/call it what you want released these past three decades. 1981's And Don't The Kids Just Love It pre-dated the whole C86 movement by a good five years, while successor-but-one They Could Have Been Bigger Than The Beatles and more recently I Was A Mod Before You Was A Mod and Paisley Shirts & Mini Skirts are just three examples illustrating what a prodigious, if eccentric talent Dan Treacy really is.
He's had some limelight tilted his way in 2010 thanks to MGMT, who not only cited his band as one of their main influences behind second album Congratulations but also namechecked him on their 'Song For Dan Treacy', which incredulously sounds like a mash-up between the Television Personalities, The Libertines and 'Rock Lobster' era B-52s. Nevertheless, despite the sudden surge of interest generated by the Brooklyn duo, Treacy's persona still exudes that of a troubled individual, even to the point where he recently stated on his own blog that he was quitting music for good.
While some cynics would probably hail that with three cheers and a chorus of 'About bloody time', A Memory Is Better Than Nothing proves that there's still enough creative zest left in Treacy's ever-productive tank to justify his hanging around a little while longer. Aided and abetted here by regular cohorts of more recent times Texasbob Juarez and Mike Stone - both of whom have co-writing credits on a track apiece - plus Swedish chanteuse Johanna Lundstrom and Arnau Obiols on drums, A Memory Is Better Than Nothing may be a tad excessive in places, but as a whole stakes a valid claim to being the Television Personalities' most coherent and accessible collection this side of the millennium.
If the title track is a maudlin paean of self-pity and doubt, split in two halves from a jaunty opening segment to the introverted piano that fills its final two-and-a-half minutes, the raucous 'The Girl In The Hand Me Down Clothes' and Hammond-laden 'She's My Yoko' both ooze a delicate charm and fragility that's become something of a trademark for Dan Treacy over the years. The latter's almost confessional plea of "I've been mad and I've been bad, well that's me, that's Daniel..." married with the former's cry that "My brain is dead" just about sums up its creator's own frustrations. Even on the slightly more effervescent 'Except For Jennifer', Treacy admits "It's all gone wrong" before the sedated lament of 'If You Don't Want Me' threatens to bring the album to a standstill.
Elsewhere, the errant psychedelia of 'People Think That We're Strange' where Treacy ad-libs the opening line of Frank Sinatra's 'Fly Me To The Moon' at the song's outset, and sixties-influenced wigout 'My New Tattoo' wouldn't sound out of place on any of A Memory Is Better Than Nothing's 16 predecessors. The addition of Johanna Lundstrom on vocals for 'The Good Anarchist' - initially a single three years ago - and 'All The Things You Are' provides an air of classiness that while not quite reaching the dizzy heights of Hazelwood and Sinatra, certainly gives the likes of Stephen and Aggi Pastel a run for their money in the heartfelt duet stakes.
Overall, A Memory Is Better Than Nothing is a frank documentation of a less than pleasant chapter of Dan Treacy's eventful life. Let's hope this isn't the last time we hear from one of England's most underrated mavericks.
7Dom Gourlay's Score