THE TELESCOPES came a-sneaking into the collective consciousness 32 years ago outta brewery central, Burton-on-Trent, on the back of a split flexi with Loop; and that was as potent a statement of intent as you could wish for. Both bands fuzzed immaculate and psychedelic in a way we seemed to have forgotten was an excellent thing, not just to be confined to Edsel reissues, but to breathe and bleed and flame.
They properly exploded with the exhilarating noisefest rush of “7th # Disaster”, a necessary garage-rock howl with a middle section of decay and semitonal dischord and sheer, delicious, fucking noise up there with “You Made Me Realise” and “Silver Rocket”. It was – it still is – the biz.
A deal with Creation followed, during which short tenure the band blossomed in all kinds of directions; they released as strong a run of singles as anyone at the time, from the buzzsaw chantalong of “Precious Little”, to the halcyon dreamscapes of “Everso” and “Celeste”; all culminating in a surprising swerve, the elegant downbeat jazziness of a self-titled album.
And then … a decade away, silence, until 2002 and The Third Wave, for New York’s Double Agent; a slow haze of tape experimenta, piano, organ shimmer, closer to perhaps to a postrock thing but still very much The Telescopes.
Since then they’ve never been away, they’ve always be nibbling at one stylistic investigation or another, more often than not making raw and intelligent musics for the head; witness the deep drone of “Northumberland” from 2008’s Infinite Suns.
The past three years they’ve been cheerfully moored up at Hamburg’s Tapete Records, also sometime home to The Lilac Time and The Clientele, and returned more to that dirty psych rock on which bedrock the band is built.
They release their third album for the label on February 5th, Songs Of Love And Revolution; and I think to directly quote Jagger: “… you find sometime / You get what you need.” It’s got dirt and fuzz and scuzz in a way that once again, British bands seem to have mostly forgotten how to do; psychedelic garage rock, elegantly wasted.
Opener “This Is Not A Dream” drips with hip-grinding fuzz and glorious sleaze in which singer Stephen Lawrie is part-buried, lazily drawling “this is not a dream” as all the while wiry, scoured, wah-wah abrades you. Think My Bloody Valentine’s “Slow”: just as post-dirty shag languid, but with added snarl, ending in the howl and drone of overdriven amps.
“Strange Waves” takes that blueprint deeper; the blissed, doped sway and the powerchord, the American rock dream pounded hard – and pounded into a more British lineage. It’s a little bit East Kilbride, a lot Rugby and of course wholly Telescopes. It’s lo-fi and loud and you can shower later.
“Mesmerised” is more open, a stoned psych lullaby with a simple two-note bass riff picking up added fire as it progresses, marching with a simple heartbeat of drums, mantra-like. It has a higher gleam, a little of the technicolour of the Creation singles and talks of being “between your thighs … mesmerised”, should you be in any doubt of its intent.
“Come Bring Your Love”, on which the faint shade of Stephen, a ghost in the harmonic machine, whispers of “my flesh, my bones / yellowed, alone” is darker, wants insouciant sex with a sneer, hurriedly, on unmade sheets. It glowers at you; but you crave it nevertheless. And when it erupts in a feedback surge, you get what you both deserve and need.
“This Train” is a ramshackle, loose psychedelic blues, again swathed in acid guitar fire, bouncing on the on-beat of a seventh chord that picks up extra bark and menace as it struts; while the title track, “Songs Of Love And Revolution” has a Moe Tucker tom-tom pound calling forth from deep under simple powerchords, that again fall prey to the scald of a guitar overloading through a pedal-board. It’s the antithesis of the shoegazing movement they were, at the time, kinda seen as associate members of; it has no blur, rather ever-sharper focus.
“You’re Never Alone With Despair” is, as you can imagine, a hazy dirge in the very least pejorative sense. It’s darkly trippy, delivered with a curled lip. Stephen is a barely there, a vapour, as he offers that he saw the subject of his affection, “dancing … I saw you glancing.”
“We See Magic And We Are Neutral, Unnecessary” was only previously available on a postcard flexidisc in 2012. Beyond the sorta title beloved of Constellation acts such as A Silver Mt. Zion is a proper two-chord inferno, like Loop offering their mid-period krautrock precision up for Dionysian sacrifice. You can hear the wine and blood flow in that guitar rage, the terrible beauty of “7th# Disaster” retreaded for a world much, much darker than we’d ever have dared imagine back then.
“Haul Away The Anchor” is an odd but nevertheless atmospheric coda, It’s a trad.arr. tune otherwise known as “The Padstow Farewell”: a seafarer’s folk lament, given spare half-life on a lonely squeezebox within the sounds of a pebbly tidal susurration and herring gulls. It’s an odd coda from the landlocked Staffordshire/Derbyshire border country, but where it does mesh with the album as a whole is that spectral, lost-soul quality.
The Telescopes’ dozenth album takes the simple premise of psych fuzz and lets itself sink deep. Now Spiritualised, for all we may wish otherwise, are a way, way down from their Nineties summit and Spacemen 3 have attained the nailed-on, did-anyone-you-know-see-them?-my-god legendary status accorded to MC5 back when they were extant, we’ve needed someone to step into the breach and pick up the dirty psych torch.
No Fender Jazzmasters or Vox Teardrops were likely harmed during the course of this record, but many are reported to have emerged bruised, sweat-slicked and smiling. Dirty, sexy and necessary.
The Telescopes’ Songs Of Love And Revolution will be released by Tapete Records on February 5th on digital download, CD and vinyl; the first 100 copies will come on blue vinyl. You can pre-order yours direct from Tapete now, here, or from the band themselves over at Bandcamp.