ARTIST: The Telescopes
RELEASE DATE: 27/11/15
RECORD COMPANY: Cherry Red Records
‘The Telescopes’ straddled a musical line between Jesus and Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, and 60s punk, and pulled it off with aplomb. Coming into this review, I have to admit that I knew little about The Telescopes save what I read and heard on various radio shows. That said, I have clearly missed out! I am so glad Cherry Red has stepped in to make these Creation recordings available once again. This collection was curated with the assistance of The Telescopes front man Stephen Lawrie. The first CD contains their first four Creation EPs, along with added bonus tracks that were planned as B-sides for a discarded fifth EP. The second CD combines the band’s second album Untitled Second with cover tunes and an unreleased John Peel Session.
As I sit here writing this review and listening to this wonderful collection, I am struck by how truly psychedelic this band was, far more than the shoegaze label that was bestowed on them. In fact, as I’ve said before, shoegaze and dream pop are sub-elements of psychedelia. Meaning what exactly? Well, The Telescopes combine trippy, skittering vocals and droning organs (“Celestial”, for example) with jamming guitars. It’s not unlike some of the work The Brian Jonestown Massacre has done. “Precious Little” opens things up, and it’s solidly in Mary Chain territory, with buzzsaw guitars and tons of attitude. Songs like “Never Hurt You” flit near the softer side of the fuzzed out guitar spectrum, revealing more of a Velvets influence. “Sense” jacks up the volume and reminds me of Ultra Vivid Scene! All these groups draw from the same pool of influences, so it’s no wonder they sound so similar. I also appreciate the cool organ floating in and out of these compositions, it’s especially notable on the aforementioned “Sense”. And if you want dreamy psych pop, look no further than the surreal “Everso” with almost mystical sounding vocals at the start and what sounds like sitar adding to the mix. The Beach Boys cover “Never Learn Not to Love” was a perfect complement to the band’s already acid-drenched melodic grooves.
“Flying” is groovy psych pop with swirling ‘gaze guitars, and is my favorite song here. At less than three minutes and a perfect main melody, it was an obvious choice for a hit. The B-side “Soul Full of Tears” is another prime slice of droning psych, with a nod to The Beatles. “High on Fire” is also fraught with spaced out guitars and a soaring, ‘cathedral like’ sound. “Sunspray” is a lovely psych nugget that would have been slotted as a B-side on the abandoned EP. It is short and charming in its brevity and condenses everything that is good about this band. “16t#3” is backed by what sounds like whale song and layers of gauzy, warped sounding guitar and keyboards.
On the second disk, the laid back vibe of “Splashdown” sounds like an entirely different band. But don’t let that fool you, the song peels back layers to reveal a more mature group capable of more subtle grooves. The song accomplishes a lot in just over three minutes, and is a fine testament to the band’s musical growth. “High on Fire” is another brilliant tune, and echoes some of the dancey psych that was prevalent back in ‘92. “You Set My Soul” has warm tones and noodling of The Doors variety. It meanders along for close to four minutes, saved from mediocrity by some really fine vocals. By the time “Spaceships” extends its sleepy arms, you start to wonder where the frantic energy of the earlier music is. It only kicks into high gear two thirds of the way through, too late to save things from mental oblivion. And then “Flying” comes charging at you, and as before, it dazzles with its coolness, putting most of the previous songs on this disk to shame. “Please Tell Mother” is pretty, reminding me a little of Oasis, and other guitar bands typical of that era of music. “To The Shore” is also fine, hearkening back to trippy 60s pop. The tracks I have highlighted slightly outweigh the other average tracks, and reveal a band who has grown tired of the labels the media stuck on them.
The bonus tracks here are more interesting. “The Sleepwalk (Sitar Version)” is about what you’d expect from the title, replete with feedback laden guitars. The Velvets cover “Candy Says” is competent and slowly drawn out, while the Who cover “The Good’s Gone” is a cool artifact. Moving on to the live Peel session, we have “Please Tell Mother”, “Splashdown”, “To the Shore”, and “The Presence of Your Grace”. They reveal the band to be a dynamic live presence, tight and focused in their execution. The live “Please Tell Mother” scores with this listener, far cooler than the studio version. “Splashdown” is on par with its studio counterpart, complete with cool bongos. “To the Shore” and “The Presence of Your Grace” are both interesting aspects of this session, and the latter song soars over the studio version.
In summary, this is a cool collection of songs that both diehard Telescopes’ fans and curious listeners will enjoy immensely.
The Telescopes – Splashdown The Complete Creation Recordings 1990-1992 gets its official release on November 27th 2015 via Cherry Red Records & is available to pre-order right now : HERE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Music has always been a driving force for Elizabeth Klisiewicz, which she days “continues to define my existence”. During and after her college years, she ran a weekly radio show at WMUA FM Radio and also at a community station in Springfield, MA, in addition to writing music and concert reviews for the college newspaper. At present, she writes for The Big Takeover Magazine and The Active Listener Blog, and recently began producing a semi-regular Mixcloud-based show called The Kitchen Sink. In the real world, when not writing technical manuals, she gets her thrills from reading mysteries, birdwatching, and can always be found with a camera and a maxed-out storage card full of music.