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The Telescopes - Songs Of Love And Revolution (Album Review)

Tuesday, 09 February 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Tapete Records

Plying their trade for over 30 years, the Telescopes have covered a lot of ground since the release of their shoegaze-centred debut ‘Taste’. Having veered this way and that throughout their discography, we never quite know what to expect from a new record, but at the core there will likely be a substantial amount of noise and fuzz, often arranged in multiple layers.

Album 12, ‘Songs of Love and Revolution’, won’t pull up any trees, but it does keep this tradition alive. This is unmistakably the Telescopes, but over the course of the first three tracks we’re left wondering if this is going to be a microcosm of their career to date as the band, led by ever-present Stephen Lawrie, shake things up a little.

First up, This Is Not A Dream plots a funeral march through scrawled ‘Psychocandy’-style feedback, leaving us feeling as though we’re dragging our bodies across shattered glass.

But then Strange Waves takes things down a notch—just a notch—for a slow grooving visit to the industrial mire. The excellent Mesmerised then sees the wall of noise completely removed as a hypnotic guitar hook takes centre stage.

Still, this initial sense of adventure doesn’t continue. Lawrie has explained that he was in a good place when writing and recording, which stands in contrast to how the album then shapes up. You could easily interpret this sound as being inspired by the darkness of depression and death thanks to an onslaught of slow incantations and droning fuzz.

Come Bring Your Love and You’re Never Alone With Despair are tough listens, the former being a downright scary experience and the latter revolving around a deathly demand: ‘What makes you happy?’. Shocks of electrical charge interrupt the chug of This Train like a murderer gatecrashing a family outing, while the title track’s pounding rhythm becomes eerily repetitive in fits and starts.

The traumatic We See Magic and We Are Neutral, Unnecessary has evolved over the years during live outings, aligned with the ever-changing cast performing the song, and here full-on fuzz returns. Closer Haul Away the Anchor, an instrumental using just a single wind organ, is based on a Cornish sea shanty as a tribute to Lawrie’s partner’s father, one of the many to succumb to COVID-19 during the first national lockdown. It winds the album down with a fitting epilogue.

As with all art created by the Telescopes, the album’s many layers are where its treasures lie. Play it once, twice, three times, four and every listen will reveal more of its depths and meaning. That, in a nutshell, is what makes their music necessary. Our views on the record are probably going to be the complete opposite of the inspiration behind these songs, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s down to individual interpretation and, after all this time, Lawrie is fine with that.



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