Today’s only workout on account of having to go into the office was my regular off-season Thursday Night spin while HRH goes off to do whatever it is they do in her “Leader’s Corp”. That means just me with my ass in the saddle and sweat…lots of sweat. And tonight’s sweaty soundtrack was the self-titled album by the Telescopes.
I was first introduced to this band when I heard the song ‘Flying’ on some random compilation CD back in the early 90’s. I loved it. At some point, low and behold, I found the whole album somewhere and, of course, purchased it and lovingly listened to it over and over and over again…by myself. None of my other friends ever really seemed to be impressed or to ever take notice of the band. I was fine with that, it was solely my thing. It was an album I considered special for that reason.
Unfortunately, somewhere down the line I lost the album and then, eventually, even forgot about the band for years and year and years until I saw it again – randomly – for download on some pirate torrent site.
The Telescopes are an English noise, space rock, dream pop and psychedelic band, formed in 1987 by Stephen Lawrie, and drawing influence from artists such as Suicide, The Velvet Underground and The 13th Floor Elevators. This is their 2nd album released in 1992 on Creation Records. It has been referred to by the title ‘High’r ‘n’ High’r’ (or fully ‘Higher and Higher’), due to said text appearing on the original album cover.
The band began as a run-of-the-mill British shoegazer band fully under the thrall of noise and My Bloody Valentine. Perhaps a little angrier than most of that ilk but pretty unmemorable. At some point however they discovered subtlety and songcraft. They traded in most of their noise pedals for some that make the guitars go all spacey and phased-out. They also wrote a batch of songs with melodies and hooks reminiscent of Love or ‘The Notorious Byrds Brothers‘-era Byrds. The songs on The Telescopes are built on acoustic guitars, then the aforementioned tricked-out electric guitars are laid on top and garnished with bongos, organs, pianos and all sort of classic instruments. Stephen Lawrie’s vocals are restrained and semi-emotional and female backing vocals add a touch of sweetness to the record that might be missing other- wise as the overall atmosphere is very moody and introspective. A large chunk of the credit should be given to producer Guy Fixsen, who also helmed some great records with Moose & Rollerskate Skinny and is a member of Laika. Sadly, The Telescopes split soon after this album came out but the classic sound they came up with here lives on in bands like Mojave 3 and the Verve…two of my favorites. Still.
I have to admit, I was worried about listening to this album 25 years later.
I mean, what if it totally sucks? Lord knows I was under lots of different influences back then…gawd, so what if?
Only one way to know for sure.
Fortunately, it was…better. The tracks I remember well like the lead off ‘Splashdown‘ and ‘Flying‘ are still just as amazing as I remember them. And others that I don’t remember so well like ‘And‘, ‘Spaceships‘, and ‘You Set My Soul‘ are even better. It was a great listen this evening and an equally fun
stroll spin down memory lane.
I NEED this back in my collection…preferably on vinyl.