20 Feb 2016

Telegram / Operator (album review)

Never have my feelings been so mixed on a record as they are with Telegram's debut album Operator, which I feel like I've been waiting a lifetime for. Culpable of doing the thing that annoys me most about debut albums, this record has seven songs on it previously released as singles or b-sides, and begins with a streak of instantly familiar singles. But this doesn't phase me quite as much as it should, because although Telegram's debut is made up mainly of songs that have been released one by one every six months over the past few years, it makes for a cohesive record of well crafted songs.

The band exploded onto the scene with the whirring debut single Follow in mid-2013, and was in fact the first song I ever enthusiastically gave a 10/10 on the short lived FIBLAR blog, so to say that I've been excited and a champion of this band for some time is underplaying it - this is an album I've been waiting to come out for ages. Their debut single was followed by an array of confrontational psych-pop singles, like Regatta and Rule Number One before the tail end of last year finally saw them announce a debut record - Operator, which is what we have here.

It opens with Rule Number One, a song we've all heard hundreds of times before. But it's a brilliant opening statement, an astral blast of psychedelic punk that combines the heady cosmic soundspheres of Hawkwind with the intensity of a Ziggy Stardust live show. In fact, the band are at their absolute best when they try and go for this effect; glam punk slamming with psychedelic sounds and cosmic noise. Aeons, an earlier single, revolves around a jarringly dissonant yet surprisingly upbeat bassline and washes and washes of sound and noodly Hendrix-style guitar outpours to some pretty stellar results. Scuzzy guitar kicker We've Got A Friend Who Knows is ripped straight outta CBGBs in the late seventies, and Godiva's Here is a pretty straightforward garage nugget that sees the Welsh bark of frontman Matt Saunders driving the whole song along.

As said before, my main criticism of this record is that there's a real lack of unheard material, so it's not the exciting enigma that it could have been, but with singles like Follow, Inside Outside and Rule Number One you'd be mad to cut the deprive the record of them all. Obviously it's not a massive issue, but the 4 or 5 (Folly has been a live set and radio session regular since the start) new songs are a bit weaker and less memorable than the earlier cuts. There's a collection of really good tracks on here by a really good psych band, and it's probably an incredible listen to anyone who hasn't been a fan of the band too long - there's some right bangers on here.

It's also a really tight sounding record, with searing guitar parts and a general feel of a craft honed. Most the songs are almost identical in sound, and it does get a bit samey at times, but ultimately Telegram's sound is pretty hard to not love for geeky psych fans. These lads obviously have deep record collections that span glam, psych, world, noise and shoegaze, and that comes accross on their honed sound here - it's both a product of the past, timelessly woven with a lot more modern obsessions, and a post-modern rock record for the ages. It's a very solid effort that - whilst lacking new brilliant material - has whet my appetite for more Telegram as soon as is humanly possible.


(written by calum cashin)