Monday, December 04, 2006

Celestial Noise

The Telescopes - Celeste
The Telescopes - Violence

At the outset of their career, Burton-on-Trent’s the Telescopes were fearsomely noisy, big of hair, clad in black and obsessed with dense layers of guitar noise and bleak lyrics that referenced death, mutilation, drowning, needles and fellating gun barrels. Now, as they prepare to celebrate their 20th anniversary (they formed in 1987, though did record as Unisex for a while during the 1990s) as a recording outfit, they’re exploring the furthest reaches of electronic noise and sonic experimentation, drilling holes into their guitars and performing improvised jams of white noise and drones.

Somewhere in the midst of all this noise and madness - early in 1991 to be precise - the band emerged as a psychedelic pop-outfit with the release of the single ‘Celeste’; a ray of cosmic sunshine on Creation Records, and for me, a lost classic from this period. It was as if a completely different band had been formed. Possibly under the influence of a wheelbarrow full of acid, they burst forth with swirling organs and kaleidoscopic guitars, baggy drums and a funky bassline, along with obliquely positive lyrics about love and blessed souls and the sun falling out of the sky. In the trippy video for ‘Celeste’, frontman Stephen Lawrie is a dead ringer for ‘Screamadelica’-era Bobby G, with a natty bowl haircut and stripy top.

The Telescopes have been enjoying something of a renaissance of late, and not just with their newer, experimental material. A lot of the older stuff has been reissued, including the bizarrely under appreciated self-titled second album (sometimes referred to as ‘#’) which followed ‘Celeste’ in 1992 and is a masterpiece. I’ll be coming back to that one soon, but just so you can get a handle on what a transformation ‘Celeste’ represented, I’m also posting the distorted and dirty ‘Violence’ from the band’s debut album, ‘Taste’, released in 1989 by What Goes On Records, and reissued this year by Revola.

The video for 'Celeste' -

Buy the reissues of ‘#’ and ‘Taste’ at Revola
Brilliant interview with Stephen Lawrie on Poptones
The Telescopes at Antenna Records
A great Telescopes compilation ‘Altered Perception’ released by Space Age Recordings
The Telescopes unofficial website
The Telescopes at My Space