Telescopes - On a Wing and a PrayerA recent Maker reviewer described them as 'the band that time forgot.' But EVERETT TRUE discovered, The Telescopes are still going strong and their new 'Flying' EP is their best record yet Pic: Steve Gullick
WE'RE SITTING IN THE CAFE AT THE Victoria & Albert, talking culture. We've seen (and appreciated) the Lee Friedelberg photographs, we've witnessed the giant plastic cast reproductions of famed Italian artifacts, we've all made the nominal "donation" they charge visitors at the door. We've admired the Indian brass-work. We've had our fix of ancient cultures.
So now we're slumped round a circular wooden table, eating stodgy chocolate cake, drinking tea and hi-talutin' lager, The Telescopes and me, talking present-day culture, as represented by a review Simon Price did of the band a few weeks back. In it he called them "the band that time forgot", putting forward the theory that perhaps The Telescopes took all the shit the next generation managed to avoid - about stealing from Loop and the Valentines and '88, daring to be young and insouciant about what may have come before - and have thus had their popularity maybe permanently stunted.
So now we're getting heated and wondering about the merits (or otherwise) of The Scene That Clones Itself- something The Telescopes most definitely have nowt to do with to the new single later.
"It's all bollocks, innit?" Dave their slightly rambunctious guitarist, opines thoughtfully.
It's not not as cut and dried as that," Steve (vocals) remarks. "We've never had anything in common with bands like Lush and Slowdive. We've been quite misrepresented in some ways as just being subtle Valentine copyists - early on we had a lot of things we took from them, but people forget they were exactly the same. The more popular you become, the more people are willing to ovrlook things like that.
'There's a lot of bands in the current scene who just want to be the Valentines, but we got over that quite a while ago."
You want to be strip-o-qrams now?
"It's laugh a minute with old ET here," Rob (bass) comments.
"You've got to remember a lot of the bands coming up now haven't reached anything like our maturity yet", Dave adds. "We've done our growing up in public, we know what it's like."
Jo: "Next question!"
THE Telescopes have been growing up. Growing into confusion. Realising that as they get older life gets anything but easier, that what once seemed so clear-cut and diamond pure in the arrogant light of youth now has so many twists, so many turns that it's damn near impossible to pin down anything. Life's confusing and then you die.
"I thought that by the time I reached 23, I'd have learnt a few of the secrets of the universe or something," Stephen agrees. "But I'm on my way there, and the closer I get, the more confused I feel."
These changing attitudes are reflected in their new songs. Where Stephen used to sound frighteningly intense, desperately obsessed on songs like "Precious Little", "To Kill A Slow Girl WaI6ng", "The Perfect Needle", now his voice is positively laidback, blurred way down in the mix, threaded confusingly with Jo's smokey harmonies. Sitars and organs and backwards guitars slip in and out seemingly at random on the new single, "Flying", drums area rolling savannah, tunes glow with new-found warmth.
The new EP sounds as if was part of a batch of opium-induced outtakes from The Beatles' "White Album" (second track, "Soul Full Of Tears", particularly). Well, like something from the "White Album"if John and Paul bad gotten to hear the Primals' "Higher Than The Sun" first.
But it doesn't take a prophet to realise it'lI - never make it to "To p of The Pops". In fact, The Telescopes will be lucky if "The Chart Show' even play their video-despite its first week showing at Number Two in the indie charts, it got passed over for a song five places further down the pack.
Do The Telescopes care? Probably. But they won't show it- instead they'll revel in their new- found sense of the sound of confusion. Steve tries to clarify their approach further.
"If I walked into this roam and let auto massive scream and then sat in the corner and was really quiet for the rest of the day, everyone would think I'm a rowdy bastard," he says, looking round at his fellow diners. "And they'd be regarding me with suspicion, wondering if I'm gonna do something strange again. That's the effect I wont to achieve with The Telescopes' music. We put things in our songs for a reason - we don't just walk around in this great big daze, chucking things in at random.
"Sometimes we do it so we can personally sit back and laugh at them, but then when people take the bait you start to wish you hadn't because it undervalues the music."
QUESTlON: what are The Telescopes attempting to put across through their music? ANSWER: whatever it is they're feeling at the time.
"We had on English teacher who always used to soy that when you're writing, you should write down things so that the reader can experience things you're experiencing, not to take it for granted that they will," says Jo in that slightly harsh Rita Tushingham voice of hers. "Listening to some of our old songs now, we can see that we left out half of what we wanted to put in, that half of them ore still in our heads.
"Sometimes when you read reviews of concerts, the writer will put across the exact same feelings you felt watching the band," she continues. "And that's what we're trying to achieve: to inspire the exact same feeling we had when we were."
Do you think The Telescopes ore more or less pure than when they started out?
"More," says Jo defiantly. "We can't use our record player at the moment because the amp's been taken from the stereo to the four- track. You stop listening to other people's music to make your own."
"More," says Steve facetiously. "Nobody's allowed to smoke in the band now. Apart from alcohol there's absolutely no drugs allowed in this band. What we do is we've got this massive flootation tank in Dominic's house and we've all developed the technique of astral-planing. We're purifying our souls."
"Flying'is out now on Creation.
Originally appeared in Melody Maker August 10, 1991. Copyright © Melody Maker