Bags More Buzz from BurtonOn the verge of their debut LP release, THE TELESCOPES are about to gain promotion to the bigleague.STEVE LAMACQ spoke to them about their rising star and shares a minute's silence for Sooty. Picture: AJ BARRATT
It's times like this when I wish I was more of a betting man. Not just 'cos I predicted Arsenal would flunk their first game (suckers!) but I could've made myself a few bob forecasting the brisk promotion of The Telescopes to the Indie Big League.
Back at the tail-end of '88 you oould have got at least 50-1 against this Burton five-piece getting within a sniff of credibility. Even after their first single 'Kick The Wall' ruffled the hair of a few mop-top fans you'd have picked up a fair whack. But now, two singles later and on the verge of their debut LP release, we're down to 3-1 with the odds evershortening.
To anyone with half a brain tuned to New Pop, The Telescopes noisy climb up the ladder should have been plain bloody obvious. Much like other current favourites The Family cat, they are totally right for '89. I'm not suggesting they went out and pieced together an identikit sound for Pop Kids, but... they have tumed up with supreme timing.
After two years, where wimpishness had more than its share of popularity, '88 saw the indie charts swing back towards a harder pop. Enter The Telescopes, somewhere between Loop, Spacemen 3 and Richard Hell and ten steps down the evolutionary ladder from The Jesus & Mary Chain.
Their ascent started back in '88 when Sewing Seeds Fanzine released a split fiexi with Loop and The Telecopes, Seeds formed a record Iabel, Cheree and took the 'Scoi~s with them, releasing the group's 'Kick The Wall' to tie in with a few dates supporting the Spacemen.
The follow up came in late Spring this year, a four track 12 inch titled 'Seventh Disaster'. It was more melodic han 'Kick The Wall' but mixed its punkier riffs with growling rhythm and was enough to get them into the NME'sindie chart and bring them to the attention of what Goes On Records.
WGO, best known for their American acitivites, showcasing such bands as Soul Asylum and Screeching Weasel, were just setting up shop in the UK and were after bands to sign. They saw the Telescopes a mile off.
Up until now I'd been watching from the sidelines, not entirely moved by their slouchy hooks and blank faces. But after receiving a oopy of their third 45 'This Perfect Needle' I found myself returning to it repeatedly, picking at its layers of fierce guitar.
In the past fortnight the band have played their two finest gigs so far, the now legendary furnace night at London's Faloon (scene of The Sundays' discovery) and then supporting Primal Scream atr The Powerhaus, again before a sellout audience.
We fix up the interview for the day after the Primals gig, and meet on a parched Saturday in Brixton (just as the Gunners are getting beat).
The Telescopes look cool and spectacularly bored and sound like they've read too many naff post-punk interviews.
"We're not obliged to talk about our dealings with the record company. It's in our contract not to," they admit. "There's no need to tell anyone. It's just a record label we record for. It's private. We don't see ourselves as an indie band. We don't put any categories on ourselves. We're just a band making good music."
The band Steve (vocals), Jo (guitar), Dave (guitar), Dominic (drums) and Rob (bass) pretend to be Johnny Rotten.
Steve notices a newspaper headline on the next table that says Sooty creator Harry Corbett has gone to the great picnic in the sky; we have a minute's silence.
"We're getting quite embarrassed by being so egotisical," admits Steve later on. "It's getting to the point where we even think it's egotisical to do encores. I mean people starting to think we're making some sort of statement by not doing encores, but we just haven't got the ball to do them right now."
"And anyway, because we don't encore, we've made our set complete - it's likea film. You watch a film and you don't expect an encore after that."
"We come off stage at the end of 'Suicide', out last song, and ther'e no way we could build up that level of adrenalin we had just before walking off," say Dominic. "You can't go back and resume that resume that level of concentration - so everything else would be an anti-climax."
The Telescopes new single 'The Perfect Needle' tugs a soft melody through a chunk of noise. Written and recorded in 24 hours in a studio beneqth a railway arch in their hometown, Burton, ("Where all your beer comes from") it's already been misinterpreted as another blatent homage to drug-taking.
"But it's not," leaps in Steve, "It's about anger and spite, It's like the perfect needle in needling somebody, an air of animousity between people which shouldn't be there. It's not not like saying 'I've got the perfect needle for you', it's more a look in somebody's eyes, an inner knowledge of 'I know something you don't'."
"There's a lot of space in the song, in the music. It was quite exciting to work with becasue it was as much about what we left out, as what we put in. When welistened back to it for the first time, we could hear where a violin should go, so we added a violin but you can hear a space for a trumpet, and it was really tempting to put that in as well. In the end we left it out, left the rest to people's imagination."
"It definitely requires people to put some effort in, it pushes you to be involved, but like all our songs there's a good tune there as well."
Still only 18 months old Steve tells me: "We're like the guy who's really into football, who gets up every Sunday morning, skips his breakfast and runs off to his local pitch, really eagerto play. That's what we're like about our music. As soon as we get up we start playing because we get pleasure out of it."
"Some people have said, 'Oh your band's OK', but I hate that, I hate indifference. When I hear something, it's either really good or it's really bad, there's no inbetween.
"If you're in a band you should be proud of what you're doing, you can't be on stage and be coy and indifferent about it. If you do that, your band's probably crap. It's becomming apparent to us that now is probably the right time for us but then the time was right or The Sex Pistols and The Jesus and Mary Chain. We accept we've been 'discovered' at the right time, we also think that maybe the press igored us until the right time."
"To be quite honest we don't care what people say about us," adds Dave. "If you try and compare us to Spacemen 3 and Loop, that's fair enough. But we're just playing what we want to play."
Six months ago an A&R man from one of the major record companies was hugely interested in The Telescopes, but they "fell out with him somehow" and he went away. Now settling in with What Goes On, the current single will be followed at the end of the month by the already mentioned debut LP 'Taste'.
It's a thunderous album that cuts from track to track in a frenzied rollar-coaster of moods proving Steve's later proclamation that they do write "happy" songs amid the extremely Miserable Bedsite Depression ones.
'Taste' is Television, Loop and the Ramones ina big heap. After three plays of a rejected test-pressing with no track-listing, it falls short of classic staus, but leaves a nagging buzz in your ears. I'm looking for more sparkle in it, but what you do get is the brash vision of '89 intensity played by five tender hooligan, with extreme confidence.
Are The Telescopes happening? You Bet
Originally appeared in NME 2 September 1989. Copyright © NME