Sunday, 24 May 2015

Oliver: The Telescopes [Peel Session] (8 December 1991)


To the Shore

The Presence of Your Grace

Not knowing any better, my initial reactions upon hearing the three tracks that the Telescopes
recorded for Peel at this, their second session, ran something like this:
"This is nice"
"Spacey shoegaze but very well done and rather more nuanced"
"Vocally sounds like My Bloody Valentine, but easier to hear and appreciate the harmonies"
"Splashdown sounds indebted to Primal Screen circa Movin' On Up"
"Presence of Your Grace is the standout"
"Yeah, all of these would go on a mixtape"

And that I thought would be that, until I did a little more research about this Burton Upon Trent five-piece.  Had I become a fan of them during their initial releases which included a debut album, Taste, released in 1989 (the year of their first Peel session), I would have been gobsmacked at what I heard on this Peel session.  When a band is in its formative years, which if they're lucky enough to get that far usually covers their first three albums, there is a pressure on them to develop their music within that time.  Within three albums a number of different scenarios play out:
A) They don't develop and are written off as one trick ponies, comdemned to play to a diminishing fan base for time immemorial.
B) They do develop but no one's interested hence cultdom or obscurity beckons.
C) They develop and lose all their old fans, but don't gain enough new ones so their development is written off as artistic suicide.
D) They develop to the delight of the critics but not to the fans, so their development is heralded as a brave step but written off as commercial suicide.
E) They develop and have their cake and eat it - attaining commercial and critical success.

A-D is what keeps the wheels of the music industry in all its facets turning.  E is the rarity, it's bloody hard to do.  Sometimes it's derailed by the band themselves.

The Telescopes of 1989 were a wall of sound rock band, who could go head to head with the likes of
My Bloody Valentine and come out with their heads held high.  Tracks like The Perfect Needle, Suffercation and There is No Floor marked them out as a rawly exciting band in the mould of early Jesus and Mary Chain.  Indeed, in this clip, their attempts to look and sound like the Reid brothers border on the ludicrous.  I cannot imagine that anyone who got into them in this period could have foreseen that when they came back with their eponymous second album on Creation Records in 1992, it would feature acoustic guitars, harmony vocals, piano, vibraphone and an altogether mellower vibe.  But looked at another way, all they were doing was progressing.  In an interview at the time, singer, Stephen Lawrie, spoke of the band's idea of "perfection" changing in the time between the two albums.

It would have been interesting to see how the Telescopes would have continued through grunge and Britpop, but instead they went into hibernation for a decade.  When they resurfaced in 2002, with the album Third Wave, they had again changed the face of their music, going in a more electro direction but with diversions into spacey folk including violin and organ.  They have certainly made up for lost time, releasing five studio and two live albums since 2002.  It's nice to see that, even belatedly and sometimes only in limited edition form, a creative and vital musical entity is still going strong.

The Telescopes in 1989, recording for Peel and a year or so away from letting loose on the vibraphone.

Videos courtesy of #TheTelescopes and monsmartyrium

Edit as of July 2015 - a review of The Telescopes latest album, courtesy of The Quietus.


  1. these video links are the LP versions and not taken from the peel session?

    1. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases, I'm completely dependent on what has been uploaded to YouTube. Where a Peel Session track is unavailable, I use the studio versions to at least give a flavour of what attracts me towards it.