Thursday, October 25, 2018


Without any deliberation behind it, I have been listening to a lot of Australian music this year: excellent albums from The Stroppies, Courtney Barnett, The Goon Sax and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever have all been on heavy rotation round our house. However, I only made the geographical connection between them when I was limbering up this week to go and see the latter band play live in Brighton. If we still had a proper music press I would have already realised as a handy label would have been applied (New South Wave, Ozchester, other suggestions on a postcard, please) and the bands would have been lumped into a high-profile movement.

That said, there is a refreshing rediscovery of a naïve and positive guitar sound that links all of them together and seeing Rolling Blackouts at Concorde 2, with their four guitarists and three vocalists, made me realise that I have not seen a band as energetic this year: hardworking and superbly-named drummer, Marcel Tussie, and bassist, Joe Russo, drive the rhythm along relentlessly, the duelling guitars of Russo's brother Tom, Fran Keaney and Joe White chime above and, with all three taking vocal turns, the pace is relentless.

This year's debut album, Hope Downs, has been very well received in this country and it made up the bulk of the set with Talking Straight, Exclusive Grave and Mainland being the picks. But it was two songs from 2016's seven-track Talk Tight EP that were the standouts for me. The infectiousness of Wither With You disguises a lyric of despair - "Trying to make our dreams come true/And I wonder what's the use/When you're pointing at that noose" - but was still an early highlight and the evening closed with Wide Eyes, my favourite for its reverb and treated vocal that put me in mind of The Jesus and Mary Chain. However, it was another band from the 80s that I was reminded of most - albeit a faster version - Brisbane's The Go-Betweens. Maybe there is something in geography after all.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Wistful Joy

Of all the current music I subject my kids to in the car, the group that the three of them are most enthusiastic about is Teleman. When I asked them why, they struggled to articulate their appeal at first; but then my daughter said it was the lead singer's voice and my oldest said he found their songs uplifting. The middle one grunted something unintelligible from behind a curtain of hair and we moved on.

It was an unfair question because it was one I had no concrete answer to myself; since I had first seen Teleman at the Green Man festival a few years ago, I had played their music a lot but, because some friends expressed ambivalence, I sometimes asked myself what it was I liked about them without ever coming to a conclusion. However, seeing them live again in Brighton this week provided me with some answers: the simplicity of the music - Pete Cattermoul and Hiro Amamiya's bouncing rhythms, Jonny Sanders' vintage synths, his brother's selective guitar - combined with clear but obscure lyrics delivered with Tom Sanders' yearning vocal, creates a naïve sound somewhere between the Velvet Underground's more playful moments and Kraftwerk's poppiest songs.

Perhaps it is this naivety that explains the youthful appeal. I took my eldest with me to Concorde 2 for his first proper indoor gig and when we bumped into a friend he commented that the venue seemed to be half-full of youngsters with a parent. He was exaggerating but, when I looked around, I realised he had a point. Teleman have got that teenagers-not-too-embarrassed-to-go-to-a-gig-with-their-parents market sown up.

With their third album - Family of Aliens - just released, the pick of the new songs were showcased. Cactus, Twisted Heart and Song For a Seagull, the latter obviously going down well in Brighton, all seemed immediately familiar but there was also room for favourites from the previous album, Brilliant Sanity. Tangerine and Fall In Time featured early on in the set and it was closed with the much called-for, Dusseldorf - "Düsseldorf looms in the cold grey light/I love everyone that I meet tonight."

The two encore tracks were both from the debut album, Breakfast. The delightful Christina ("Christina so good/She makes me go across town") perfectly demonstrated Teleman's gift for wistful joy and Not In Control, a hidden track on the album, shows off their ability to move effortlessly into the territory of motorik.

So I left the gig having realised that there is a lot more to Teleman than a sense of innocence and whimsy. Their songs make me think of the city: they are artful - the covers of all three albums are beautiful examples of geometric graphic design - and European and metropolitan and, to the ears of someone whose escape to the country has been soured by the Great British Brexit, that is balm to salve a wound right now. My son had a good time, too.