How have I never heard this?: The Telescopes - You Set My Soul (1992)
The things I learn writing these columns. I thought Wolf Parade were long done, but as soon as I review a single of theirs - bam - they're back.
Not quite the same with The Telescopes though, who are an entirely more... complicated proposition. To look at their Wikipedia page is to behold so many previous band members (surely only The Fall could compare), so many labels. And famously every album is something of a different experience.
Here we find them very early on and in the midst of the 90's "shoe-gazing" UK trend.
It's not a phrase I ever liked - it attempts to convey something that is slower paced and contemplative, which this is, but just sounds stupid (it conjures up images of gigs where the entire audience are looking straight down at the ground for 2 hours). Also, like the band and its history "You Set My Soul" shares a vibe and intent with other music around at the time, but is still a very different beast. Psychedelic 60's US rock, the trippy indulgences of countless indie bands - blissful choral beckoning.
Their first album Taste was released on an American imprint, but when Creation came knocking it must have felt like manna from heaven. Creation were THE UK label - Oasis being their biggest stablemate.
The label boss was a big fan, as was a large part of the alternative music press. A potential problem was that a band endlessly re-inventing itself could be hard to market. We'll never really know. Creation went bust and the band weren't free to release all the studio-work they'd been working on. Originally self titled "The Telescopes" it was later, when it finally found a home, was simply released as "Untitled Second". Something that had seemed like an important, watershed, album to them was something else now - they'd moved on, and perhaps it was a way of expressing how they'd never been able to finish and release the album in quite the way they'd wanted.
"You Set My Soul" stands apart - even from the other tracks on the album. After the label imploded much of the work it was involved with became mired in years of legal problems and the band disappeared, pretty much, for 10 years. Compilations of unreleased tracks, random singles and EP's kept appearing having been released from a vault somewhere - but it's hard to keep track of the band over the years and keeping a solid fanbase was an impossibility.
The only constant member down the years was a chap called Stephen Lawrie, with hoards of personel coming and going for recordings and live shows - and it was in an early 90's interview with Alex Petridis (now music writer for The Guardian) that sums up both the creativity of his approach to music but also how he never really made much of an impression on the popular music scene.
"Your idea of perfection changes as you move on. I think we still hold the same approach to our music now, we still try just as many mad ideas, it's just a lot more subtle and works to a different end".
Constant innovation is a great thing, but after 25 years if you're not happy with your sound really ever then it suggests that you haven't, and never will, find what you're looking for. Much of The Telescopes music isn't particularly pleasant to listen to, and as I mentioned earlier if every track you play at a gig sounds like it's being performed by a different band you'll never have an audience that can relate to what you're doing.
But they hit alot of buttons along the way - it resulted in this - and there's plenty of musicians who wish they could have hit such heights, even if it was all too briefly.