There was something dark, sinister even, about the nu-psych sounds of the late 80s, from the stoned paranoia of Spacemen 3 to the edgy helter skelter of Loop, and when The Telescopes issued ‘The Perfect Needle’ you kinda guessed it wasn’t an ode to happy times down the local sewing bee. There was a punkish intensity to their music, evident on singles like ‘7th# Disaster’, that drew comparisons with Sonic Youth, but their critical reputation was never quite matched by wider commercial success.
Signing to Creation following debut album Taste, they followed up with three EPs – essentially another album’s worth of material – that now seems like their most consistent and creative period: ‘Deep Hole Ends’ with its promised-but-never-delivered sonic release, the almost Madchester sparkle of ‘Everso’ or the gospel-tinged ‘Never Learn Not To Love You’, a sound which Spiritualized ran with to make their own. At the time, the poppier ‘Celeste’ sounded like a thumbed nose to whippersnappers like Chapterhouse, reaping the rewards of groundwork laid down a few years earlier, and was probably the closest they ever came to breaking out of the pages of the music press and into public consciousness.
Their second album proper – 1992’s Untitled – honed a purer sort of psychedelia via the sitar sounds and backwards guitar of ‘High On Fire’ alongside fare like ‘Spaceships’, redolent of Galaxie 500’s dreamier moments. But that was as far as they got, fizzling out soon after, before 2002’s Third Wave saw frontman Stephen Lawrie re-connect with the scene and position The Telescopes almost as elder statesmen among a newer breed of psych acts.
This 2CD rounds up their time at Creation as well as a John Peel session from 1991 and another planned – but un-issued at the time – EP. Splashdown is a reminder of how good The Telescopes could be on their day (and how contemporary much of their material still sounds) and at a time when period nostalgia is at a high via re-unions from Lush, Slowdive and Ride, its release couldn’t come at a more opportune time.