If the core elements of a band release music under a different name, what difference does it make? Quite a bit in the case of Teleman, who formed from the ashes of Pete & The Pirates, with the distinctive vocals of Thomas Sanders the most immediate connection between the two acts.
That’s not to say that Teleman are a radical change. Where once there was slightly fuzzed up, bouncing indie with a distinctive singer, now with Teleman it’s a sparser, more synth-led indie, with the same distinctive singer, weaving strangely dream-like lyrics around the music.
Luckily for them, this incarnation just seem to fit everything a lot better. Take ‘Crisitina’ for example, an early single for Teleman and the first track on debut LP Breakfast. Opening with the cold electric hum of an organ and Sanders’ vocals, we’re then joined by simple, attention-grabbing bass and guitars that float around before gently pulling everything together. That space between everything seems to help in grabbing your attention, forcing the listener to sit up and take notice of whatever strange subject Sanders is singing about.
It might be that producer Bernard Butler deserves some credit for the particular way that Breakfast sounds, but that would be mean nothing without the songs that the band have written, and the fact that any of the ten tracks here could confidently be chucked out as a single is testament to how good they are. ‘23 Floors Up’ sounds like a lost Britpop classic, opening with a keyboard ripped from the Pulp scrapbook, striding confidently towards a classic Albarn-esque chorus and even weaving a Bernard Butler-style glam guitar line through its coda. It’s not simply a nostalgic throwback though - the track and the rest that accompany it here deserve to be judged on their own merit. ‘Mainline’ could sit confidently on any of Blur’s post-Blur releases, whilst the simple beauty of ‘Lady Low’, all hazy Sunday hangover vibes and Bowie-tastic sax solo, could comfortably slide onto the Trainspotting soundtrack and not sound out of place.
Lyrically, Sanders manages to keep things enigmatic - despite the distinct impression that most of the tracks are about the opposite sex, he manages to wrap most of it in an obtuse poetry that fits the band’s woozy slightly off-kilter atmosphere. A chorus of "Cristina’s so good/She makes me go across town/She makes me to lie down/There’s nothing in the way now" just about typifies words that initially seem to make sense, but become more unusual the more you listen back to them.
A lot of the same stuff could be said about Pete & The Pirates, but the difference with Teleman seems to be that the band are more confident about this material and the direction they’ve taken it in, and they have every right to be. At a time when the likes of Dutch Uncles and Cate Le Bon are carving out a place for themselves making slightly wonky pop music, Teleman fit right in. They’re never going to become superstars – even at the height of Britpop they would’ve been peering in from the outside rather than stumbling around the Good Mixer. But just like some of the better acts from that period, Breakfast suggests that Teleman’s music will stand the test of time.
8Aaron Lavery's Score