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The Telescopes

Silently influential and consistently obscure, the Telescopes formed in Burton upon Trent, England in 1986, starting off as a noise rock band, then becoming shoegazers, then dream poppers, and later delving into electronics and avant-garde tendencies. Over a long, interesting career mostly spent out of the spotlight, the group's exploratory spirit produced numerous albums that rarely sounded like each other, swinging wildly from the muted acoustic melancholy and paisley-patterned rock of their 1992 self-titled album to the dark, hypnotic psychedelia of 2021's Songs of Love & Revolution. The original lineup of the Telescopes included singer/guitarist Stephen Lawrie, guitarist/singer Jo Doran, lead guitarist David Fitzgerald, bassist Robert Brookes, and drummer Dominic Dillon. In 1988, the band issued their first song, "Forever Close Your Eyes," on a split flexi-disc with Loop issued on Cheree in honor of the two groups' joint New Year's Eve performance. The Telescopes' official debut single, "Kick the Wall," followed a year later, with its feedback-laden trance rock earning the band critical comparison to the Jesus and Mary Chain and Spacemen 3. "7th # Disaster" appeared in the spring, and in the summer of 1989 the group issued their debut for the American indie label What Goes On with their breakthrough effort "The Perfect Needle." The Telescopes' debut LP, Taste, closed out the year, and in 1990 the Fierce label issued a live LP, Trade Mark of Quality. When What Goes On went bankrupt, the Telescopes relocated to Alan McGee's Creation label, where the white noise assault of their early releases gave way to a more ethereal, textured approach in 1991's Celeste. In the wake of the gorgeous "Flying," which reached the number 79 spot on the U.K. pop charts, the band released their first Creation LP, The Telescopes, a landmark effort. Sculpted from shimmering guitars, sinuous basslines, and soulful rhythms, the record remains a classic of the shoegaze era. Its success, however, proved the band's undoing, and after contributing a reading of "The Good's Gone" to the Who tribute album Who Covers Who, the Telescopes dissolved in 1994, citing creative differences. Lawrie and Doran reunited in 1996 in the like-minded Unisex, releasing "TV Cowboy" -- half of a split-single with Good Morning Canada -- in mid-1997. An EP, Deadlock, and a full-length, Stratosfear, followed on the U.S. indie Double Agent before Lawrie and Doran revived the Telescopes' name for 2002's Third Wave and 2005's #4, which expanded on the duo's interest in electronic music. Doran was out of the lineup by 2006's Hungry Audio Tapes, replaced by Bridget Hayden. Two years later, Infinite Suns followed on the Textile label. In 2010, Lawrie invited members of fellow travelers One Unique Signal to function as his backing band for Telescopes live dates, and the concert album Live. Aftertaste. documented the transition. The next few years were spent gigging and releasing singles before the band returned with their seventh album, HARM; it was recorded in one take with no overdubs, and with all the instruments tuned to 444 Hz for maximum noise. After taking their sound as far out as it could go, the Telescopes released Hidden Fields for the German label Tapete in 2015. It was their most song-based effort in years, full of rampaging shoegaze and noise pop. True to the band's sometimes-contrary nature, the next album signaled a complete stylistic shift toward something less song-based, darker, and drowning in harshly droning guitar noise. Recorded with the help of Scottish band St Deluxe, As Light Return was issued by Tapete in July 2017. They capped off a prolific year with a second album, Stone Tape. Lawrie retreated to the studio by himself for 2019's drone-based, space blues-influenced Exploding Head Syndrome. Original lead guitarist David Fitzgerald died on December 17, 2020 after a struggle with cancer; he was 54 years old. The band's 12th studio album, Songs of Love & Revolution, was released in February 2021.
© Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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