When I was in Glasgow over Easter I went to a concert by The Telescopes. Older readers may remember this band. They were one of the first of the post-My Bloody Valentine acts, so quick off the mark that the term shoegazing had not even been coined when they first treaded the boards. They were popular for a while, and then they faded away when people moved on from shoegazing to what ever the next big thing was (what was it again? Britpop? Grunge? Peruvian Anal Flute Music? It is so hard to remember). However, the Telescopes kept going in some notional sense, even as the popularity of their kind of music disappeared around them. You may remember me describing the time I saw them play Lazybird here in Dublin. By then they were something of a one-man band, with Stephen Lawrie of the Scopes playing on his own. He did not give us the muscular guitar work of yore but music based on textured electronics and that kind of thing. That is what I was expecting in Glasgow.
First up, though, was a band called something like St. DeLuxe. You know the way sometimes you see bands that are almost good but not quite? Well this lot were a bit like that. They obviously knew how to play, and had some good ideas what to with their skills, but they did not really have any good songs. Also, their singer's vocal stylings did not really do it for me. They got a bit better as they went on, mainly by louder, but they were not a band I thought I would ever want to see again.
Then Stephen Lawrie came on. This time he was not doing funny electronic stuff, but playing solo acoustic guitar versions of various Telescopes classics. Having seen Mark Gardner in Nottingham a while back, I am familiar with acoustic versions of shoegazing music. It works better than it ought to, and I think maybe Lawrie's version of it worked better than Gardner's. Obviously, if you know the old songs, you do a bit of joining the dots, but Lawrie had a certain something that made the tunes work on their own terms. I actually found this concert pretty intense, with Lawrie's focussed delivery accentuating the way most of the tunes plainly had lyrics about drug addiction or mental illness, something not quite so obvious when the vocals were buried in walls of feedback. I seem to remember hearing somewhere that Lawrie has had his problems with stuff, so there was a bit of an edge to his delivery here. Of course, maybe he is a totally happy camper who just can act well, but the effect was the same.
Stephen Lawrie's one-man Telescopes experience played a relatively short set, and then he left the stage, to some applause. After that St. DeLuxe came back to the stage – WTF them again???? But as they took to their instruments, suddenly Lawrie reappeared, and it hit me what was happening – they were going to be Lawrie's backing band. I said to my beloved: "I think this could get quite – " VAAMMMMMMMM! We were blown to the back of the venue by the band launching into a version of 'The Perfect Needle'. Suddenly I was back in 1988, in a backroom of the Camden Falcon. Great moment.
They only played two songs this way, before letting the gig end. A shame really, it would have been an amusing art experiment to play the same songs acoustically and then with a full band, but we got the idea.
So yeah, the Telescopes. See them live, who knows what you might get.