Friday, 18 February 2011

Twist A St Tropez

Search for “Telex” on a music site or file sharing network, and you'll get fifty billion results for a boring Radiohead song. That's because the world is rubbish and annoying and stupid. But the Telex you should be looking for, the Belgian synth-pop band from before there were synth-pop bands, is one of the things that make the rubbish annoying stupid world bearable.

Telex started with the laudable aim of "Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar — and the idea was electronic music."* A jazz musician, photographer and synthesiser enthusiast making pop that came from a different place than the ubiquitous blues-rock ancestry; an aim that was perhaps best realised on their cover of a song that could barely be more steeped in the tradition they were creating an alternative to.

In Telex's hands the song that sent teds into a seat-slashing frenzy, becomes a seductively lazy vocodered soundtrack for a futurist cocktail lounge, a song to listen to while you sip synthetic martinis on a holographic beach. Of the futures that never happened, Telex's light hearted techno-Europa, where you could drive a floating Citroën DS to your favourite cafe, is one I often yearn for the most.

Covers were a always a large part of Telex's approach, but their own compositions were hardly a sideshow.

Moskow Diskow mixed an electronic disco thump with Euro-centric melodicism - a perfectly judged blend that wasn't lost on early house pioneers who often cited the song as a favourite. It's a surprisingly and wonderfully well-realised song, considering that electronic pop - particularly danceable electronic pop - was in its rawest early stages in 1978 when it came out. Only Giorgio Moroder got there before them, but Telex made it sound like they'd been making music like this for years. (The inestimable Kraftwerk got disco the same year on The Man Machine, but they didn't do it so well – their bass drum sound was too quiet.)

Also from their first album Looking For St. Tropez, is possibly the most prescient song ever, Something To Say, which wonders whether new forms of communication will find anyone with anything worth communicating. Telex went on musing on the present and the future, eventually moving on from analogue synthesisers as well as making a Eurovision song contest appearance. They made a return in 2006 (with an album including the requisite rock cover), but after Marc Moulin sadly died in 2008, the remaining two members decided to put Telex to rest. But while search engines continue to give stupid results, what we already have of Telex will always make it better, as you can see.

*Yes, that quote is on their Wikipedia page - I put it there.

No comments:

Post a Comment