Album Review: Teleman – Family of Aliens

By on Thursday, 6th September 2018 at 12:00 pm
 

Teleman Family of Aliens album cover“Push the spikes in deep / the pain is going to set you free!” Thomas Sanders declares on Teleman single ‘Cactus’, released back in May. It’s a pronouncement that also stands as a neat summation of the Teleman story so far. It’s an ongoing saga where the connected topics of love and lust, along with loneliness, escapism and depression, are given conveyed in vivid, unusual wordplay against a bouncy, synth- and drumbeat-led backdrop. Now at album #3, Teleman’s wonky, oddly catchy tunes should no longer be a surprise but an expectation to be fulfilled at first listen.

Produced by Boxed In’s Oli Bayston, their Moshi Moshi labelmate, ‘Family of Aliens’ follows in the heady footsteps of 2014’s ‘Breakfast’ and 2016’s ‘Brilliant Sanity’. It manages to add another wigged-out, yet enjoyable chapter to Teleman’s musical history. Early taster single ‘Submarine Life’ went old school, utilising ‘80s style vocoder, making everyone think that the third Teleman album was going to sound robotic, at least initially. Turns out they were just teasing us. Phew.

The new LP is front-loaded with two other early previews, placed well for maximum pop dancing possibilities. ‘Cactus’ delves into the world of the pretty people, those that put themselves on a pedestal of no fixed meaning or influence. In reality, they’re in their own little bubble and can’t relate to anyone else, which is their true tragedy. Sanders asks rhetorically, “What’s the point of looking good if no-one ever gets near you?” It’s a bit of a warning to young people, that what material and physical occupations consume them in youth turn out to be devoid of substance by the time you’re older. The band spends a good minute and a half on an instrumental jam to close out the song, providing more than ample opportunity for us watching them at the Great Escape 2018 to cut shapes at the Paginini Ballroom.

Buoyed by a sweet and springy rhythm and ‘80s feel good synth chords, ‘Song for a Seagull’ pulls things back from the shadowy dance floor. Sanders sings of a different kind of but equally tragic character: like in the Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’, the girl across the room you’ve fallen for but in this case, she’s mentally miles away and there’s no way to get through to her. A seagull flying high above the sea might not be the greatest parallel to a human woman on earth. It certainly captures the idea of escaping to a better, beautiful place where you’re unable to be touched or hurt, though (“it’s not hard to see how someone you love is going to mess you up”). For the fans, there are nods to ‘Brilliant Sanity’ in here, from “a little bell that rings” from ‘English Architecture’ (signaling something magical has happened, like falling in love) and a guitar note progression in the outro bearing resemblance to that which closes out ‘Fall in Time’. Contrast ‘…Seagull’ to the chaotic machinations of ‘Twisted Heart’, exploring “the feeling twisted in a world so straight”, of feeling like a square peg in a round-hole world.

Not fitting in is a recurrent theme in on this album: whether it’s given a frenetic treatment on title track ‘Family of Aliens’ or a gentler one on ‘Always Dreaming’, the topic is handled with empathy by Sanders. On ‘Fun Destruction’ and ‘Sea of Wine’, reliance on alcohol is given much consideration, described by Sanders in the preview material I was given as “our English way of using alcohol to deal with problems, lose inhibitions, meet lovers”. With alcoholism comes losing touch and at its worst, self-loathing and the realisation that something’s going terribly wrong. A synth wail joins the chaos on the former, while on the latter, ‘Sea of Wine’ floats away in a piano- and beat-driven reverie befitting our fast-paced lives.

A potentially overlooked song for its comparative simplicity instrumentally is ‘Between the Rain’. The jaunty piano backing is less important than Sanders’ storytelling: partnering with someone who isn’t fazed by anything leads to your own anxiety coming roaring to the forefront like a sore thumb. Initial exasperation (“I can tell myself it’s a plastic heart / impossible to break it / melt it down!”) eventually leads to appreciation for the peace and maybe even acceptance? Whether it’s this song or another or several others in the collection, it isn’t hard to find yourself in here. Joyously quotable and easily accessible, ‘Family of Aliens’ might just be Teleman’s most mainstream popular album yet.

8/10

‘Family of Aliens’, the third album from London-based Teleman, is out tomorrow, Friday, the 7th of September on Moshi Moshi Records. The band are on tour in the UK in September and October; tickets are on sale now except for the sold-out at Bristol Thekla on the 27th of September and Leeds Brudenell Social Club on the 4th of October. Want to flip through our past coverage on Teleman here on TGTF? Come through.

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[…] latest album ‘Family of Aliens’, released in early September. (Read my review of the album through here.) In a previous interview with Lauren Laverne on BBC 6Music, Teleman mentioned Bristol was always a […]

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