It’s been a while. I’ve been away, foregoing the glamorous world of indie rock, working during the day and going to grad school at night. I’ve tried to keep up with the new music, but it’s been difficult. Somehow there is a dichotomy of the relation of time when it comes to music. On one hand, it seems like no time has passed at all. I come back and it turns out Radiohead has another album out and so does PJ Harvey. On the other hand, it sometimes feels like ‘music time’ passes in dog years, and rather than a year out of the game, I’ve been out for seven or more. (Interpol is still a thing, right?). That disconcerting feeling of time loss is having a twofold effect on me this morning as one, I’m writing this at the start of Daylight Savings Time, and for another, my first review back is for the sophomore album by Seattle ‘band,’ Telekinesis.
It’s not that the debut album from Michael Benjamin Lerner, the sole creative force behind Telekinesis, was released that long ago. Rather, it follows the now seemingly traditional model of one album every two years. (Let’s not get in to how that number became the norm). It’s more that the music of Telekinesis is lovingly trapped in the amber formed between the mid ’90s and the mid ’00s. Somewhere between Fountains of Wayne’s debut album and Rogue Wave’s Out of the Shadow, Telekinesis has become entrenched, as if the band had kids and the latter album was the last one purchased before a long hiatus.
In other words, this is an album for those who long for the pre-Atlantic Death Cab for Cutie era, or perhaps the time before power pop lost its jangle and was transmogrified and exported to the dance floors of the Swedes. Despite its jarring anachronism, 12 Desperate Straight Lines is quite charming. The toy organs and bubbly sound of opener “You Turn Clear in the Sun” paired with the overt Cure likeness of “Please Ask for Help” are nostalgic and reverent. The latter captures, almost too exactly, the blending of ebullience and sadness that peppered tracks on Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. That feeling takes a hit, though perhaps only briefly, in the crunchiness of “50 Ways,” a track that tries to find common ground between Superchunk and Weezer, but only seems to scratch the surface.
The track getting the most attention, and perhaps most deservedly so, is the power pop confection of “Car Crash.” Where the other tracks seem to try too hard to grasp on to a particular bygone vibe, “Car Crash” settles into it like it’s an old, familiar sofa, slightly reminiscent of Beulah. Lerner fits each of his sometimes subtle, oft times not, musical references into his own mold, but the instances of the latter are always in danger of overshadowing the former. The clear Pixies influence of “Palm of Your Hand,” the aforementioned Cure ‘homage,’ and the Peter Hook possession of “Country Lane” nearly outweigh the other tracks, and not for the better. Luckily, the most effective aspect of 12 Desperate Straight Lines is the brevity of each cut, and when one doesn’t suit your fancy, another, better one comes soon enough. However, the funereal feel of “Patterns” might lead you to think of it as the album’s closer, and you might miss out on one of the album’s real gems, “Gotta Get It Right Now.” Hang in there, or hover over that ‘skip’ button.
Stream: Telekinesis – “Car Crash”