Review : Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
PitchforkOn the one hand, Michael Lerner's Telekinesis comes over like boilerplate mid-aughts indie rock, slotting easily next to everything that draws a line to The Photo Album-era Death Cab For Cutie. But his sound can be traced back further; when he's playing spirted power pop, you could see his music working well between Matthew Sweet and Better Than Ezra (if you think the latter is an insult, perhaps you haven't listened to 1996's underrated Friction, Baby). But while Telekinesis' catalog brings to mind a handful of musical eras, it can sound a little odd in the present. What Lerner has been up to for the last few years isn't exactly fashionable, which is probably why he and labelmate contemporaries like the Love Language haven't yet received the type of recognition they might have only five years ago.
Good for Lerner, then, that he's stuck with his sound and kept at it with Telekinesis' second LP, 12 Desperate Straight Lines. The record has some of his strongest, catchiest tunes to date (especially the sugared-up anthem "Car Crash"), despite the continued reliance on silly lyrics (see the observation on "50 Ways" that "Paul Simon probably said it the best"-- I'll give you a hint, he's not referencing "Graceland"). But though this is his most consistent record, it might be too much so for its own good. On last year's stopgap Parallel Seismic Conspiracies EP, Lerner toyed with a rougher, frayed-edges sound; the experimentation resulted in a particularly terrible cover of pre-Joy Division band Warsaw's "The Drawback", but it also added vitality to a sound that too often seemed to coast on Telekines' self-titled debut.
On 12 Desperate Straight Lines, the guitars occasionally get abrasive, particularly on the stomper "Palm of Your Hand". But otherwise, slickness is the move here, as even the previous EP highlight "Dirty Thing" transforms from lovably slack to precisely ordered. But his approach could use some experimentation beyond just throwing in new wave guitar sounds, which sound foreign and out of place on the Cure-striving "Please Ask For Help". But if Lerner just keeps on doing his thing, he's clearly getting better at it....full text
SoundoftheovergroundWriting the dreaded second album is tricky enough business at the best of times, but when you lose your band, break up with your better half, end up with a wonky ear meaning you lose your sense of balance and you find yourself trying to top a record as instantly accessible as Telekinesis' self titled debut, you know you have a job on your hands. As 12 Desperate Straight Lines will attest to, Michael Benjamin Lerner is not afraid of hard work.
First port of call was finding a new band which was duly accomplished through the recruitment of Jason Narducy (Robert Pollard band, Bob Mould band) on bass and Cody Votolato (Jaguar Love, The Blood Brothers) on guitar.
Next up - start writing some songs again... After holing himself up in a warehouse in Berlin and then decamping to Portland where he joined back up with Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) who again produces this record. Lerner soon found himself with a dozen tracks under his belt. Each of which is packaged in it's own two and a half minutes of indie-pop goodness. In it's entirety 12 Desperate Straight Lines spans only 32 minutes, so as you may take from this there's little or no room for fat on the record and every second and note counts for something....full text
AvclubHow nice is Michael Benjamin Lerner of Telekinesis? On “Car Crash,” a standout among many bouncy power-pop ditties on the new 12 Desperate Straight Lines, he makes the prospect of vehicular misadventure seem as threatening as a hot-fudge sundae. A lot of that is due to Lerner’s reedy voice—think Fountains Of Wayne’s Chris Collingwood minus the thirtysomething weariness—as well as the deceptive sweetness of his songwriting. As he first showed on Telekinesis’ 2009 debut, Lerner has a habit of hiding romantic dysfunction and alienation behind a sunny façade of frothy “ooh-ooh-oohing” choruses and buzzing bubblegum guitars. The irresistible “Please Ask For Help” boasts several layers of hooks, from the opening drumbeat to the insistently driving verses to the tautly repressive chorus, which slowly sinks the knife in as Lerner recounts a crippling communication breakdown between two lovers. He’s more direct on “I Cannot Love You,” though the grinding bass and airy vocals gives the loneliness a Zoloft glow. But while the hooks on 12 Desperate Straight Lines sink in easily, they’re far from painless....full text
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