The Telescopes formed in Burton-on-Trent, England, in 1986. Their 1989 debut album, Taste, released on the What Goes On record label, was largely inspired by the American underground music scene (Dinosaur, Jr., Hüsker Dü, Flaming Lips, et al.) as well as the speaker-shredding noise of fellow Brits My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain. Slathered in pedal-stomping noise and punk-rock aggression, Taste was a decent if challenging listen, with only intermittent tunefulness to temper it.
Then the band moved to Creation Records and something magical happened. Bandleader Stephen Lawrie abandoned the sneering vocals and guitar distortion in favor of melody and a more gentle, nuanced approach. The band released the Celeste and Flying EPs in 1990 and 1991 before issuing the 1992 eponymous second album, The Telescopes (which also goes by the name High’r ‘n’ Higher, thanks to the hand-painted typography on the album cover). “The Presence of Your Grace” is taken from that album. Acoustic guitar and glockenspiel begin the track before joined by drums and a liquid lead line on electric guitar, bringing in the influence of classic psychedelia. Stephen Lawrie’s newfound laidback vocal approach is wonderfully complemented by female backing vocals. Resulting in a lilting melody in a song that gently builds and surges and satisfies completely.
One of my favorite guitar records of the 1990s, The Telescopes is an under-appreciated but influential record, with its sounds echoed in the work of The Verve, late-period Slowdive and Mojave 3, as well as the current crop of chillwave and dreampop revivalists. Highly, highly recommended.