The Telescopes, Flavor Crystals, Sterling Roswell – London Fields Brewery, 22nd September 2016

The gig was a microcosm of my greatest loves and pet hates in music.  Not a bad venue, shame that East London = hipster = we must serve pale ale = we must not serve anything else.  Seriously, the whole pale ale / IPA thing… yeah, I can see why the odd place would specialise.  Yeah, I can see why places would serve it… but why do places think IPA = we must not serve anything else, after all what if the hipsters accidentally bought a stout or a more traditional English bitter and simply EXPLODED?  Anyway, I dunno what I’m on about really, the venue had some alright-but-expensive-tasting, expensive lager… it was their bar round the corner that had less choice on tap.

Anyway.  Sterling Roswell.  Former Spacemen 3 drummer.  The Darkside alumini.  On vox and guitar with a drummer and keyboardist.  Slow start, pretty weird songs, really simple guitar parts, sounded OK.  But as the set progressed it got better and better.  The cover of Girl by Suicide was great.  I can’t really describe it.  A band who clearly have their musical roots firmly in the pre-shoegaze world.  It would probably be fair to call it 60s psychedelia that has taken numerous 70s influences… and kept progressing.  Last 3/4s of the set I really enjoyed.  I’ve never loved the Darkside but I bought the records back in the day and sure as hell like them.  Spacemen 3 are up there in the two best bands ever.  I have to hang my head in shame at my failure to follow Sterling Roswell’s career over the last 20-plus years.  To be put right.

Flavor Crystals.  The first thing to make clear is that I enjoyed the set, would happily see them again and would probably enjoy their records.  But they just don’t excite me.  I will file them in a box marked “Ride, Slowdive, Chapterhouse and all the other bands that get tagged shoegaze and couldn’t easily get tagged anything else”.  They take MBV as a template and layer sound.  Great, I like that sort of thing.  But you can make so much more interesting psychedelia…

The Telescopes are, with the aforementioned Spacemen 3, the other half of my Top Two favourite bands of all time list.  I haven’t seen them for a while, which makes it even harder to know what to expect.  Back when I first saw them live they were a 5 piece.  For the last 15 or 20 years they’ve been Stephen Lawrie and Jo Doran, then more latterly Stephen Lawrie and others.  It can be anything from One Unique Signal acting as Lawrie’s ‘Scopes and playing the old songs pretty faithfully, to Lawrie and Briget Hayden on their hands and knees with a mass of FX, guitars and assorted weird shit to play with.  Tonight it was a five piece band including Lawrie on vocals as usual.

How here’s where my review just steps up a notch in competence.  I might have been a bit pissed.  I might have been simply blown away by the music to obscene proportions.  But they played for however long and it was just the most incredible psychedelic, heavy, feedback-driven sonic mayhem imaginable, to the point that I genuinely don’t remember hearing a song I knew.  Definitely heavier and more full on than when OUS fulfilled the role.  Online the next day there is a clip of them playing a track from their first album (and the one that means most to me) – how the absolute fuck can I see a band I love, enjoy them massively and not recognise the songs?  There really isn’t much more to say, they are awesome after all this time.  Still.  They continually re-invent and change and push new boundaries, yet come back to many of the same musical themes and songs and keep an old fan like me interested.  I just cannot speak highly enough of them.

Oh yeah, Stephen Lawrie solo acoustic.  That’s another string to his bow – these songs sound just as great played on a single acoustic guitar.  Genius.

Bridget Hayden

One Unique Signal

The Telescopes

Sterling Roswell

Flavor Crystals

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