4, 000, 000 Telephones: 4, 000, 000 Telephones
We blame Thatcher. Only her ‘screw everyone’ mid-80's Tory government – and, probably, being as familiar with girls as Paris Hilton is with bleaching her own roots* – could inspire a band to birth an album this tense-sounding.
Originally released in 1985, in the name of being experimental, 4,000,000 Telephones is a wrecking ball of Young Knives yelps, Mark E Smith snarls, angsty guitars and pounding electronic burps and beeps. And it’s a masterful slab of humour. But don’t take my word for it. Run out and acquire a Young Ones DVD. Observe the enraged demeanour, barking urgency and burning earnestness of dungaree-sporting graduate/activist/poet Rik. Quickly realise he and all of the ‘Phones vocalists (there are four of them) were most likely separated at birth.
This album reeks of ‘performing arts undergraduate’.You can imagine it being performed in a Maoist arts centre as slide show images of hard-core porn, war photography, Picasso’s Guernica and shots of raw meatflicker on a screen behind the band. Just to add to the earnestness, there’ll be a revolutionary mime artist or Marxist-Leninist sign language practitioner stage left.
It’s equally possible the ‘Phones, however, just wanted to get everyone dancing like Cro-Magnon disco punks, in which case they got it spot-on.
4,000,000 Telephones’ harsh edges are blunted by 'Safe', a throbbing soundscape, and 'Horses', which boasts a country and western twang, and some tracks are prettied-up with skeins of flute and patches of jazz impro, but it’s hard work. Well, hard work unless you consider Captain Beefheart’s 'Trout Mask Replica' easy listening. Chances are it’ll leave you with a clenched jaw, your dad yelling, "Why can’t they go out and get a proper job?" and your house cleared of mice and unwelcome guests. But it’ll still end up in your record collection when some clever-trousers R and B genius comes along, unstitches it, reconstructs the component parts into something you can pull on the dancefloor to and transforms the greying band members into overnight millionaires. Ours is a double Bacardi and Coke if you’re asking, ‘Phones.
*Yes, yes Paris, we know you’re a natural blonde