Live Music + Gig Reviews

Teleman @ Chalk, Brighton

24 October 2021


Teleman (Photo: Phil Sharp)

They say it’s the quiet ones you should watch out for, because when they snap it’ll be all the more surprising, the supposed worms who turn, the mice who roar. And so it comes as a surprise watching Teleman’s generally placid frontman Thomas Sanders begin to lose his temper after one particularly insistent heckler demands repeatedly that the group play Skeleton Dance.

Admitting he’d actually tried to play it recently at rehearsals for this tour but had forgotten how it went, he diplomatically thanks the crowd for their requests and continues with proceedings. When the bore in the crowd uses the next between-numbers break to again tediously request the aforementioned track, Sanders proclaims rather exasperatedly and with some intimidation: “Ugh, leave me alone.” For a moment, to use the parlance of one of his group’s more intense songs, he is Not In Control.

Opening with the electroclash dervishes and Egyptian reggae of 2015’s Strange Combinations single, just for a change Reading’s finest indie pop soft rockers flip over from meek and mild to menacing and wild. Subterranean bass rumbles give everyone a dose of motion sickness as the walls seesaw and the floor noticeably quivers. Giving a tip of the hat to the dubby reverberations of, say, the Notting Hill carnival or the great Kingston sound clashes, at one point in the proceedings a cheeky melodica is brought out of nowhere and a quirky Augustus Pablo inspired solo echoes round the hall to thunderous applause.

Perhaps due it it being the last night of the tour, the band seem eager to break from convention a little, to mess with expectation and be a little confrontational. Where the recorded version of Steam Train Girl is deliberately clipped and self contained, a timid pastiche on motorik, tonight onstage it ripples with nervously free agitation. It’s not the only track to be given a fresh coat of paint. Sea Of Wine, from 2018’s Daily Of Aliens album, loses its formerly prominent Kid A staccato drums to become a palliative power ballad held together by grand piano crescendoes that thankfully hush the rowdy audience.

Whilst we might have been told definitively that there will be no Skeleton Dance on offer, there do appear to be a few creaking bones pirouetting in various pockets of the venue as the group play ebullient recent single Sweet Morning. A wave of passionate dad dancing breaks out as arthritic joints begin to unlock, formerly limp wrists lift awkwardly inquisitive hands aloft and scruffy bonces start to bounce along to the song’s infectiously sanguine chorus.

Careful not to let the crowd slip into languor, and no doubt partly in response to Sanders’ tormentor, the show begins drawing to an early close with a spunky take on the aforementioned Not In Control. A peculiar mash up of the word vomit of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire and the structured repetitions of Cluster and Neu!, it’s the perfect example of the band’s balance of under- and overground sounds. Despite coming close to tussling and despite the song’s unwavering assertions, even at their most forceful and threatening, Teleman will always go high and provide an abundance of much needed politeness.

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Teleman @ Chalk, Brighton
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